May/June 2016 Issue
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Review of the Tarot of Jane Austen
This article was written by Barbara Moore on November 30, -0001
The Tarot of Jane Austen beautifully blends Tarot and the beloved characters and stories of Jane Austen’s classic novels. The marriage of this theme with Tarot is elegantly mastered without feeling forced or contrived. Within these cards, the reader will find the same wise and practical moral, spiritual, and mundane guidance as is found in Austen’s work. This deck is certainly as “must have” for any Jane Austen fan.
The Tarot of Jane Austen is a marvelous achievement. Diane Wilkes has beautifully blended two worlds that, on the surface, are not connected. As she scratches that surface and digs deeper, she reveals that these two worlds do have much in common, for both expound the virtue of balance and provide guidance in recognizing our own moral compass. Based on the Rider-Waite-Smith format in image composition and interpretations, this deck can be used by a fairly wide audience. Unlike many such marriages of theme and Tarot that often feel contrived or forced, there are enough moral, spiritual, and mundane scenes in Jane Austen’s work to provide images for each card.
There are two caveats with this deck: First, Wilkes says in the companion book that “the ideal audience for this deck and book is two-fold; Tarot enthusiasts and devotees of Jane Austen.” She means that both the Tarot enthusiast and Jane Austen fans can equally enjoy it. I must respectfully disagree. I believe that the Jane Austen admirers who know nothing of Tarot would truly enjoy this journey. However, I think that one must have an interest in Austen’s novels for this deck to be useful on any level. The card images are fantastic triggers to parts of the novels. If you know the story, the visual trigger will allow many ah-ha moments and revelations about meanings. But for those who don’t know the stories, I do believe this deck might not be the best choice—unless someone truly wanted to learn about Austen’s works.
Second, if you are interested in this deck, you simply must get the book, too! The book is too delicious to pass up. Wilkes’ knowledge of Austen, the organization of the content, and the writing style make this book one of the best companion books I’ve seen. Unless you know all the Austen novels extremely well, the little white booklet simply isn’t enough. Seriously, don’t cheat yourself out of the pleasure of reading this book.
But more about the book in a moment. Let’s start by considering the cards. First, the deck structure is, as mentioned above, soundly based on Rider-Waite-Smith model. The Major Arcana all have traditional names. The four suits are renamed to resonate more with the Regency era but retain their common associations. Wands are Candlesticks, Cups are Teacups, Swords are Quills, and Pentacles are Coins. The court cards are also renamed, except for the Knight: the Page is a Maiden; the Queen, a Lady; and the King, a Lord. The delicate, detailed images illustrate the scenes very well, except for one little annoying detail. Okay, maybe it is a majorly annoying detail. Many of the gowns look more like Civil War era costumes than Regency dresses. It is almost as if the artist watched the 1940 movie version of Pride and Prejudice starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier and drew the images based on that. (Two side notes: Wilkes says this version of the movie isn’t worth watching, but I disagree. Also, the costumes for this version were recycled from the movie Gone with the Wind, hence the Civil War feel.)
The images on the cards are all taken from scenes or characters in the Austen novels, except for the High Priestess, who is Jane herself. A very apt choice. The Lovers show Mr. Darcy looking at Elizabeth Bennett while Caroline Bingley stands behind him, wanting his attention but not getting it—a composition that nicely echoes the Rider-Waite-Smith card in illustration as well as meaning. The Two of Coins is represented by John Willoughby courting the rich Miss Grey while looking longingly at Marianne Dashwood. I could go on and on about the cards. However, those who do not know the characters will find this dull reading (if indeed you are still reading) and those who do know the characters would do better to get the deck and book, settle in, and enjoy.
The book is a treat, particularly for those who love Austen and Tarot. It is substantial, filled with glorious details and clever observations. For each card we are told the novel from which the scene or character is taken, and given a card description, the storyline, a card interpretation, and a bonus: What Would Jane Do? The WWJD sections include a quote from one of her novels and a short paragraph of advice.
The card interpretations include the Golden Dawn astrological correspondences. These parts are a bit inconsistent. At times, the correspondences are only mentioned in passing and not really explained, such as for the Three of Candlesticks, “This card’s attribution is Sun in Aries, which is an easier, more harmonious placement than Mars in Aries.” For the Seven of Teacups, Wilkes writes, “Astrologically speaking, the attribution for this card is Venus (the Goddess of Love) in the emotional sign of Scorpio. This combination can be overly focused on the beautiful fantasies that are based in water, not earth; in other words, the reveries this card suggests are built on uncertain seas, not solid ground.” The latter example says the attribution and attempts to explain how that attribution matches the card meaning. The first example, though, does not. If someone already knows the Golden Dawn attributions (and presumably what they mean), then explanation is unnecessary. If someone does not, these inconsistent presentations do more, I think, to cause confusion and frustration than to educate. It sometimes seems that some books on card interpretation include these associations because it is expected—they rarely include sufficient explanation of what they mean and why or how they add to understanding the card.
In addition to the card section, the book includes four spreads (five, if you count the one variation) and two sample readings, synopses of each of Austen’s novels, and a bibliography. In the section on readings, Wilkes includes a brilliant technique, which I think is unique to narrative decks, such as this one. Readings include layers upon layers of symbolism, correspondences, and relationships. Wilkes suggests adding another layer that she calls “Card Connections.” She writes, “if two cards based on [a single novel] appear in a spread, you can enhance the reading by thinking about how those two characters/situations interact with one another and weave that back-story into your reading.”
You know that I like to end these reviews with a test drive. For me, while this deck is a fascinating study and a great accomplishment, it isn’t one I’ll use often. I do love Jane Austen’s work and have read them all at least once. However, I am not so well-versed in them that I can recall scenes and characters from the top of my head. Nor is my interest deep enough to learn them to that extent. So, for me, doing readings felt cumbersome and awkward. For someone with the right knowledge and interest, though, I imagine the readings would be quite elegant and wise.
Name of deck: Tarot of Jane Austen
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN Kit: 978-0738710242
ISBN Deck only: 978-0738710594
Creator’s name: Diane Wilkes
Artist’s name: Lola Airaghi
Name of accompanying booklet: Tarot of Jane Austen
Number of pages of booklet: 64, 14 in English
Author of booklet: Diane Wilkes
Brief biography of author(s): Diane Wilkes, in addition to being webmistress of Tarot Passages, conducts Tarot workshops around the country and teaches Tarot in the Philadelphia, PA area. She also maintains an astrological and Tarot practice. She has a Master\'s Degree in English, has been published in numerous magazines, and has been reading the cards for over 30 years.
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes
If yes, are there extras in the kit? What are they?: A full-sized book
Magical Uses: None.
Reading Uses: General, Romance, Health, Financial.
Ethnic Focus: Regency England
Theme: Jane Austen and her works.
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Tarot
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Yes
Does it have extra cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: No.
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: Yes.
Wands = Candlesticks
Cups = Teacups
Quills = Swords
Coins = Pentacles
Does it have alternate names for the Court Cards? If yes, what are they?: Yes
Page = Maiden
Queen = Lady
King = Lord
Why was deck created?: To explore the archetypes found in Tarot and in the works of Jane Austen, to view the world of Tarot through Austen’s literature and vice versa.
Book suggestions for Tarot beginners and this deck: Tarot of Jane Austen (companion book) by Diane Wilkes; The works of Jane Austen.
Book suggestions for experienced Tarot users and this deck: Tarot of Jane Austen (companion book) by Diane Wilkes; The works of Jane Austen.
Alternative decks you might like: Other narrative decks:
Tarot of the Elves
Mystic Faerie Tarot
Tarot of the Divine Legacy
Lisa Hunt’s Fairy Tale Tarot
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