Deck Review: Sharman-Caselli Tarot

Sharman-Caselli Tarot Deck
Connections Book Publishing, 2005
Rating: 2 Decks

The first thing I noticed about this deck was how pink it is. Yes, you heard me… pink. The backs are a bright, solid pink with a single silver rectangle printed near the edges. This brightness comes wrapped in a really nice box that includes a companion booklet. This tarot deck tries so hard to prove that it is THE beginner’s tarot deck that pink seems to be the only thing it accomplishes.

The Sharman-Caselli Tarot follows the Rider-Waite formula but it also borrows “some of its imagery from the earliest decks, such as the Visconti-Sfzora.” The cards are printed on a thick card-stock with no protective finish. Shuffling was difficult, as the cards are stiff, but time and use will loosen them up. The Sharman-Caselli uses a thematic approach with color and symbols tied throughout each suite that help “beginners identify which suit a particular card belongs to and [how] to connect each suit to its element.” The artwork is rich in detail, and features a “line and wash” style. Sadly, the artwork does not evoke much passion from me. If I set this deck down next to one of my other decks, the vibrancy of the other cards just make the art in The Sharman-Caselli deck look flat.

The companion booklet (aka LWB, or “little white book”) gives a short and informative introduction to tarot before going into the meanings of the major and minor arcana. Each card has a half-page dedicated to it. This includes a thumbnail image of the card, a bulleted list of symbols and what they represent, and ends with a one or two word thematic summary for each card (such as “generosity and strength” for the Queen of Wands). A sample reading done with the 5-card “Horseshoe Spread” closes out the booklet.

When I opened the box for the first time things got a bit wonky. The deck was out of order when I received it, so I wanted to put it back into suit order. None of the major arcana have numbers on them, so I wasn’t sure where to place “Justice” and “Strength.” When I referenced the LWB it told me that “Justice” came first. Okay, so it seems that this deck follows Crowley more in with its order and meaning. No worries there. But, after Justice comes Temperance, then Strength, then The Hermit, and then the Wheel of Fortune, followed by Hanged Man and Death. Wait, what?! These cards, number 8-14, appear in an order that I have never seen before. It’s like they completely revised the Fool’s Story for this deck. I know that many decks like to revise the major arcana card orders to suggest how we can interpret the stages of life, but this deck radically changes the order without spending time on the why. Even the LWB doesn’t clue me into why this order came to be. Was it a mistake or intentional? I guess the world will never know.

I typically review decks using three questions:

1.What can I learn from you?
The Four of Cups practically leapt from the deck for this question. It tells me that I cannot learn anything from it because my dislike for this deck obscures whatever insight the cards could offer.

2. What is your speciality?
I then drew the Five of Swords. To which the cards say that their specialty is showing people their limits and victories.

3. How does your personality differ from other decks?
Finally, I drew the Six of Pentacles, and the deck said that what sets it apart is a balanced and generous approach to symbolism. A fairly accurate reading, definitely spot on with the answer to my first question.

Bottom Line
Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this deck to anyone. (Although I may use this deck in an altered art collaboration project.) The box’s backside claims that “this deck has been specifically created for the first-time tarot user.” I disagree. I do prefer the Rider Waite meanings over Crowley’s but to have so many of the bigger secret cards out of order just seems like it would confuse any new-to-tarot student. The images, while nicely drawn, fall flat and fail to keep my attention drawn into the symbolism. And the LWB, while being focused more on the symbolism meanings, doesn’t give enough of a range of interpretation for each card. I’m still left wanting to recommend beginners look at the Universal Waite or Robin Wood decks first.

Postnote: I did check other online reviews to see others said about The Sharman-Caselli Tarot. What I found surprised me. This deck was once offered in a 192-page book and deck set and had been consistently given high review marks. However, not many reviewers mention the backs or the strange ordering of the 7 cards noted in this review. Reading what others said makes me wonder if my low rating and review is a result of this printing and edition only.

Review: Konxari Cards

Konxari Cards
IRM Foundation, 2009
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Konxari (pronounced kon-zar-ee) Cards is a new spirit-focused divination deck, created by the IRM Foundation and featuring the photography of Paul Michael Kane. The idea is that you take the deck with you to a spooky location, shuffle and let the spirits relay messages to you through the cards. An updated version of the ouija board, the cards use photographs, words, and symbols to give you many ways to connect with spirits. The publishers of the deck claim that Konxari has roots in ancient Egypt and that it, along with tarot cards, have come from this era. Erroneous information aside (as far as the tarot goes), my curiosity got the best of me and I had to check this deck out.

The deck of 88 cards comes in a long rectangular box. The whole package of box, book and 44-cards sitting next to one another, gives the impression that this deck is more entertainment designed than to be used as a true spiritual tool. The cards themselves measure two by three inches and are printed on a light-weight card-stock with a semi-glossy coating. Their size, along with the glossy coating, makes the cards hard to shuffle when stacked together. Each card features a image, a title, a symbol (or color spot), and a letter (or number). Some cars are printed in a landscape rotation. The instruction booklet has 32 pages and contains “Quick” and “Expanded” rules for using the cards. It also provides meanings to some of the cards; symbol definitions; and includes two alternative spreads to use with the cards when you are not out searching for ghosts.

My husband and I put the Konxari Cards to the test at Samhain. We followed the rules of the booklet (“never play Konxari cards alone”) and we sat in a darkened room of our home. We hoped that the cards would connect with something and relay a message that we’d understand. We shuffled the cards and laid them out according to the main layout found inside the booklet. We removed four cards and were left with eight remaining cards: hiding, attic, door, prophesy, thermal, suffering, aura and shadow. The images and words caught our eyes and from this we figured that the impressions came from something we call “the house fae”. There is a closet on our first floor that tends to be popular with our cats. They’re always running in and out, as if they’re chasing something into that space. We also tend to use the space as our “attic” in that we store boxes, and decorations in it. Therefore the first few cards seemed to align with our experiences. Since the booklet also recommends playing with the cards and rearranging them to spell out words (remember, each card has letters on it) we shifted the cards around so they spelled words or phrases. We came up with Requim B6 (or 6B), and Be Quirm 6. Neither seemed important or seemed meaningful.

As I do with my tarot decks, I asked the Konxari Cards if they had anything to share about themselves. I drew the moon card for my first question, “What can I learn from you?” This card suggests using Konxari Cards could help expose or draw us closer to the mysteries we commonly associate with the moon: magick, death, and nature itself. I drew the Mirror card for my second question, “What is your speciality?” Here, the card represents the deck’s desire to show us reflections of the spirit world as they mirror or our lives and pasts. It is also said that mirrors are a portal to other realms and that this deck could be seen as a portal for contacting those realms. Finally, I drew the Hallway card for my final question of, “How does your personality differ from other decks?” The Eye of Horus drawn on this card suggests that the deck give “the dead the ability to see again”— a trait that other decks do not address.

Konxari Cards offer a new and portable tool to reach out and connect with the dead. If you’re a ghost hunter looking for a compact spirit communication tool to add to your arsenal then give these cards a shot. I also recommend Konxari Cards to the divination curious and would like to uncover a new type of cartomancy. To learn more about Konxari cards, visit www.konxari.com. The site contains the deck’s history, descriptions of the cards, and some videos of the cards in use and creative direction.

Review: Archeon Tarot

Note: Timothy Lantz has graciously reposted this review at the Archeon Tarot website. If you liked my review of this deck, check out the new site.

Archeon Tarot, Premier
by Timothy Lantz
Powells.com

The Archeon Tarot is a very personal deck. It contains the personal mythology and beliefs of visionary artist Timothy Lantz. The Archeon Tarot defines and explores Lantz’s symbolism and mythology in a very contemporary and graphic fashion. The card’s imagery is absolutely stunning. Lantz uses a digital canvas to create the cards and explore the very depths of his soul. Long before this tarot deck was even published, I had seen images of the cards on his website. And I was impressed with what I saw. The cards are a wonderful blend of dark, gothic, carnivale mixed with elements of the mystical and fantastic. But don’t let the darkness of the deck’s imagery fool you because within each card there is a strong sense of light and beauty. Each card’s image contains dazzling backgrounds and characters expressing realistic emotions; each layer thick with symbolism. Even the cards’ back include snippets of Lantz’s personal mythology and symbolism. Continue reading Review: Archeon Tarot

Review: Dante Tarot

I love The Dante Tarot for its bright vivid colors and how they contrast to the dark symbolism many of the cards represent. I have always been a fan of Dante’s Inferno and when this deck got published, I immediately ordered a copy. The imagery does not disappoint me at all. This deck offers a rather interesting and unique perspective into tarot and its meanings. However, the design of the deck being radically nontraditional in suite and meanings, does tend to make me think that this tarot deck is better for collectors than for doing readings. It’s certainly not for the faint at heart. Continue reading Review: Dante Tarot

Review: The Fey Tarot

Written by Riccardo Minetti, Artwork by Mara Aghem
Published by Lo Scarabeo and distributed by Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN 0-7387-0280-3

The Fey Tarot distills the best of both worlds in tarot and the art of Japanese anime and recombines them into something new and exciting. Written by Riccardo Minetti, featuring the artwork of Mara Aghem, this deck is wonderful for both the young at heart and in age. The tarot presented here is lighthearted and kind, “bringing no shadows.” However, this lightness does not eliminate the darkness of traditional tarot decks; instead, The Fey Tarot subdues and twists the negative card meanings inwards. In doing so, this set becomes easily accessible and understood by children. Continue reading Review: The Fey Tarot