This is only the second deck I’ve reviewed, and for good reason: It’s Fucking Epic.
I had a similar reaction to The Moon Deck, and wrote a similarly gushy review of it. For some reason, I’m only pulled to review the decks I absolutely love–like a woman possessed, I want to share the goods with the world so everyone can bask in the awesomeness they bring. Without further ado, I bring you my review of the Illuminated Tarot–unabashedly biased and exalting.
The Practicals: Packaging and Quality
The Illuminated Tarot, 53 Cards for Divination and Gameplay was created by Caitlin Keegan and published by Clarkson Potter Publishers in 2017. As the blurb in the guidebook explains, Caitlin designed one card a week for a year, and by the time the year ended, she had a full deck. In her bio, it’s mentioned that she’s worked at both the Sesame Workshop and Nickelodeon Magazine which makes my inner child smile.
I freaking love the box this deck is packaged in. It’s sturdy and perfectly sized at 5″ x 6.5″–I can store it with my other decks in the rather narrow space I have reserved for them, and the deep navy blue background offsets the dense, intricate gilded design perfectly. I must admit, navy and I are having a bit of a fling, so I couldn’t be more pleased with the choice. Inside, you’ll find a colorful, brief, and straightforward guide to the deck. Each card is categorized using three keywords/phrases, providing just enough meaning for the seasoned practitioner to work with. If this is your first deck, however, I’d recommend some additional reading in order to get a grip with the RWS system that the deck is based off of. Tarot 101 by Kim Huggens is a good place to start.
The deck itself is 3.5″ X 5″ and made with nice, sturdy card stock. The edges are a little rough, but whatever–it shuffles well and the barely-glossy laminate suggests that this deck can take a beating. It’s a little too sturdy to bridge the cards, but they slide together nicely when you push them. The surface of the cards have ridges to keep them from sticking together–something my shuffling-loving heart really appreciates.
The Details: Imagery and Symbolism
The deck is a hybrid between tarot and a traditional playing card deck. There are fifty-three cards (the extra one being key zero–The Fool) arranged according to four suits: spades (swords), diamonds (pentacles), hearts (cups), and clubs (wands). The pictorial representation of these pips definitely reflects the symbolism of the RWS, although you’ll find a rogue representation here or there. Still, it’s not a stretch–given a little bit of consideration, the traditional meanings become apparent.
Each suit is represented by its own, unique color palette. This is incredibly useful for those who aren’t familiar with numerology and who have trouble translating playing card suits to tarot suits. When you see a card with purple, blue, and brown, it’s immediately recognizable as a swords suit. Blue, green, and orange represent the clubs suit, orange, green, pink, and red represent the hearts suit, and brown, yellow, red, and purple represent the spades suit.
The twenty-two major arcana appear within these fifty-three cards, each inhabiting a pip that somewhat parallels the traditional RWS meaning. For example, the two of diamonds (pentacles) is also The High Priestess–the emphasis here is placed on the interplay of dark and light (like the white and black towers we see depicted in the RWS) and the ability to find balance between the two. In this sense, the High Priestess appears slightly less esoteric and a bit more practical, but the addition of the crescent moon reminds us that hidden knowledge is still very much alive in this depiction. The infinity symbol at the bottom practically screams two of pentacles, so if the more mundane, grounded interpretation seems pertinent within the context of your reading, it’ll jump out at you and prompt you to go in that direction.
I’ve already posted a few daily draws from this deck Instagram and Facebook, and many have been hesitant to purchase the deck because of the pip/major arcana mash-up. In all honestly, I was able to wrap my head around this change within twenty minutes–you don’t have to learn a whole new system in order to use this deck. The images and meanings are so straightforward that you barely have to put in additional study. Likewise, it’s easy to riff with this deck if you–like myself–like to allow for some intuitive interpretations.
So, How Does It Read?
It reads like a dream, people. After a few daily draws and test readings, I began using this deck for client readings and I’m really excited with what it’s offered so far. I knew as soon as I opened it that this would quickly become a workhorse deck, and can’t even tell you how happy that makes me! Its vivd colors, two-dimensional illustration style, and quirky major arcana incorporation are right up my alley. You can tell that this is the work of a trained designer, and the symmetry it boasts helps me organize my thoughts almost instantaneously. The color-coding seriously helps with this as well–by simply looking at the spread, you can determine the dominant elements and therefore the dominant energies of the reading.
In short, this deck is freaking amazing. It’s my new favorite, hands down. And here’s some good news for budgeting collectors: it’s priced anywhere from $12-$19, so it’s not a huge investment. So if you’re looking for something new, fun, easy to work with, and affordable, check out this baby!
Much Love and Happy Cardslinging,
Want a reading with this deck? Request it when you book!