By Barbara Moore (artwork by Gabrielli, Krysinski, and Rivolli)
The Book of Shadows are a set of two tarot decks designed to compliment one another. The decks themselves are title As Above and So Below.
In the words of the creator, “The first deck, As Above, is a tarot deck designed to hold and express modern Pagan spiritual teachings… The second deck, So Below, is the companion to As Above, designed to compliment that deck and complete the analogy. While As Above focuses on the teachings and Universal Energies present in the world, So Below explores how we live those teachings in everyday life as well as how we experience and work with the Elements. As Above shows what exists and its nature. So Below shows how we experience all that exists.”
Both decks are incredibly unique and here are some of their most notable qualities:
This deck follows the same structure of a traditional tarot deck with 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana. From here, it diverges greatly from a traditional deck. Every card has been reimagined. While the new images may share some meanings with their traditional counterpart, they are so radically different that this deck feels more like an oracle than a tarot deck.
The people and concepts in the major arcana have all been replaced with pagan images and ideas. For example, The Hierophant has been changed to The Book of Shadows:
The minor arcana have been completely reinvented as well.
The suit of fire are now represented by ten heavenly bodies – the sun, the eight planets in our solar system and the zodiac:
The suit of water are goddesses found in various cultures and religions:
The suit of air are different divination methods:
Lastly, the suit of earth are various aspect of nature:
While this deck does follow the traditional tarot titles and interpretations, it still manages to be quite original. Every card depicts an everyday event that is incredibly relatable. In the major arcana, The Chariot is a minivan filled with a family, The Hermit is a woman enjoying a quiet and relaxing bath and The Devil is an ice cream sundae!
The court cards also manages to keep their traditional titles and meaning while expressing themselves in a way that brings a fresh perspective. For each suit, the four court cards depict the same person under different circumstances that exhibit different aspects of that person. Furthermore, men are assigned to the feminine suits of Water and Earth while women are assigned to the masculine suits of Fire and Air.
I’ve used these decks on and off for over a year now and I find that they both give very powerful readings.
I don’t use the As Above deck often because, as I mentioned earlier, it feels more like an oracle than a true tarot deck and I generally don’t use oracle cards. Having that said, I do love the Suits of Fire and Earth a lot so I take them out some times and use these cards as an addition to my readings (especially when I’m using the So Below deck). For the most part, however, I just use them as meditation tools.
Personally, I think the So Below deck is where most of the magic is hidden. Something as simple as placing the cards in the context of everyday life has produced a very profound effect for me. When I read with this deck, the results are always very clear and comforting. There’s never any guess work involved because it’s speaking to me in a modern language, using images that are directly applicable to my own life. The voice is so personal that I sometimes feel like this deck was created just for me.
In fact, this deck is so relatable that even the court cards are easy to understand! Through the display of various behaviours, the personalities of the court members are revealed. Card readers now have a whole scene to interpret instead of just vague facial expressions and gestures.
The perspective offered in the So Below deck are invaluable and has greatly added to my understanding and deepened my relationship with the tarot. I recommend this deck to all tarot readers!