Flash Card Tarot by Linda Nadeau
Review by Diane Wilkes

Surrounded by talented artists as I am, sometimes I feel bereft. I, too, would like to create exquisite tarot decks and other objets d'art. But such is not my lot in life, and I have learned to accept my artistic limitations.

The Flash Card Tarot (also referred to as the Spontaneous Wisdom Tarot™), with its bright, splashy colors and less-than-refined style, suggests that I embrace those limitations instead, as Linda Nadeau, the artist, clearly has. The artwork in this deck is quite primitive, yet it has a brash style that is miles from being apologetic. It shimmers with a self-assured vibrancy, much like a flashily-dressed, overweight woman ordering a third slice of cake...a la mode.

It is also a deck beginners can use immediately. The backs are definitely not reversible; they offer a keyphrase, a paragraph listing the "traditional meaning," another paragraph entitled "Knowing Your Authentic Self," and then offers self-evaluating questions. You can see a sample of the Three of Swords, front and back, here. Because the card title is on the back in bolded, in bright red, I recommend shuffling with your eyes closed.

Occasionally, Nadeau's "traditional meaning" isn't all that traditional. "The Hanged Man tells you to watch for the unexpected"--sometimes, not always. One of Nadeau's definitions for the Four of Cups is "manifesting, making real, laying foundations through physical effort..." Which card would you say "represents your fondest wish coming true"? According to the Flash Card Tarot, it's the Ten of Cups. The Seven of Pentacles "brings celebration, stretching, seeking variety, and unbounded possibilities." I think she has this card confused with the Eight; Nadeau claims, "Traditional images show a workman taking action to achieve financial success and growth." Additionally, the descriptions, especially the court cards,  tend to be all light with almost no shadow. I understand this is a feel-good tarot, but if we are really going to transform in the alchemical beaker of Temperance, we need at least a little nigredo.

The Wheel of Fortune shows a heart in eight various states--whole, broken, shot with (and pierced by) the arrow of love, and so forth. It's an interesting take, though kind of limiting--fortune is not a solely emotional experience. However, the Celtic knotwork in the center of the card might symbolize that all things are intertwined and inter-connected.

Maybe it's because I am not overfond of bright colors, one of my favorite cards in this deck is Death. Its high-definition in black and white (especially in comparison to the other cards) shows a headless body. Actually, there is a head--it's just in the figure's midsection! This image illustrates mental transformation with--pardon the pun--surgical precision.

Another almost black-and-white image is the Page/Child of Pentacles. The imagery is very shamanistic, even though the back doesn't address that aspect of the card. In one of the more homespun depictions, the Six of Cups shows a picnic blanket laid with symbols of security (Mom's pocketbook, a basket with six cups) and pleasure (slices of chocolate cake).  The bluish-purplish tone of the Five of Wands, along with the imagery makes me think of Swords, especially as the card meaning speaks more to the mental and internal aspect of competition and chaos than a fiery free-for-all. The Nine of Swords is another of my favorite cards--it shows a deer caught in oversized headlights with a terrified driver at the wheel. Talk about a nightmare image that indicates fear and anxiety! Purists will be pleased to note that the artist has included the numbered suit emblem on each card (the aforementioned nine swords are cleverly placed in the car's grille, and they strongly resemble pointy, terrifying teeth).

The deck includes two extra cards. One is entitled "Understanding the Celtic Cross Spread"; one side shows the layout, the other some clues on how to use it. The other is a "Note from the Artist" that promotes her workshops and her book, Soul Sister Speaks: Intuition, Creativity, and the Tarot.

The 115-page companion book is spiral-bound and reflects the personal, touchy-feely qualities of the deck. More than half the book is devoted to poems Nadeau wrote for each of the cards (see excerpt below). These poems are often quite personal and not necessarily meaningful to readers other than the author. There is no set length--some of the Major Arcana poems are but a few lines and some of the Minor Arcana over a page long. The author uses a rather large font, so this isn't quite as excessive as it sounds. Again, the quality and personal nature of the poetry might encourage others to create their own responses to the cards, which can only be a good thing, and something the author encourages later, in her section on "Working with Archetypal Energy", which lists 12 "Learning Paths" to increase the reader's ability to use the cards. These are all tarot-specific, as opposed to the eight methods Nadeau lists first on accessing intuition.

There are also chapters on General Information and Card Care and Spreads. In the first, Nadeau puts forth several "rules" with which I don't necessarily agree. One is never allowing anyone to touch your cards because it will disturb the vibrations; ironically, she says later that she has the querent cut the deck with his/her non-dominant hand, which means those vibes are ever-pulsating. Nadeau also writes, "Red letter words such as cancer or death are absolutely unacceptable," because they are distressing. While I agree it is never good to frighten a querent, my reason for not saying these things is because I recognize I have no way of knowing with certainty that cancer or death is imminent, not because the words have inherent power. However, if the querent brings up either issue, saying, "I have cancer and have been given two months to live," telling him or her that we can't use the cards for illumination and guidance seems wrong. I really think I am quibbling with the wording and not Nadeau's intent, as I certainly agree it would be unethical and immoral to unnecessarily scare the person for whom I am reading.

There are three spreads offered: the Celtic Cross, the Horoscope Spread, and the Tree of Life Spread. I really like the way Nadeau breaks down the last--she makes the layout very accessible for someone who has no clue what Chesed is, by removing the Hebrew terminology. She also states that "Cards falling on the pillar of severity must be read with severity," and that the ones on the pillar of mercy be read with compassion, which makes a great deal of sense. Throughout the book, Nadeau consistently urges the reader to find his or her own path, a sentiment with which I heartily concur.

A 16 page little white booklet also comes with the deck--mostly, it speaks of how to get in touch with your intuitive side, though some basic tarot definitions are offered. It does not include individual card interpretations (after all, the card backs do that!), but the same "Note from the Artist" appears on the last page.

While I am less than impressed with Nadeau's artwork (her renderings of the male form are particularly and painfully amateurish), the deck has an unmistakable voluptuousness that melds with the deck creator's free-flowing, inner-child-loving approach . The cards are larger than average, which enhances its Venusian flow, lush and excessive. And, as I wrote earlier, the Flash Card Tarot will make the average tarotist feel he/she, too, can create his or her own deck. On the other hand, perhaps these new decks should remain personal and not emerge on the tarot market! This deck will not have universal appeal, because it is so subjective. I consider it to be a self-help tool imposed upon a tarot structure, rather than a true tarot deck.

You can order the deck for $30 from:

Aph se Aph Publishing
P.O. Box 23161
Portland, OR 97281
503-245-3692

The book (Soul Sister Speaks) is an additional $15. I have to say that I think the price tag is rather steep, but I know that self-publishing is costly and requires an act of personal courage and faith.

You can also see more cards and order the deck from the artist/author's website.

Excerpt:

Three of Swords

When all is lost - something is found
In each ending there is a new beginning.
In winter, spring's seeds are deeply sown.

When duty, custom, or habit loosen their hold
One is free to fly down new roads at lightening [sic] speed
Or just meander, take a chance, and put a toe into new waters.

Look for tiny sparkles despite the current dread
There is some security in knowing
Nothing could have changed it.
It is as it's supposed to be.

 

  Yes No
78 cards X  
Reversible Backs   X
Strength VIII, Justice XI X  
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana X  
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks) X  
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions X  
Standard dimensions (4 3/4" X 2 3/4")   X
Smaller than standard X
Larger than standard (5 3/4" x 3 1/2")   X
     
     
     

The Flash Card Tarot by Linda Nadeau
Self-Published (Aph se Aph Publishing)
ISBN#: 0972600809


Images © 2002 Linda Nadeau
Review and page © 2003 Diane Wilkes