The Pearls of Wisdom Tarot is a popular deck, and no wonder! What a delight! Color, energy and magic ooze from these cards, and now the second edition is available. The artist, Roxi Sim, has infused these images with a wild and playful spirit. These busy cards are stuffed with imagery, and each time a card is studied, something new appears. While the images have the general outlines of traditional tarot cards, there’s just so much more that mere words can’t do justice to the impact of these cards. The images feature people, animals, and nature scenes. Each card has a unique border that may feature more animals, runes, assorted bric-a-brac and flowers.
And true to the title of the deck, pearls are everywhere.
The unabashedly vibrant colors add enormous energy to the impact of the deck, and give the deck its fun and exuberant qualities. Even the tarot’s grumpy cards have bolt-holes and escape hatches drawn into the scenes. In the Eight of Swords, the wind whispers advice into the bound woman’s ear. Although she can’t see or move, she can listen and think. In the Nine of Swords, three crystals on the windowsill magnify the moon’s light, and show the way for a woman holding a candle. In the Ten of Swords, a spiral that starts at the top radiates over and through the dead body, suggesting that even though this is the end of him, it isn’t the end of everything. Endings are just a matter of perspective, it tells the reader.
While caricature-style illustrations don’t always work effectively in tarot decks, in this deck the artistic style is highly effective because of the little details crammed into every corner. In the King of Swords, a small incense burner sits in the upper corner, and trails of smoke wind past the seated king. The king holds a sword in one hand and a big quartz crystal in the other, suggesting that although he could whack his adversaries to ribbons, he may also choose to use his brains and intuition to achieve his goals. With this king, the sword is definitely subordinate to the brain.
In a happy departure from RWS canon, the person bearing the ten wands is smiling, and the sun shines over the horizon. A bouquet of roses and beribboned wreaths are at her feet (in charming little red shoes), and the meaning for the card is success in spite of heavy burdens. This gives the reader an optimistic new view of an old devil. The full-color accompanying book fits into the deck’s tuck box along with the cards. It begins with statements from the artist and the author describing their inspiration and process of creating the deck. This is followed with a few simple spreads. Each group of tarot cards (Majors, the four suits) has a distinct color along the edge of the pages, making card look-up an easy business. Major Arcana card meanings occupy two pages of text, which are followed by a helpful summary of the symbols used on the card with brief meanings. The Minor Arcana cards have a short (yet none the less meaningful) paragraph description. Rune meanings are supplied at the end of the book, and are the least satisfying part of the text. Overall, this is a highly useful and well-organized accompanying book.
When I first saw this deck it reminded me of Walter Wegmüller’s Zigeuner (Gypsy) Tarot and its colorful crazy-quilt-like imagery (Sphinx Verlag, Basel, circa 1980, out-of-print; a newer available edition is the Tsigane Zigeuner Tarot issued by US Games in 1996). However, with further study it is clear that this deck offers an embarrassingly rich treasury of visual clues and cues for the tarotist as well as brilliant departures from RWS traditions. Kudos to the artist for doing this, and to the publisher for letting her! While I highly appreciate the pristine absence of clutter in the Winged Spirit Tarot by David Sexton (also fondly known as “The Buff and Studly Tarot”), I was immediately amused and pleased by the joyous, densely-packed clutter in the Pearls of Wisdom deck. For tarotists who relish decks that provide lots of visual clues and imagery, or who prefer to use upbeat decks with clients, this deck is a doozy - get ‘em while they’re hot!
Seventh House Publishing has backed a winner with the Pearls of Wisdom Tarot. I look forward to seeing the Elemental Tarot of Magick and Fortune by Victoria David Danann (publication date not yet announced).
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Artist: Tarot deck by Roxi Sim, book by Caeli Fullbrite.
7th House Publishing, 2008
second edition includes boxed deck and mini-book, $24.95.
(previously published in the ATA Quarterly Journal, Fall 2009 issue)