Juliet Sharman-Burke was my first real introduction to the world of tarot. I had been around tarot cards since I can remember, but it was a reader I met in a sort of fated way who gifted me my first book on the tarot. This has been her first book gifted to her too, so it felt great to have this now in my possession and it set me into seriously learning the cards. That was a long time ago and getting this gorgeous boxed book and deck set firstly made me realise how much the tarot world had developed since then. If this is what beginners to the cards can now enjoy, they’re a very lucky bunch!
At a glance:
An excellent beginners deck but can still be used and enjoyed by others
Standard sized cards
Based on the Rider Waite imagery
Great visual guide book and presentation box
Comes with a double-sided paper spreads mat
Wonderful soft watercolour imagery
Major arcana cards aren’t numbered
Juliet Sharman-Burke and Giovanni Caselli have teamed up to produce this deck and book set aimed at complete newcomers to the tarot. Before I received the deck I listened to an interview with Juliet and Eddison Books and it gave insight on what she wished to achieve with this project. Her initial introduction to the tarot seemed to be bound by limitations of the lack of available materials at that time. Even though Juliet has published previously on the subject, this is a much more complete and comprehensive distillation of all of her wisdom and knowledge on the tarot, in an easily accessible course.
Caselli’s artwork is soft and colourful and the two minds have very effectively come together to re-imagine the Rider Waite, making some of the more important symbols of the cards more obvious to a newcomer. The illustrations are clear and bright.
The box is very high quality with a matte finish, when the shrink wrap is peeled away it’s obvious straight away that this will be a well-produced item. I tried to get into the mindset of a complete beginner as much as I could when first opening the box and I’m sure from the rich purples and the inviting images I would have been excited to get the cards on the table. The book is nice and thick, what you would expect for something that promises to walk a newcomer through their first encounter with something that is innately complex. The front of the book pictures Caselli’s illustration of The Hermit, I love how this seems to symbolise lighting the way and being the reader’s guide along their path. The pack contains everything a beginner could need to start including a neat spreads layout sheet, which is a nice touch. I think maybe a bag to keep the cards in may have been of more use but to a complete beginner, I can see how a layout sheet could build confidence in learning the spread layout.
At a nice small size and ample thickness, this guide promises to contain a lot of good information. The print inside is nice and clear, each card having two pages each. The images for the cards aren’t in colour but are large enough for the author to be able to annotate the various key symbols on the cards to support the walkthrough opposite. The first thing I noticed which was different to virtually all other books I’ve read on the tarot is that minors are dealt with first, with the major arcana placed at the end of the book. Also different to Juliet’s previous book which I own, the cards are organised by suit rather than number order. This doesn’t feel like an issue and is now pretty much the accepted way of presenting, as when we receive a new deck they are organised this way anyway.
There is a short introduction followed by an overview of themes associated with each suit, before moving onto the card by card information. The clarity of the imagery in the cards and how well they are woven together through the numbered cards does make this feel very accessible and enjoyable to explore. It certainly doesn’t go as in-depth as other books and doesn’t offer any reversal meanings, but for a beginner this feels just about right whilst allowing room for the reader to engage their intuition.
At the end of each suit a sample reading is given, only using that suit, followed by a celtic cross using all of the minor cards before moving onto the section covering the major arcana. These are good as exercises to help a beginner get the feel of reading and linking card positions together. The major arcana are presented last and I did notice when I first took the cards out of the box that these aren’t numbered. I’ll pick up on this when I move onto looking at the cards in more depth.
The spreads are presented in a staged “course” throughout the book, focussing on one querents question and performing each reading on this same situation which is tied up with a full-deck horseshoe spread at the end. The cards however are presented in such a way that I feel the meanings should be easily adaptable through intuitive reading to be able to read on any subject after some practice.
Taking the cards out of the box, they feel like a nice size and lovely stock for shuffling. The images are bright and clear with plain purple backs. Each suit has a colour pallette relating to the element which is a nice emotive way to help the reader connect with the suits. I find this take on the Rider Waite has more movement and a more expressive feel than the original, the attention to facial expressions and layout does a lot to communicate the essence of the cards.
As I mentioned earlier, the major arcana aren’t numbered. I’m sure there must be some thinking behind this, as it probably isn’t a necessity to someone learning the tarot to know the majors in order. I remember my first encounter with the major cards and learning about the fool’s journey through them, the numbers helped my understanding. I did speak to a few other readers on this point and it was definitely a mixed bag of opinions, but it helped me realise that to a beginner, this really wouldn’t be a big deal as not everyone learns the path of the fool and on occasion this can even be ordered differently. It wouldn’t impact on the ability to read intuitively which is what this set is aimed at.
I did a few readings using the cards and they were lovely to work with, even for someone who has read for a while these still feel very much familiar and intricate enough to someone who loves the Rider Waite cards. There’s still plenty of detail in the imagery and I feel it would be a great set of cards for someone to start out with. I usually recommend a Rider Waite deck for a complete beginner but I would point someone in the direction of this set after this review, I know Juliet is a great guide from personal experience and I would happily recommend it.