Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot is an elegant marriage of historical research and practicality. It celebrates the Tarot’s introduction as a divinatory tool, stripping it of modern esoteric burdens. The result is a deck that is eminently easy to read with a focus on practical advice.
In the US, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck has become the standard by which most of us measure or compare other decks. It is what most readers call their “mental” deck—the deck that their mind uses when thinking of certain cards. Even when reading with other decks, many readers will add, “in the RWS card, ….” There is no doubt that this deck has changed the Tarot world. And there is no doubt that many, if not most readers of us have a special love for this deck. But what came before that deck?
Way back when, the nobles sat around playing trick-taking games with decks of cards that we, today, call Tarot decks. In the sixteenth century, there is some scant evidence that the cards were used for divination. But it was not until the late eighteenth century that a professional Parisian card reader, Jean-Baptiste Alliette (aka Etteilla) printed instructions for using the cards for divination. Later these meanings were used by occultists to shape the meanings used by the likes of A. E. Waite. And yet, Waite and friends denounced Etteilla as nothing more than a fortuneteller.
This type of information is fascinating. It's the type of information that we all wish we could get in the Little White Booklets that accompany most decks. Unfortunately, they don't have enough room for this. They barely have enough room for a little bit about the symbolism and meanings of the cards as well as a brief look at how to use them. Thankfully, this deck has much more! If you visit the creator's website (www.paulhuson.com), there is a link to download an expanded booklet for free. It is wonderful and we highly encourage you do so.
We know that Tarot has evolved over the centuries and will continue to evolve. But it seems dangerous and foolhardy when we discount part of its history in order to substantiate our current beliefs and practices. It is over one hundred years since the RWS deck was published. Perhaps instead of saying “this is the standard deck and most appropriate for our use today,” we should look at why, at that time in history and by these particular people, it shifted from the older design to the one with which we are so familiar.
Thus, in this deck you will find surprisingly bright colors and a “female pope.” The magician returns to being a juggler. The Empress sits on a cement throne instead of in a lush garden. If you have an interest in the history of the Tarot, this deck is a must.
Seeing The Magician and The High Priestess as con artists may be upsetting to some readers, especially if you hold those characters and cards in high regard. The creator of this deck, Paul Huson, explains this in a fascinating interview with Arlene deWinter, which can be found here: http://www.winterspells.com/1942/interview-with-tarot-historian-paul-huson/
“In the oldest decks the Juggler is a quite obviously a mercurial Mountebank, a Tregatour, a Street Huckster, who is bamboozling the crowd with the oldest trick in the book, the Cups and Ball trick or Find the Lady. He was elevated to mage status by Éliphas Lévi during the nineteenth century as part of Lévi’s transformation of Tarot into an instrument of Transcendental Magic – not even the earliest commentators on the cards, Court de Gébelin, de Mellet or Etteilla himself, made that mistake. I feel that making the Juggler into an all-wise wizard is just plain wrong. Real magic, per se, is not actually represented in the historical Tarot.
“The Lesser Trumps are supposed to be earthbound. That’s exactly their point. The Tarot trump parade describes an arc beginning with the lowest of the low, the homeless Fool, climbs through all the ranks of society, through betrayal and death and hell, and finally ends up in the celestial regions with sun moon and stars and finally eternity, as shown in the so-called Greater Trumps. As I say in my most recent book Mystical Origins of the Tarot, basically they tell of the soul’s journey through life into the afterlife, an archetypal and perennial story recounted in Christian imagery typical of the late medieval period.”
Not only is this fascinating information that you should be thinking about, it also shows that this deck is a little different than you might be used to and that’s a wonderful thing. Every so often we need a radically different way of looking at the Tarot to refresh us and stimulate the way we approach the cards. Now on to using the them.
In the expanded booklet, Huson includes a spread called the 42-card layout that involves some complicated shuffling and piling and re-shuffling and re-piling. When finished, you end up with six rows of seven cards. Then you just read them like a narrative. Reading that here may sound as if it could be overwhelming and just crazy making. But it isn't.
Famed Tarot author and teacher Rachel Pollack teaches a type of reading/game where you use all 78 cards. You simply flip through them (after they’ve been shuffled) and read each card really fast, one after the other, trying to keep the reading under one minute. Reading in this quick way is very different and really exercises both the intuition and the memory.
Doing the 42-card reading feels much like that 78-card game, only slower and more serious. With just a little practice the cards will become clear and easy to read. As you focus on the rows, a narrative that answers your query will emerge. The clarity will be almost shocking. In fact, you'll get a reading filled with practical information about your situation combined with practical and useful advice. And that is what you'll want and need from a Tarot reading. You'll get it with this deck.
Name of deck: Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Creator’s name: Paul Huson
Brief biography of creator: A student of the occult and paranormal for over forty years, Paul Huson is the author a wide range of books exploring esoteric matters, among them the widely acclaimed Mystical Origins of the Tarot.
Artist’s name: Paul Huson
Name of accompanying booklet: Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 63 (14 in English)
Author of booklet: Paul Huson
Available in a boxed kit?: No.
Reading Uses: General
Ethnic Focus: Medieval European
Artistic Style: Primitive
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Tarot
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Mostly. Justice is VIII and Strength is XI.
Does it have extra cards? If yes, what are they?: Yes. There is an extra card to be used as a significator.
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: Yes
The Magician = The Juggler
The High Priestess = The Female Pope
The Hierophant = The Pope
The Lovers = Love
Strength = Fortitude
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: No.
Does it have alternate names for the Court Cards?: No.
Why was deck created?: Paul Huson created this deck to explore the work of Jean-Baptiste Alliette, or “Etteilla” as he styled himself, the man who, although now much disparaged as a “mere fortune teller,” put Tarot on the map as a divination method.
Book suggestions for Tarot beginners and this deck: The best suggestion for this book is the expanded little booklet available for free as a download. The link to it can be found at Huson’s website: www.paulhuson.com .