by Josephine Mori and Jill Stockwell,
created by Dan Staroff

A tarot deck review by
Errol McLendon, CTM, CTI



One of the great mysteries confronting the advanced Tarot student is the Cabalistic correspondences to the Tarot deck. I imagine there are more than a handful of readers out there who have "chosen" not to pursue the CTM based heavily on the mention of the Tree of Life requirement. In my quest to find a simple interpretation to this complex image, I have acquired every book or tool which promises a concise and understandable approach to the Cabala (Qabala?, QBL?, even the spelling is confusing). I have gained great understanding from some wonderful writers and insightful analysts. Amber Jayanti's "Thorson's Principles of the Qabalah" (ISBN 0-7225-3680-1), Ellen Cannon Reed's "The Witches Qabala" (ISBN 0-87728-880-1 and Isabel Radow Kliegman's "Tarot and the Tree of Life" (ISBN 0-835609747-X) are three books that have been my personal guides while wandering around the Tree. The minute I saw The Tarot of the Sephiroth, I knew that I had to have it.

This is an ingenious deck which can be assembled to create a huge Tree of Life. The Minor Arcana are all drawn within colored circles taken from the generally accepted color correspondences of the Cabala. Each Major Arcana card's image is overlaid with a transparent path adjoining tiny colored spheres at the edge of the card. Match the colored spheres at the card's edge with the colored spheres encircling the Minor card pips and you have a HUGE Tree of Life on your living room floor. As a practical note, only attempt this after all dogs, cats or ferrets are gently put away.

Each suite of the Court cards is drawn with a quarter of a colored sphere in one corner of the card. Put these four quarter spheres together over the same color Minor card and you have the court cards tied to a Sephiroth. The placement of the Court cards on the Tree of Life seems to be one of the most disagreed upon questions when assigning the Tarot card positions. This deck places the Kings on the 2's, the Queens on the 3's, the Princes on the 6's and the Princesses on the 10's. I personally, have a different approach, but I found moving the cards to the positions I preferred wasn't too disturbing. I still had a nice group of pieces, beautifully rendered, with which to play and experiment.

The artwork is stunning, harking back to an Egyptian motif, but with colors and geometric angles which give it a striking contemporary look. Each Major Arcana card is loaded with symbolism and references, from Hebrew letters to astrological to mythological and religious. The imagery is so powerful, I couldn't help but immediately be tied emotionally to every card I worked with. The Devil and the Hanged Man are two of the most impressive new interpretations of the Major cards I have ever seen. The old symbolism is still present, but the artists and creators have found new dimensions in these cards.

The greatest accomplishment in this deck is the creation of Court cards with attitude. The simple, but bold illustrations in the Court cards leave no question as to what emotion each personality is depicting and expressing. From the fire engulfed, intense King of Wands to the concerned King of Cups, who is spilling water everywhere, each card is an easy window into the soul of these people.

The only element to be aware of is that the Minor cards are pip oriented. Some of them, like the 4 of Wands (four wands holding up a stretched ram skin), retain a slight recognizable arrangement of the pips reminiscent of the illustrated decks; however most of theMinor cards lack any "clues" for readers who are used to a picture based deck. Even if this type of deck doesn't normally appeal to you for readings, you should consider it for any Cabala work you may be doing. I personally believe that the pip orientation allows for the broad interpretation of the cards needed in order the stretch and squeeze them into the meanings dictated by the ten Sephiroths.

The Tarot of the Sephiroth (ISBN 1-57281-251-6) is published by U.S. Games. As an art deck, a deck for readings or a study tool for the Cabala (Qabalah, Qabala, Tree of Life), the Tarot of the Sephiroth needs to be in any collection, in my humble opinion. Beautiful, breathtaking, intelligent and loaded with information and knowledge, this is a deck that, I predict, will become a favorite of any reader who is aware and appreciative of the levels available to them if they incorporate the Tree of Life into their reading vocabulary.