The Old English Tarot is a charming deck done, for the most part, in the Marseilles style, but this is Marseilles with an artistic twist. As per the Marseilles pattern, the Major Arcana and court cards are fully illustrated, while the Minor Arcana feature the requisite number of suit objects (the 4 of Swords has 4 swords as the central illustration). The twist is that each Minor card also features a decorative background and a small vignette at the bottom, whereas most other historical decks feature less ornamented minors.
The decorative backgrounds and the vignettes in this deck combine to give me the impression of a medieval Book of Days. If you like medieval art at all, you will appreciate the effect. Despite the lovely artwork, it would be difficult to divine the meaning of a card from the vignette, even if you work intuitively. For one thing, the scenes are very small so it's hard to see details. Also, some of them are just plain headscratchers. For example, the 6 of Batons features a woman feeding chickens on a plowed field. I'm unsure as to what this is supposed to signify. Also, the suit of Cups features dancers and musicians, but they don't really seem to be doing anything other than dancing or playing. Sometimes the vignettes do manage to convey a meaning, but not all of them. It might be best to treat the small scenes as decorative and to read in the Marseilles style of combining number and suit of a card. That way, the vignettes could enhance the meaning, but the reader would not have to depend on them. As decorative element, they are beautiful and skillfully done to invoke the feeling of a medieval manuscript.
The Majors and court cards are also quite lovely in style. There are some nice details on them. For example, the Queen of Swords has a pattern on her gown. I like the background on the majors too. The artist has drawn it so they look gilded. It's a nice effect.
This was the first tarot deck that I ever bought, but I would not recommend it for beginners. In fact, I bought a RWS clone soon after to learn with instead. The Minors in this deck are lovely, but they can definitely be confusing for a beginner. There are no beginner books in English on the Marseilles-style decks, so it would be difficult for a beginner to get help in working with these cards. This is complicated by the fact that there is no available companion book, only a little white booklet packaged with the deck.
Overall, this is a nicely drawn deck that would be a good fit for medieval art lovers, and those who have some experience reading with non-illustrated minors.
You can see all the cards from this deck at Tarot.com.
Copyright K. Mayberry. Not to be used without permission.
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