Let’s review a deck I’ve had for a while now: Oceanic Tarot written by Jayne Wallace and illustrated by Jane Delaford-Taylor, published by CICO Books.
Quick story time first. For a while now, I wanted an ocean-themed deck. But I’ve been very pick about it. I didn’t like the art of a lot of decks. Then, somehow, I stumbled upon Oceanic Tarot around late summer 2016. And I got obsessed. I wanted this deck so badly, but money could not be spared for it (it’s a fairly cheap deck too, but money was that tight!) Then, I had a genuine dream about owning this deck. I knew that meant that I had to get it. I just had to! So I saved up some money and finally bought the deck around the fall of 2016.
Now, I read a review of the deck previous to buying it and so I already knew: the pip cards weren’t illustrated. I imagine a lot of readers who may be interested in this deck will stop their interest here. Each suit has a unique background — the Swords are sharks (yes!), the Cups are dolphins, the Pentacles are turtles, and the Wands are sea horses. The Aces have a unique scene, and the court cards are illustrated, but for card Two to Ten — just the same background with the number.
I didn’t think it’d bother me to have the pips not illustrated, but it’s honestly starting to bug me. Especially because this deck has some beautiful illustrations elsewhere.
Anyway. Another feature of all these cards is that — in addition to the name of the card — the card has a keyword associated with it. I thought this would be great. I love keywords on cards. But the problem comes where the keywords chosen aren’t always the best to encompass the card’s meaning. And when the pip cards are only giving me a keyword, I wish the keywords were better suited for the cards.
Oh, also some card changes: The Empress and the Emperor have been changed to The Queen of the Ocean and The King of the Ocean. The Hierophant is now The High Priest. Temperance is now The Angel of the Ocean. And The Devil is changed to The Vortex. Interesting changes, but I found they didn’t change the meanings of the cards too much.
I do like the illustrations. It’s also fairly diverse. This may be the first deck I’ve come across that not only has black people on the cards, but also Asian people. The Pages and Knights are men, so that does make the deck mostly men. And again, with the pip cards not showing illustrations, we’re left with very few characters.
The card material is worth noting too. It’s a really thin plastic material — and honestly I’m not a fan. It feels cheap. But considering the deck is cheap… I guess it makes sense. But the size of the cards are on the bigger side, which I do like. Also, the back of the cards are non-reversable (which isn’t an issue for me but worth mentioning.)
Finally, the booklet. It’s very short but it does what it needs to do. The beginning of the booklet has some spreads. The descriptions of the cards are decent. There is a picture of the card with keywords listed underneath it. Then there is a brief description of the card’s meaning followed by advice if you should pull this card. The Major Arcana has a description of the card’s images while the Minor Arcana does not.
I do kind of roll my eyes at the booklet for imposing some strict gender binary on the cards. Queen of the Ocean and King of the Ocean are described using very gendered language. This same language is also used for the King and Queen in the court cards (not so much with the Knight and Page.) While this is sadly all too common, I will still complain about it.
Both the Major and Minor Arcana are introduced pretty well in the booklet. The section about the Minor Arcana includes a chart that says what the suit is, what oceanic symbol has been assigned it, what element the suit is, and the suit energy. Then, the numbers are broken down into themes as well.
I am torn if this is a good beginner deck or not. On one hand, the booklet is concise and easy to read, and the cards having keywords attached to them will most likely be helpful. On the other hand, there are no illustrations for the pip cards — which means memorization of meanings is necessary. I guess it would depend on the beginner and style of reading cards.
Overall, I give this deck a solid 5/10. It’s not the best deck, and it isn’t as wonderful as I dreamed it to be, but it’s okay. I like having an ocean-themed deck that includes sharks. The illustrations (when they’re there) are beautiful and simple.