Sevenfold Mystery Tarot
The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery by Robert Place
Review © 2013 James Ricklef
Last year I interviewed Robert Place prior to the publication of his beautiful new deck, Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery. He worked on this deck for about ten years, and it is obviously a labor of love. Here, now, is a review of that deck now that it is published and I have a copy of it in my hands.
First of all, let me explain that I like to “friend test” decks, which means have a friend or two explore the deck with me and compare notes about it. For this one, I had my friends Amy and Kata come over, and we looked through the deck together and did readings with it.
First I’d like to share some of our comments about the deck overall.
The images on these cards are very inviting; they’re generally accessible and easy to relate to. We noted that the Minor Arcana cards are very similar to those in Place’s Alchemical Tarot deck, so if you are familiar with that deck, they will be easy to read. The Majors, however, are where Place made most of his conceptual changes. Whereas he based most of the Alchemical Tarot Majors on illustrations from old alchemy texts, for this deck, the Majors were inspired by his love of the 19th century Pre-Raphaelite paintings of Edward Burne-Jones. In fact, Place says that he “wanted to see what a deck would look like if it were done in Burne-Jones’s style and with his sense of sensuality and symbolism.”
Like the Alchemical deck, the Sevenfold Mystery decks does, however, have some interesting deviations from the RWS norms (in case that’s an issue for you), but those differences aren’t too frequent and the cards are adequately discussed in the Little White Book, especially the Majors. (I generally find the LWB for decks pretty useless, the exception being when they are written by the deck creator, which is the case here.)
One more comment about the cards in general: There are no numbers on the pip cards, so you might have to count the icons to figure out which card it is. Of course, after working with the deck for a short time you will have the cards “memorized.” The Major Arcana cards are, however, numbered. (By the way, Justice is 8 and Strength, 11. Just FYI.)
Now here are some of our comments about a few cards that we thought were noteworthy.
In the Minor Arcana, we thought the Wands (aka, Staffs) suit was our favorite. There is such energy in those images! There was only one complaint though, and that was that the Nine and Ten seemed a bit too similar in their look. I pointed out, though, that they may be considered a pair of “before and after” pictures. To quote the LWB, the crow in the Nine is “sacrificing himself in a fire [which] represents death, sacrifice, letting go, or being overcome with passion.” The Phoenix in the Ten, however, is “reborn from the flames [which] represents rebirth, renewal, or being strengthened by meeting challenges.”
One card that we all loved was the Knight of Cups, wherein the knight is collecting rain water in his cup. We also liked the self-referential echo in the fact that the man in the Three of Coins card is drawing the World card for this deck.
We found the Two of Cups to have a wonderful innovation in the way that the two people are morphing from the twining snakes. (This is the meaning for that card from the LWB: “The Caduceus with its serpents turning into lovers represents harmony, attraction, sex, partnership, or cooperation.”) On the other hand, the Two of Coins seemed almost boring, which was a bit perplexing since the rest of the deck reveals that Place is not into boring images. So we wondered if that was an artistic statement. I pointed out that this sort of image for the Two of Coins was traditional in old decks. To explore this image further, you might consider this meaning for the card from the LWB: “The Serpent- holding two coins represents holding tight, polarity, or a situation that is not moving or stagnant.” So that static image might imply this meaning of stagnation.
In the Major Arcana, we had a few favorites. One was the Justice card which is an innovative take on the card with Lady Justice handing “her sword to her champion, the knight, who is sworn by the code of chivalry to serve Lady Justice.” (Quote from the LWB) We found the Devil to be a “handsome devil,” which is appropriate since temptation is always attractive.
We found both Fortuna (Wheel of Fortune) and Strength to be lovely, and both Amy and Kata said that “the Fool seems so open and adventurous!” (I suspect they were also pleased to see a female on this card for once.)
Now for a word about our use of this deck for readings: As noted above, the cards are accessible and easy to relate to, and they turned out to be easy to read with. We all found that they spoke to us. The readings themselves were spot on with some interesting and thought-provoking insights revealed. In fact, we did simple two-card readings (one reading for each of us), yet ended up talking about the messages of those readings for a couple of hours!
All in all, then, the three of us gave this deck six thumbs up.
Robert Place’s website: http://thealchemicalegg.com/
You can find information about how to order this deck here: http://alchemicaltarot.com/?page_id=14
To read more about this deck, see my interview with Robert Place: https://jamesricklef.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/deck-creator-forum-sevenfold-mystery/