A dear friend gifted me the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot written by
Melanie Marquis, illustrated by Scott Murphy, and published by Llewellyn Publications. Let’s take a look at it!
Let’s start with the booklet. It has the following: a poem about tarot called “The Cup”, an Introduction, chapter on the “Anatomy of a Tarot”, chapter on “Tarot Deck Care and Maintenance”, chapter on “How to Read the Cards”, chapter on “Using the Tarot for Magick”, section for the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana, and chapter on “Easy Tarot Spreads.”
Skipping to the Introduction, Marquis gives a simple history of Tarot. Nothing terribly in depth — no names to the decks, no dates given — but it’s a short overview to how tarot came to be. I like that Marquis compares tarot readers to chefs: just like a chef may have the same ingredients as another chef, they lend their own unique spin on a dish. So too does a tarot read put a unique spin on the tarot cards, making the same cards different.
Anyways. “Anatomy of a Tarot” is a chapter talking about the components of a tarot deck: Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. Marquis talks about the elemental correspondences with the Minor Arcana suits, as well as going into the symbolism she used for the deck. She also includes number correspondences. She then goes through a brief exercise of how to combine the symbols, the numbers, and the suits to know what the cards mean.
“Tarot Deck Care and Maintenance” is where Marquis sort of loses me. I am obviously not the intended audience, as she goes into talking about “magickal energies” infusing the deck from unnamed sources. I’m a person who doesn’t like to charge my decks, nor do I feel the need to cleanse them regularly or at all. She suggests that a deck won’t be “more than a deck of cards” unless you charge the deck.
What gets me is that the suggestions for imbuing the cards with energy are things I do, but for different reasons. For example, Marquis suggests carrying the cards with you — which I like to do when I get a new deck so I can familiarize myself with it. But she suggests that doing this will allow the deck to pick up on my personal energy. Maybe that’s true? But it isn’t why I want to carry around the deck.
Before getting into all the woo-magic stuff, Marquis does suggest a few great suggestions for deck care. For example, don’t let them soak in the sun too long or the images will fade. And Marquis even suggests bumps and scratches on a deck gives the deck character and shows it was loved. But that section is also littered with superstitious magic ideas, such as using “unnatural fabrics” will mess with the deck’s energy. Which, maybe it does? But I never had any trouble using my synthetic bags.
There are a plethora of ways to cleanse and charge a deck according to Marquis, which is useful to include in a book I think because a lot of people do find it useful. But my personal views don’t align with hers, and she doesn’t seem to recognize there are other ways to view tarot and energy than her own view.
Moving on, “How to Read the Cards” is a section on how to start reading the cards. I appreciate that, here, Marquis encourages self-exploration and meanings unique to the reader. She writes, “You may have insights into the cards that can’t be found in the books, and you should trust in that and allow those ideas to flourish” (page 25.) This I fully believe. And I definitely agree that to start reading, you need to practice without judgement from yourself or from others.
But then Marquis goes into the process of a reading and… she loses me again with how she views the exchange of energy. It definitely is a valid way to look at tarot, but it’s one I don’t do and there is no recognition that others may do tarot differently.
And she isn’t consistent in this. She goes into talking about spirit guides and says how not everyone believes in them, but she still offers up a way to work with them if it is something I believe in. She also talks about how some people cut the deck, others don’t, and it’s “preference.” So why no talk about the preference of how tarot works? Perhaps she honestly doesn’t know there are other ways to understand tarot…
The rest of the section is useful in talking about noticing patterns: repeated numbers, repeated suits, lots of Major Arcana cards, etc. Then she says to look at the cards individually. I imagine you can do what I do: look at individual cards and then look at the bigger picture of the spread (eg: the patterns.)
I like that Marquis talks about receiving feelings, visions, or otherwise other “signs” while reading. This isn’t talked a lot in the booklets I’ve gotten with other decks, so it’s nice it’s being addressed as I know I’ve experienced this while doing readings. There isn’t much discussed with this other than “trust your intuition and psychic ability”, but it’s still nice.
I also like that Marquis refers to a tarot reader as a “storyteller”, as in, a reader should tell the story of the cards. That’s a great metaphor for my favorite readers: stories are told with the cards.
Next chapter is “Using the Tarot for Magick”, which I will just say is probably useful if you A) subscribe to the idea of imitation or sympathetic magic and B) you want to use tarot cards in your magic. It’s ridiculously simple to do, so if you are a magic user I do recommend it. It is a nice touch to this deck, which is aptly named “Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot”.
Then we get into the descriptions for the Major and Minor Arcana. The former has a long description followed by upright meanings, reversed meanings, and ways to use that card in magic. I again appreciate the touch of how to use these cards in spells. It makes this booklet and deck a bit more unique.
I don’t like the list descriptions of keywords for the cards though. They often repeat, with several cards getting keywords like “health” and it makes it confusing. I quickly found the booklet useless. Also, I don’t know why reversed meanings are included when the backs of the cards are non-reversible.
Also? I totally disagree that the Six of Pentacles is about someone “begrudgingly” being charitable. The card shows a person happily helping others. Blah.
Last by not least — the spreads? Basic and what you expect. Glad they are included, though.
Which finally brings me to the cards!
The cards are vibrant pictures that each tell a small story. The card materials is a plastic paper that is rather thin. Rounded edges, no borders. The backs of the cards, as mentioned, are non-reversible.
I really don’t like how the Hierophant is displayed in this deck. There is a strong bias against the card, and while I understand that, I have come to understand the Hierophant as a religious teacher of sorts. Not in this deck, though, as Marquis describes the Hierophant as being the embodiment of that which restrains society and Murphy illustrates the card as such.
The cards show a diversity among the people… to an extent. There is black people, which is wonderful, but it seems to stop there. On the subject of diversity, there doesn’t seem to be any disabled people, people of other ethnicities, or people of varied bodies (fat, skinny, etc.) It’s nice that there are at least two examples of same-gender couples, and The Lovers is two ambiguous people in robes. Also the Major Arcana are kind of mythical people who are shades of greens and blues and reds.
But it’s a good deck. I like it. I would recommend it to just about anyone. And I would recommend it a beginner, given the in-depth booklet that comes with it (as single-sided as that booklet may be.) I definitely recommend it for anyone who is interested in using their cards for magic or magical purposes, as there are a lot of suggestions in the book.