Let me start this review out by saying how much I absolutely LOVE the The English Magic Tarot as a deck. Rex Van Ryn, Steve Dooley, and Andy Letcher have put together an absolutely fantastic Tarot deck! One of my favorite things about this deck right off the bat was the unique look of it. That’s actually what drew me to this deck in the first place. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite sure if I liked the art or not from what I saw online, but what I did know was that the images evoked a lot of power and fascinated me.
The first thing that struck me when I received the deck was the fantastic packaging. The cards themselves are a nice size and are fit into a rather slim box in two separate recesses underneath the accompanying book. The very first thing I did was pulled out the book to learn a bit about my new deck. Let me tell you, the book accompanying this deck is wonderful. I’ve only said this about one other book so far, and that was the Nostradamus Tarot which I’ve also reviewed here. The first couple of sections about the book talk about the inspiration behind the deck and what they mean by English Magic. The authors go into a bit of detail about the grand tradition of English magic and the number of famous English occultists and magicians. The most striking part of this section, to me, is where they talked about what set this deck apart from others. They pointed out that many Tarot decks focus on the High Magic,
or structured and set magical ways of thinking and schools of magic. For this deck they wanted it to be a focus on the Low Magic, or Folk Magic, of the English world. In this they have succeeded in spades, in my opinion.
As a side note, as an intuitive Tarot reader one of my favorite things about this book is when they talk about the meanings of cards. In the first paragraph they make clear that if your own intuitive meaning is different than the one you get from the book, then go with yours. It is correct for you. They actually even say that the interpretation part of the book is likely the least important one because Tarot is an intuitive art. I wanted to jump up and down for joy when reading this!! YES!! If only all Tarot materials were this clear on this point.
On to the cards themselves! Wow. That’s really all I can say about these cards. The artwork really reminds me of a certain comic book style of art. While not my favorite art style in the world, it is certainly fitting for the vibe that the creators of this deck were going for: a rougher folk magic style. Honestly, I’m glad I read that before jumping into the deck or else I’m not sure I would have understood the art as much.
Before we get into the front art of the cards I want to take a minute to show off the back of the cards. I don’t usually care about the backs of cards, but wow, for some reason I just love these. Look at it!
I don’t know why, but I find that imagery stunning and amazingly fitting for this deck. It’s definitely different than any deck back I’m used to. Now on to the cards.
One of the most striking things about the deck is the difference in the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are all borderless and feature striking bold images. Some of them vaguely hearken back to the Rider-Waite, others are entirely their own and draw on esoteric English tales and magic. As you can see from the image above, this deck has a very unique take o the Major Arcana of the Tarot. They are all traditionally numbered and named, but the imagery is anything but traditional. My personal favorite is the image of the Empress. I don’t know what it is about it, but I find it amazing. You can see the Empress in more detail in my Daily Tarot write up of the card here. One thing is certain about the Majors in this deck: they definitely create a striking image when they show up in a spread. There is never any confusion about them being a stronger energy in a reading.
Next come the Minor Arcana. I find these no less amazing than the Majors, but they are decidedly different. Each of the Minor Arcana have a colored border around them corresponding to the suit: orange for Swords, green for Coins, purple for Cups, and red for Wands. While it’s always incredibly easy to tell what suit you are dealing with by looking at the card, the borders can help with easy identification in a reading. Again, like the Major Arcana, there are many cards that owe a great debt to the Rider-Waite, but at the same time I love that the artists weren’t afraid to shy away from the Rider-Waite when necessary. One card that specifically comes to mind is the Eight of Wands. It’s quite different from what you may be used to seeing in RWS inspired decks. While this is true in all of the suits it seemed to jump out at me the most in the Cups. I’m not entirely sure why, but there you have it.
Something that I love about this deck that makes it extra special to me is that every card in the entire deck has a message somewhere in the art. Now, what I’m talking about is above and beyond the expected message of symbolism in the art. No, what I mean is that there is a written message in runes, theban, ogham, etc in every single card. Here are a few examples:
Overall I absolutely love the English Magic Tarot. That said, I have the feeling that this deck is for a very particular type of person and reader. It’s certainly not a deck that I would recommend for someone starting out with Tarot. While the art is superb sometimes the imagery makes it a bit difficult to tell what the card is getting at. With a little time you begin to understand that organization of the deck, but even then there are a few cards that seem to be outliers and don’t quite entirely gel. That said, this doesn’t detract from the potency of readings with this deck. I’ve successfully done a few fantastic readings both for myself and others with this deck and I can say it reads very comfortably. I just don’t think this would be the case for someone not intimately familiar with the Tarot already.
Well, there you have it. This is my review of the English Magic Tarot. Coming soon I will review the Tarot Nova. I hope these reviews are helpful!
Till next time!