Tarot Nova by Paul Kepple and Julie Paschkis 
Review by Janet Selman

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The Tarot Nova is an attractive, simple, playful deck...and one that's very easy to dismiss just that quickly. Does it have more potential? I like to think so. 

Tarot Nova is published in two versions. One is an itty bitty, postage stamp-sized deck, which comes in a tiny box with a ribbon. When first purchased, the cards are attached to one another, and fold out accordion-style. One can separate them or leave them as desired. I've personally never found this deck, but I understand that it's generally in a gift book area (perhaps that impulse-buy section near the check out) with other tiny books.

The other version comes as part of a fortune telling kit, entitled, "Fortune-Telling Kit: Reveal Inner Truths With The Tarot Nova And Book Of Palm Reading With Cards." As it's not titled "Tarot", it might be more likely found with general divination tools. It comes with a tiny book on palmistry, a larger deck of tarot cards (a lovely shuffling size at 2 5/8" x 3 3/16"), as well as what I've seen described as "a large thin pamphlet" on tarot. As I purchased my deck used, I received only the deck, so I can't address the little white book (LWB). My deck came in a quite fun little cardboard box, which unfortunately came apart soon after I got it (but is easily re-glued).

The cards themselves are a nice, usable size, on sturdy cardstock. The cards are black with the figures in bright colors. There are no borders except for quarter-circles in different colors in each corner. The corners are colored differently by suit; Majors are purple with a lime border; Cups are turquoise with a royal blue border; Swords, gold with avocado green; Pentacles are avocado green with lilac, and Wands red with gold border. I've seen the art described as "reminiscent of Renaissance illuminations" and disagree. To me, the artwork is most reminiscent of Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, with its simple figures and recurrent motifs in bright colors. The reversible backs, especially, have a lovely, folk-art feel reminiscent of what you'd buy either cheaply at tourist traps in Lancaster County, PA, or expensively for the real thing at country auctions <g>.

The cards follow traditional suits and naming, with Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings. Strength is 11 and Justice 8. The pip cards follow, essentially, Rider-Waite interpretations, although the illustrations rarely "match"
Rider-Waite drawings. The handle of each sword is shaped as a playing-card spade; the handles of the wands are reminiscent of clubs, and there are hearts on each of the cups cards, a nice nod to playing-card associations,
which was not carried through to the suit of pentacles.

The images on the cards are simple; they are not, however, simplistic. The pip cards, especially, can convey numerous, intricate meanings within a simple drawing. The Eight of Swords, for example, conveys both the concept of being trapped, as well as the ability to extricate oneself with effort. The Three of Swords conveys heartache quite effectively, with an additional meaning of sadness at the cutting-off of something promising. The Six of Pentacles shows us the reward of physical work, a finished loaf of bread, as well as reminding us that the upper classes used to distribute bread to the poor (a more useful gift, to my mind, than gold pentacles to peasant children). The Eight of Wands manages to convey a nice sense of urgency in a quite nontraditional way. 

The court cards are a little bit less self-evident, and one would need some knowledge of what the suit associations and traditional meanings of the court cards for best reading. The Knights are very effective, each riding a steed suitable to their suit (the turtle for Pentacles conveys not only the deliberate movement of this knight, but also the ancient concept of the Earth as a Turtle), and the Page of Cups is quite charming as a mime offering his heart and flowers.

The Major Arcana cards, likewise, convey traditional meanings but generally in non-traditional fashion. The Charioteer rides his bike not only with steady control, but also with flair and panache. The Emperor is interestingly conveyed as a boot with a face, and I think conveys authority very nicely, though it won't be comforting to those who are uncomfortable with Emperors in general. Judgement is quite eloquent as a butterfly carrying a key.

Not all the cards work as well, of course. I think the High Priestess could have been better done without ruining the simplicity, although the ripening pomegranates do imply hidden knowledge. The Magician as a rabbit perplexes me a bit, aside from the association with a stage magician. A few cards baffle me entirely--but that can certainly be true with any deck.  I haven't yet figured out the crocodile-looking serpent for the Five of Pentacles or the man with the floating head doing the limbo under the Two of Wands.

The Tarot Nova is certainly not the "deepest" deck you'll ever use. It doesn't have the rich, textured layers of meaning of a deck like the Wheel of Change. But you don't always have to eat Tira Misu for dessert; sometimes a chocolate chip cookie just hits the spot. Tarot Nova is a playful, charming deck which would be accessible to beginners, but still offer some satisfaction to those with more experience. Pull up a glass of milk, and dive in!

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

Tarot Nova 
Illustrations: Julie Paschkis
"Designed by" Paul Kepple
Publisher:  Running Press, 1996
Mini edition: ISBN: 0-7624-0418-3
Fortune Telling Set: ISBN: 1-56138-756-8 

Janet Selman is "a middle-aged wife, mother of two, witch, midwife, professional cat spoiler and habitual housework avoider."






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