My Review of the English Magic Tarot
I have been a student of the Tarot for something akin to thirty-seven years. I bought my first deck at the age of 13, the Pamela Colman Smith illustrated Rider-Waite, at the local mall and later spent a fair bit of time earning drinking money in college reading the cards for the curious and passersby in the Village at Ball State.
I own maybe a baker’s dozen decks or so, from Crowley & Harris’ Thoth to Palladini’s Aquarian.
I appreciate the Tarot on many levels, not the least of which is for their artistry.
My ‘go to’ deck is that first Pixie-illustrated one. It’s so lovely and illuminating, but when I recently received a new deck to be reviewed from Weiser Books, I was taken aback.
For starters, I don’t think Weiser has produced a new deck in several decades, so I was somewhat surprised. Doubly so once the thing was unboxed.
The English Magic Tarot is a sublime work of art, beautifully drawn by comic artist and magician Rex Van Ryn (not to be confused, I imagine, with Duc de Richleau’s compatriot from Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out) and coloured by Stephen Dooley.
The English Magical Tradition is on display here, and marvelously so. Here you’ll find Newton and Dee as well as the spirits of Crowley, Fortune, Spare and others most present. The English Magic Tarot is decidedly eccentric and charming and filled with devilish wit and whimsy.
It is, in a word, enchanting.
Van Ryn and Dooly paint wondrous pictures and the accompanying book writ by Andy Letcher, author the simply brilliant Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom, weaves a delightful tale.
On the surface, the deck’s illustrations seem rooted in the tradition of comic book art which gives the work a more contemporary feel, yet upon deeper reflection, there is an almost timeless quality to them. The inks and colours combine to form an alchemical reaction that is at once both modern and ancient, while the card descriptions from Letcher are wholly vibrant and extant, neither of then nor now, but of what is possible.
From the moment the cards touched my hands, I have felt inspired. I cannot recommend this deck highly enough, whether you would seek to use them for esoteric purposes or if you just want to admire the scintillating artwork.