Pros: Gorgeous artwork; fantastic symbology descriptions
Cons: Divinatory material is a bit shallow
Rating: 4 out of 5
First published 12/19/2000
This is without a doubt one of the most lovely tarot decks I’ve ever seen. The illustrations are singularly gorgeous. Most dragon art I’ve seen on tarot is fairly silly – fat, cartoonish dragons cavorting about. Not this deck. These dragons range from great European treasure-hording dragons to tiny “Pern”-like dragons, to hoary Oriental bearded serpents. Some of the pictures are amusing, but few are irritatingly silly.
In case you’ve never heard of tarot before (okay, it’s a small chance, but just in case), here you go. Tarot cards are an ancient divination device, cards used to foretell the future. Actually, many people believe that they just help you to get a better handle on your own thoughts by providing material to inspire you, designed to lead your mind in unexpected directions. It helps you to think of aspects of a situation that you might not have thought of before.
Whether you take them as divination or self-help, you can’t deny that they’re always packed full of symbology. Part of the fun of a tarot deck is in the exploration of that symbology. The tarot comes in four suits (almost like playing cards); the standards are cups, wands, pentacles, and swords. These are called the “minor arcana.” In addition, it has (usually 22) “major arcana” cards, which represent larger, more “universal” concepts (such as death, love, strength, and so on).
A Little Fantasy
This deck definitely has a high-fantasy theme. Here you’ll find sword-wielding royalty, wand-wielding mages, and more. Magic is spelled magick. Unlike many modern tarot decks, these consist of the standard set of cards; no substitutions have been made. The major arcana provide no surprises. This is fine – it means you’ll have an easy time relating to the cards. On the other hand, given how unusual the subject of these cards is (at least compared to most tarot decks), it might have been nice to see some major arcana specifically interpreted in relation to the subject.
There’s a slight “new-agey” touch to the cards, but not so much that it’ll really annoy you if you aren’t into that sort of thing. (At least, I don’t find it annoying, and I’m not into that sort of thing.)
This tarot deck comes with a fairly large-sized book (woohoo!). Decks that only come with those tiny interpretation booklets can be nnoying. The symbology of each card is very well-described, in much more detail than most decks go into. If you’re buying this deck because you like the artwork (or if you’re buying it to inspire your roleplaying game plots, like we do), then this is incredibly useful. Unlike many decks that include symbology description, there’s just as much description provided for most minor arcana as for the major arcana.
The actual divinatory interpretation is relatively short, and fairly generic. This is useful as it means you’ll be able to use this deck to explore almost any subject (or produce plots for almost any roleplaying game). It isn’t quite as useful if you’re looking for something different than your standard Rider-Waite meanings. (Rider-Waite is sort of the standard of tarot decks, and has fairly mundane interpretations.) The interpretations do make occasional mention of magick and spirituality, however, which Rider-Waite usually does not. Note that there are no meanings provided for “reversed” cards. This halves the available interpretations of the cards, which some may find irritating.
Unlike some “new-agey” tarot decks, this one does not ignore negative concepts. The cards aren’t all interpreted in a happy-fluffy sort of way. There are four card layouts provided in this book, none of which is the standard Celtic Cross layout (although the first one is an expanded Celtic Cross). This is much more than most provide!
The Strange Stuff You Won’t Find in Most Tarot Books
One thing this book provides that most tarot books don’t is a section on Dragon Tarot Candle Spells. They’re simple things: chants, candles, pretty stones. There’s all the standard stuff like finding true love, gaining prosperity, healing, luck, dreams, career, legal matters, making decisions. This isn’t something I particularly believe in, but if you do, you might find this useful. It’s simple stuff, relatively standard and easy, not requiring anything particularly difficult to get hold of. You’ll also find a section of dragon-related meditation techniques. Odd, but kind of interesting.
Personally I’m not that interested in the odd stuff. But these cards are gorgeous enough that I don’t mind their presence. This makes a lovely deck of tarot cards, particularly if you want it for inspiration rather than divination. The divination material is rather mundane, but the symbology descriptions are absolutely fabulous. I feel like I should give this deck something other than a 4 just because I seem to be rating everything with a 4 lately. However, they’re really too beautiful for a 3, and the divinatory material is a little too mundane and shallow for a 5.