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The Llewellyn Journal
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The Llewellyn Tarot

This article was written by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke
posted under Tarot

How proud I am to be able to write this editorial! The modern Tarot was established when Rider & Co. commissioned and later published the Arthur Waite/Pamela Smith deck in the early part of the twentieth century. It was a pioneering from two distinguished people. Shortly into the twenty-first century, Llewellyn commissioned Anna-Marie Ferguson to undertake a new deck based entirely on her own deep knowledge, both of the Tarot and her extensive research into the prime mythical foundations of the Western psyche. Born in Britain and raised in Canada, her own initiatory experiences have shaped both her art and her psyche.

Her primary source for this deck was the living Celtic tradition found in the mists and mountains of Wales. Here the tradition reaches further back than in Ireland or England, and her art fully embodies those primal energies. Her understanding is rich in ancient wisdom and modern knowledge, as expressed in her book that accompanies the deck.

The Tarot evolves, just as every esoteric system must, and the differences between the Rider deck and this new deck are striking. Yet the student secure in the one will find the Llewellyn deck both familiar and liberating. Although the art is rich in ancient imagery, the meaning is modern and reflective of today’s challenges.

One of the most important distinctions is readily discerned when you compare the first card of the majors, the so-called “Fool.” The following is taken from my own introduction to Anna-Marie’s book.

Most Tarot decks show the Fool as rather lackadaisically setting off, smelling the roses and seemingly unaware that he is about to step off a cliff! A fool indeed. The interpretation is that we start our journey into life totally unconscious of the challenges before us.

But look at The Fool in The Llewellyn Tarot deck and see instead a youth on a white horse deliberately leaping across the rainbow chasm between the worlds to journey into this land of promise, the world where we live to learn and grow and to become more than we were. Oh, he may be a fool, but he is not foolish. He is filled with courage and purpose and is in search of adventure. Not a fool’s journey, but a hero’s—as was that of Percivale who evolved from fool to Grail Knight.
Our artist, Anna Marie Ferguson, immersed herself in the history and mythology of Wales—the land of mists and mysteries and home of the old gods—in order to produce this new Tarot. But it is not “archaic;” rather, it is a true picture book of the Mysteries themselves. It is a tool offering insight into the mystery that is life, and the Mystery that is the entire Universe within which all has being.

Here is the story of the youth who eagerly enters into life, whose first step is that of the Magician. We are born with inner power and knowledge, and our journey is one of discovery and mastery in order to fulfill the promise with which we are born. …

This Tarot is not only a fortune-telling device but one that is fortune-making. These are cards of power that when so used will awaken circuits of energy represented by their relationships in the formulas you create with your layouts. Or with any single card you choose with intent.

Look at The Magician, and then The Priestess and each of the other cards, and feel the timeless stirring of their secret (archetypal) energies in your soul. Let them whisper secrets to you, and then speak them into manifestation. Each card has a story to tell, and put into relationships with each other they make new stories that can become reality in this world. …

The Tarot is the Universe hidden in a secret book of cards. That Universe is both “out there” and “in here.” As Above, so Below. The Llewellyn Tarot deck is the result of five years of intense study and creation by this artist—already knowledgeable and well-known for her creation of Legend: the Arthurian Tarot and for her illustrations to the Cassell edition of Le Morte D’Arthur, edited by John Matthews.

We progress through our life journey just as do the Major Arcana, stopping at different places for particular lessons. I particularly like the artist’s drawing and conception of The Hermit, who is Myrddin (Merlin). Anna-Marie writes of this card’s interpretative qualities: “Seeking wisdom and understanding of the larger patterns in life … psychic abilities are enhanced by peace and freedom of thought … foresight, prudence, knowledge. A study and respect of nature, and the limits it places upon us, such as the effects of seasons, time, etc.”

These remarks can only give you a glimpse of The Llewellyn Tarot, but I hope they are enough for you to perceive its power and glory as a true twenty-first century product incorporating ancient wisdom into our contemporary understanding and needs. Its imagery speaks the universal language of symbols that evolves with every reading. No publication has given me greater satisfaction, and pride.

The Tarot is not a passive instrument, but a dynamic tool—a rainbow bridge between the inner and outer worlds empowering the user with the archetypal sources of wisdom needed to reveal and then meet the challenges of a purposeful life.

— Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, Publisher


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