The Illuminated Tarot

By Caitlin Keegan

I just received this deck in the mail today. I usually wait until I’ve used a deck several times before I review it but, for this deck, I simply couldn’t wait. This is, by far, one of the most visually and intellectually appealing decks I’ve ever seen! Quite frankly, I can’t understand why tarot enthusiasts aren’t losing their minds over this.

This deck is absolutely gorgeous and unique. The bright colours are immediately captivating. For those who appreciate simplicity, these cards are almost exaggeratedly simple. This is a stark contrast to the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth decks, which are filled from top to bottom with symbols. (In fact, it’s so simple that even the accompanying guidebook contains only key words and phrases.)

Another quality that will be quickly noticeable (especially if you lay the cards out) is the symmetry within and between the cards. Individually, many of the cards possess the diagonal symmetry found in the court cards of traditional playing decks. Between the cards, you will also find cards that perfectly complement each other, as though they are multiple expressions of the same concept.

Illuminated Tarot Illuminated Tarot

Having that said, I feel obliged to mention some of its physical flaws. First, the cards are printed on cards that are thick like a puzzle. In of itself, this quality is actually another one of its unique appeals. However, the edges flake the same way new puzzles do when some of the pieces are still stuck together and you have to pull them apart. This is, of course, a very minor issue as most of the flaking will be done after one or two uses.

A more concerning flaw is that some of the images are off centred. On many cards, the images are slightly right of centre. A few are even a tad bit lopsided. Personally, I think these imperfections are incredibly small and doesn’t bother me at all. I merely point it out for others who might be irritated by this.

Illuminated Tarot

Notice how the images on 6 of Hearts and King of Spades are right of centre. If you look closely, you will see that the 7 of Diamonds isn’t straight. 

For me, any physical imperfections on the cards are more than compensated for by its brilliant concept. At first glance, it appears that the deck only contains the minor arcana because it only has 53 cards. But there are actually no cards missing – they are merely ‘hidden’. The 78 cards of a traditional tarot deck are cleverly ‘folded’ into the 53 cards.

The pages and knights are combined into the Jacks. 0, The Fool is the 53rd card. The rest of major arcana are imbedded in the minor arcana – there are 21 cards that perform double duties by serving as both major and minor arcanas.

At first, I wasn’t entirely convinced of the creator’s choice in some of the pairings of the major and minors. For example, I didn’t automatically see the connection between the Star and 7 of Diamonds / Pentacles. But a great thing about this deck is that the names of the major arcana aren’t printed on the cards so there is nothing that would prevent us from using another card to represent the major arcana if we don’t agree with the creator.

After meditating on the cards for a bit, however, I am quite satisfied with the pairings. What impresses me about the pairings is that, in addition to the standard definition of each card, the creator also factored in numerology to come up with these parings. For example, Hierophant, Lovers and Chariot are respectively 5, 6 and 7. Star, Moon and Sun are 7, 8 and 9 (while their true numbers are 17, 18 and 19) and the Wheel of Fortune is 10.

Thinking about the connections between each major/minor pairing is proving to be very interesting. Already, after only a few hours of contemplation, I have gained new insights on the interpretations of these cards. I trust that further study will reveal even more!