Pros: Lots and lots of information!
Cons: Few cards, with overly simplistic artwork
Rating: 4 out of 5
First published 3/21/2001
This isn’t exactly a tarot deck. It isn’t divided into major and minor arcana. It doesn’t have suits. It has no court cards. It has a very Egyptian theme. But all of this is really just a technicality. It’s a deck of cards that you’re supposed to use for divination or for gaining insight into your own life, which is the practical definition of a tarot deck, too. So I consider the Cartouche deck to be a form of tarot.
The Story of How We Found Out about This Deck
A friend of ours came upon the deck and book set off the side of a highway, in a metal trashcan, in a cleared bit of sand, soaked in kerosene and abandoned but not actually set on fire. We bought our deck from the store!
The weird part is figuring out why it was trashed. I’ve seen some creepy tarot decks in my time. I’ve seen ones that had dark, disturbing pictures, or had books that gave gloom-and-doom predictions. I could almost understand why someone might get the heebie-jeebies about the deck if that were the case. But it isn’t.
The book provides a fair amount of information on the deck:
- The Nature of Cartouche
- Cartouche’s Versatility
- How to Handle Cartouche [hmm…nothing about kerosene in here!]
- Methods for Use in Divination
- Other Uses for Cartouche
“The Nature of Cartouche” explains why Cartouche isn’t tarot (a technicality, I tell you!), how the cards relate to ancient Egyptian concepts, why using them is safe, what it means when a card falls reversed, and so on. You’ll immediately pick up on a fairly “new-agey” feel here, which is weird for a deck supposedly grounded in ancient Egyptian mysticism. This is why I find the circumstances of the discovery of this deck particularly odd – new age stuff is usually pretty fluffy and positive, and I certainly don’t think of it as scary! The book talks about karma and karmic debts, dharma, and “cosmic laws.” “Cartouche’s Versatility” discusses the use of Cartouche as an oracle (for divination), as a talisman, and for meditation.
“How to Handle Cartouche” talks about “vibrations” being “passed to the cards” when you handle them. This sort of thing tends to make me roll my eyes, but persevere–the deck is worth it. It discusses shuffling and cutting, and interpreting the reading. “Methods for Use in Divination” provides two card layouts: the horoscope method, and the star spread. The first is complex and the second simple; they both provide sample spreads with analysis.
The Cards Themselves
Next comes “The Cards, Their Meanings, Symbols and Legends.” This is the real pay-dirt. Whether you use tarot for divination, meditation, out of curiosity, or as inspiration for your latest roleplaying game or short story plot, this is fantastic stuff. There may not be a huge number of cards (only 25, in fact), but the information provided on each one sometimes lasts for a good six pages!
First there’s a brief listing:
- Egyptian symbol (what the symbol on the card stands for and what it’s called)
- Egyptian Identity
Following this are “Key Words for Instant Reference,” the quick reference section for upright and reversed meanings. Next you’ll find “The Spiritual, Transpersonal or Superconscious Level,” “The Psychological, Mental or Subconscious Level,” and “The Material, Mundane or Conscious Level,” first for upright and then for reversed cards. Most tarot decks tend to address the spiritual or the emotional or the mundane. It’s so nice to find a deck that allows you to choose between the three.
Next come notes on how to use that specific card for meditation, and then as a talisman. This is followed by a paragraph of explanation about the symbol on the card, then a lengthened explanation of how the hieroglyph is interpreted. This is followed by my favorite part: a brief presentation of any legends associated with the symbol or figure on the card. You can learn a lot from this book!
Correspondences and Other Uses
Chapter six contains correspondences. This relates things such as astrological symbols and runes to the various figures on the cards. It covers normal tarot cards, numerology, and some unusual subjects such as psychology, hypnotherapy and counseling. The “Other Uses” section gets into things like “Healing, Health and Self-Healing,” “Health Inquiries,” “Dream Interpretation” (with examples), “Past Lives,” “Your Daily Forecast,” personal problems, marriage, fertility, new homes, new jobs, money, traveling, skills, self-discovery, spiritual seeking, protection, and so on. Most of these are just one or two paragraphs long. The book does explain that Cartouche must never be used for “evil” purposes, to harm another person, or to serve selfish ends, or such things will rebound back on the user.
How They Look
These are simple cards. I wouldn’t call them beautiful, but they’re interesting to look at. They lack the intricate symbolism of the tarot, instead choosing to concentrate on a single symbol per card.
So yes, the deck is a bit on the fluffy, new-age side of things, which still seems weird to me, and I did find myself rolling my eyes occasionally while reading the book. However, the legendry is gorgeous, the sheer amount of detail is amazing, and it’s such a nice departure from normal tarot decks that I cannot help but recommend it. Buy yours from the store, though. Don’t wait until you find a deck soaked in kerosene by the side of the road!