The Mythic Tarot Review by Michele Jackson
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The Mythic Tarot is a theme deck - the theme being Greek Mythology. The Major Arcana are peopled primarily with Greek Gods and Goddesses, though we do see some mortals like Paris and Prometheus. The Major Arcana retain the traditional names but are unnumbered. Each suit is based on a Greek myth and the cards from the suit tell the story as they progress from Ace through ten. Cups tell the story of Psyche and Eros, Wands tell of Jason and the Golden Fleece, Swords tell the story of Orestes and The Curse of the House of Atreus and Pentacles tell of Daedalus. The Court consists of King, Queen, Knight and Page and each court card is also assigned a mythic character, this time mortal vice divine. The art is good with lots of detail and clear color. The cards are a little larger than average at 5" X 3". While this deck is based on the stories of Greek myth, those familiar with the Waite deck will be able to pick out many similarities. The Major Arcana scenes, while peopled with the Greek pantheon and heroes and heroines of myth, still pays homage to the Rider-Waite (Waite-Smith) deck in the composition of some of the scenes. The Fool (Dionysos) is stepping off of a cliff; The Magician (Hermes) has the four suit symbols laid out on a rock before him and is wearing a red cloak over a white garment; The Chariot (Ares) has a white steed and a back steed pulling in different directions. We also see some departures from Waite-Smith: The Hierophant is a Centaur (Chiron) and Strength is male (Heracles). The same is true of the Minor Arcana. While each suit is tied to a story, we can still find some scenes that are similar to those in the Waite-Smith deck. The backs are black with a symbol composed of all of the suits in gold ink and a think gold border line with flourishes in the corners.
This deck is sold as a kit containing the deck, a book and a spread cloth. The book starts with a brief history of the Tarot. It goes on to explain why the Greek myths were chosen as the theme of the deck. The author states: "Greek myth is a sophisticated and perennially alive imaginative description of what we are made of inside. This is what seized the mind of the Renaissance, and it is what peeps from behind the often mystifying imagery of the Tarot cards, which transcend the changes in culture and consciousness of the last four millennia and restore us - like the old memory-systems - to a sense of connectedness with ancient and eternal designs." A description of the Major Arcana follows. A black and white picture of each card is provided as well as a description of the image with short notes explaining the key symbolism. A section with information about the divinity or mortal portrayed is next, followed by the divinatory meaning. The deck is not designed to be read with reversals. The divinatory meanings are traditional (Golden Dawn based - specifically the Waite-Smith deck). The Major Arcana are not described in the traditional order. The Minor Arcana section is next. This section has no pictures of the cards or notes on the symbols. A description of the card is given, along with information on how the card fits the story of the suit. A divinatory meaning is also provided. Court Cards are treated in a similar fashion with information about the mythological figure represented by the card and a divinatory meaning. A chapter on reading the cards follows with information about what the authors feel that the Tarot can and can not do, and information about building a relationship with the deck. There are also instructions for the Celtic Cross Spread. Two sample readings are provided. I have not used the book much, but I have often heard that the book falls apart very easily with only normal use.
A cloth is provided for reading which has the design of the Celtic Cross spread drawn on it. It is described on the box as "Made of a silky, wrinkle proof material and imprinted with the outline of the Celtic Cross spread, the black cloth shows you where to lay out the cards and serves as a protective wrapping for the cards when not in use." Even my penchant for gold metallic ink could not overcome my aversion for the cheap, unhemmed polyester material. Were I not a collector, my first impulse would be to throw it away - quickly. The entire kit is boxed in a plastic tray which slides out of a cardboard box with a cellophane window for the cards.
A separate workbook has also been written for this deck. It has full sized black and white line drawings designed to be hand colored. It is available as The Mythic Tarot Workbook by Juliet Sharman-Burke, ISBN: 0-671-65842.
I recommend this deck for those interested in Greek mythology, whether they are well versed with the Greek myths or not. The book provides a good introduction for those not already familiar with the subject. Readers familiar with the Waite-Smith deck will find enough similarities in the divinatory meanings to shorten the learning curve.
If you would like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.
- Mythic Tarot
- ISBN: 0-671-61863-6
- Publisher: Simon and Shuster
See more images from the Mythic Tarot
We have attempted to restore some of the original simplicity and accessibility of the Tarot cards by redesigning the deck in accord with the images of the Greek gods so beloved by Renaissance artists and writers, and which form the cultural underpinning of Western life. The Greek gods were not the exclusive property of any particular esoteric school, religious doctrine or spiritual path. Amoral yet containing profound moral truths , they predate and permeate our modern Judeo-Christian religious symbols as well as the art and literature of the whole western culture; and they remain the most fundamental and precise images to describe the many-sided and multicolored workings of the human psyche, They are symbols of raw nature , our own raw human nature with its deep ambivalence of body and spirit and its mutually contradictory drives towards self realization and unconsciousness. Our understanding of our own ambivalence has only recently begun to be restored to its ancient scope by modern depth psychology, which inevitably has led us to return to the source - the pagan gods - for its understanding of human behavior. Thus in both book and cards, we have adhered to the traditional meanings of the cards, while at the same time resurrecting the old gods who have been buried beneath centuries of embellishment.
The Mythic Tarot pg. 10
Images copyright 1986 Tricia Newell, Text copyright 1986 Juliet Sharman-Burke and Liz Greene