The Druidcraft Tarot is a gorgeously illustrated deck done in an art style that reminds me very much of Michelangelo's later works (for example, the Sistine Chapel). The illustrations are exquisitely rendered and colored. I would have purchased this deck for the artwork alone, but it's not just a pretty face! This is also an excellent reading deck, with rich symbolism.
For the most part, the Druidcraft Tarot follows the Rider-Waite-Smith card meanings, but often with its own twist. For example, the 3 of Swords shows a heart-shaped stone in front of a tree with swords leaning on it. There is a lot of gray in this card, and it carries a sense of sorrow. The RWS meaning still applies but the depictions are different. Same ends, different means. For another example, the Wheel shows a woman casting a ritual circle. Once again, the same meaning is conveyed through different images.
The scenes are Celtic, featuring Druids/Celts in everyday life and Celtic deities. The Christian symbolism has been removed from this deck, making it ideal for pagan use, specifically Celtic pagans. The Devil has become Cernunnos, and Temperence has become the Fferyllt. The Death card depicts Cerridwen and her cauldron. Also, the Empress and Emperor are Lady and Lord. Because of its similarities to the RWS system, you do not have to be pagan to read with and understand this deck, but it is helpful to have at least a basic understanding of Druidry or Wicca. After all, the deck is based on Druidcraft, the authors' word for the combined practice of Druidry and the Craft (Wicca).
Even if you're totally new to paganism or tarot, not to worry. The deck is packaged with an excellent companion book. Card definitions are solid and useful, and they even have exercises that are fun for more advanced readers. At the very beginning of the book, there is a diagram for laying out all 78 cards in a Wheel of the Year. I truly wish I had some space in my small and messy apartment to do this for myself, but even just looking at the diagram in the book gave me some new insights.
Another thing that makes this deck great for beginners is the court cards. Quite frankly, this deck has some of the best court cards I've ever seen. It's easy to look at them and to be able to tell exactly what kind of person he or she is. I would single out specific ones, but they are all artfully done and evocative. This makes them very easy to read.
One of my other favorite cards is the Lovers. The Lovers card is one of the hottest I've ever seen. It (tastefully) shows the Goddess mid-coitus with the Horned God in a lush spring landscape. It's the kind of sex we all want to have. They certainly look like they're enjoying it. I also actually like the Death card in this deck. As mentioned earlier, Death shows Cerridwen as the hag with her cauldron. The artwork is spooky and awe-inspiring. I especially like that the cauldron highlights the renewal/transformation aspect as well as the end of something. Finally, I'll mention the 5s of the minor arcana. If you take them out and look at them together, you can see the stages of Cerridwen chasing Gwydion. They shapeshift into various forms and they're in the 5s. Very clever.
I highly recommend this deck for pagans, tarot collectors, and even tarot beginners. The art is beautiful and deep, but it's also easily interpreted. The only problem I have with this deck is that it's just too big. Shuffling is very difficult for anyone with small hands. That's the only reason that I don't use this deck as often as I'd like to.
Currently, the deck is only available in Europe. If you absolutely have to have it now, it can be ordered through the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids website. It will be released in the US in April 2005 and can be pre-ordered throguh Amazon.
Copyright K. Mayberry. Not to be used without permission.
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