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[Witch Mom Blog] Review: The Mary-El Tarot

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UK Pagan


OK, I have to let you know up front. I have been a fan of the Mary-el deck for years, even before it was released. I have been following the amazing work of Marie White, who began painting her interpretations of tarot cards in 1997. I discovered her site with the paintings of most, but not all, of the deck several years ago. I eagerly waited for new paintings/cards to be released and often posted on Facebook when a new one came out.


I was thrilled to see the deck finally released this year and immediately asked the publisher for a review copy. I was thrilled that I managed to get one. So I am letting you know, that I was expecting a wonderful (free) deck but I got so much more than I anticipated. This deck and its accompanying book are so symbolically complete, so artistically rendered, so Witchingly accurate in its symbolic representations of the cards, that it is now going to be my sole deck.



I expected the amazing paintings put into a deck format. And the publisher did an amazing job- the heft and size of the cards, the accurate colors on the paintings, the amount of coating- it's all perfect for someone wanting a high quality deck. But they went above and beyond and also published Marie's 192 page book, "Landscapes of the Abyss" on the deck as well and put it all in a fantastic box that you will want to keep. (Although I am still searching for the perfect bag for the deck...)


The symbolism on this deck rings more true to me than any other deck I have loved and worked with before. I am one of those people that have never found that "perfect deck" for me (until now). In the eighties, I colored my own BOTA deck as I learned the symbolism of the tarot and how to work with it. I have had Rider and Universal Waite decks that served me well. I had a "Daughters of the Moon" round deck back in the early nineties (Yes, I was a Dianic for a while there). I had an artist designed deck once before, called the Sakki Sakki deck. In the last 6 or so years before this deck, I constantly wavered between the Greenwood, the Thoth, and the Cosmic Tribe decks for different reasons.



The Greenwood seemed to be best at representing my religion, as it had no Christian imagery in it, which cannot be said for most decks. The Thoth is by far the best researched deck in terms of symbolism and correspondences- which you would expect from its intellectual powerhouse of a creator, crazy uncle Al. And the Cosmic Tribe is pro queer, pro sex and more modern (and I know several of the models for the deck personally). But none of the previous decks suited me enough to keep me from searching. Until now. Most decks are too cutesy, too fluffy, or too cerebral (leaving the embodied experience of Witchyness behind in lieu of "high Magick" claptrap).


I needed a deck that celebrates and accurately portrays the symbolism and correspondences we all need in order to use tarot as a real tool, but never forget that the cards should also act on a gut level, too- and embody the experience of what they represent for the reader.


Marie must have had an amazing journey creating her deck these last 15 years, because in addition to the research that she did to create amazing paintings, she wrote a book that is stunning in its depth and explanations of the cards:



Just as the Fool is nothing, the Magician is everything. It contains everything and everything flows from it.The Magician stands between the primordial mother hidden beneath the surface of the water, and the primordial father with his sun, and the infinite lemniscate. The two trees are a doorway between the spiritual and corporeal world and the Magician, cloaked in Earth, is handing you a Metatron's cube (or a Phoenix's egg)....- from the first two paragraphs of the Magician card description.


The Emperor takes the diversity and abundance of life from the Emperess and he organizes it and puts it in order, imposes law on it. He is number 4 and as such he is extremely stable and is the embodiment of the idea of earth. He is the earthly father archetype and king of kings, ruler of the four quarters of the earth, the four pillars that hold up the heavens, the four sides of a pyramid, stable and square. He imposes order and harmony on the elements. He is the manifestation of spirit into earth. LIke Kind Arthur, or the fisher King of legend, he IS the land..." -from first paragraph of the Emperor card description.



She goes on with just enough ceremonial magick to please the geek in me, stunning visual imagery that resonates with the Witch in me, and never once abandons the original symbolism the tarot contains. Indeed, she based her paintings and deck around three important pillars of tarot: the Raider Waite, the Thoth, and the Marseille decks. It is obvious that she was working hard to create something new within a very old and respected framework, rather than creating a whole new oracle deck rooted in nothing. Her self-imposed task was much harder, and took lots of brains and passion to complete. She succeeded!


The book, Landscapes of the Abyss, is so dense it is going to take me weeks to read each page and stare at the corresponding card. And after getting such a gorgeous deck, I want to do just that. Off to play!


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