The Circle of Life Tarot is nothing less than seventy-eight windows into different worlds. The round cards and fantasy-style art create a sense of being slightly off balance, signaling the mind that something extraordinary is about to happen. These portals to inner revelation are not meant to provide fortune-teller-like readings but journeys into the vast and fascinating worlds that live within each of us.
This is a round deck. As the accompanying booklet points out, circles are powerful symbols in and of themselves. Placing the arcana in a round form should, according to the booklet, "emphasize the concept of cyclicity that then evokes the concept of life" and "force the eye to focus on the centre of the figures, and here better understand the symbols and meanings to which they allude." So the aim of this deck is to highlight the interconnectedness of things and put the core meaning at the center of the card.
However, in looking at the cards there is more than this. The overriding affect of looking at these images is one of disorientation. In some (but not all), it is difficult to tell the orientation—is the card upright? reversed?—and this must be intentional. And since it is so strong this may be an actual aim of the deck—to create a sense of instability, of uncertainty. Now this may be a strange effect for a tool that people turn to for clarity. Not so strange, though, if one is seeking to explore new realms with an eye to finding new truths.
And this may be the true purpose of this deck. For example, look at the Empress card. It shows a nude woman with long curly black hair with roses in it crouching in a pit in the middle of a forest. A small, grinning gnome-like creature is watching her. Some brown sacks tied with rope are behind her. In front of her is a large round mirror (not the usual type used to represent the mirror of Venus). The booklet that comes with the deck says this about the card: Our image, when reflected, never corresponds to reality. If we only look in the mirror, we lose all contact with reality. If we only ever look at ourselves, if we only see what we are used to seeing, we miss so much possible reality. The Empress is about abundance and creation. If we only look to the familiar, we close the door on other worlds, we lock out other truths.
This deck is unlike any other Tarot. When you approach this deck, don't look at it thorugh the lens of what you think a Tarot deck should do; don't have expectations about what you expect it to do. If you take that approach you may miss the amazing richness and essence of this deck. It is meant to be experienced and journeyed through, slowly and thoughtfully. You may not move very quickly, but have patience…with yourself! It’ll be worth the effort. Oh, the places you will go!
Name of deck: Circle of Life Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Creator and Artist: Maria Distefano
Name of accompanying booklet: Circle of Life Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 31 (5 in English)
Author of booklet: Bepi Vigna
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes. The kit includes the deck and a light blue satin bag.
Reading Uses: General readings
Artistic Style: Fantasy
Original Medium: Watercolor
Theme: The interconnectedness of all things
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Tarot
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: No
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?: No
Does it have alternate names for the Court Cards?: No
Why was deck created?: To free the arcana from a rectangle with a clear top and bottom and to explore them through a circular lens.
Book suggestions for Tarot beginners and this deck: The Complete Tarot Reader by Teresa Michelson is one of the few Tarot books that does not assume a Rider-Waite-Smith based deck and so is useful in learning any deck.
Book suggestions for experienced Tarot users and this deck: This deck would be fun in conjunction with Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner.
Alternative decks you might like: For those who like uniquely designed decks, The Tarot of the Secret Forest is an intriguing double-sided deck. For a slightly less whimsical fantasy style deck, the Universal Fantasy Tarot