The Mystical Dream Tarot
by Janet Piedilato, illustrated by Tom Duxbury
Reviewed by ClaraZ
Mystical Dream Tarot (£24.99 rrp)
By Janet Piedilato
Illustrated by Tom Duxbury
Published by Eddison Books Ltd
I tiptoed into The Mystical Dream Tarot as though entering a strange land. This deck felt so removed from any other I have encountered that I was simultaneously fascinated and fearful of it.
Would I be bamboozled by the weird and complex imagery and symbols? Would I be transported into nightmare territory? Actually, I found myself on a sort of submarine for the soul which can dive down to inner consciousness, and then surface again for matters more mundane.
It is probably worth following advice by author Janet Piedilato to study each card initially without reference to the descriptions and meanings in the sturdy 160-page guidebook. Although the images are based on dreams she has experienced over many years, she encourages us to find our own way with the cards, allowing intuition and memory to reveal the solutions we seek. Doing this enabled me to explore free of any external distraction and to create a personal bond from the outset.
Ms. Piedalato brings an impressive array of experience to bear in her creation, listing transpersonal psychology, complementary healthcare and ordained ministry among her qualifications. She is utterly convinced of the healing and guiding power of dreams, and that her deck can give us access to keys of hidden understanding within ourselves. I love the bit in the guidebook where we are asked to treat the cards as friends and allies: “…They can become treasured companions, guiding and comforting us in the dark hours when we feel lost…”
The deck has a traditional 78-card structure and, while the pip cards retain their usual designations, the courts become Lords, Ladies, Spirits and Dreamers. Many of the Majors are renamed: The Fool becomes The Innocent, Death is Wise Fox, and The World is Serpentia Sol, for example. But it is in the images we depart most drastically from any traditional Tarot association. Symbols are drawn from myth, legend, religions, as well as some common and personal dream themes. Not only are many outlandish, but most of the pips do not offer any clear visual clue to their identity other than the title printed at the bottom. And this is where we are truly freed from the strictures of other Tarot systems.
The art is exquisite. Yorkshire illustrator Tom Duxbury has reimagined Janet’s own depictions of her dreams to produce a hauntingly beautiful body of woodcut prints. He gives depth, movement and perspective with clever composition and a limited but inspired colour palette which permeates the cards with an other-worldly mystique.
The card stock is good quality, making this quite a substantial deck. But it is still flexible enough to riffle shuffle with ease, and the smooth glossy finish assists in that process without casting a visual glare during readings. A pleasant silver and grey backing facilitates reversed interpretations.
The box is tough and attractive, though I would have preferred the option of one that holds just the cards rather than having to carry the book as well.
As well as giving plenty of information about each card, the guidebook offers ideas for working with dreams, including spreads, sample readings and “incubation portal readings” — meditations to usher dreams into the seeker’s sleep.
My first actual reading was a revelation. I asked what I needed to know about a friend who was in dire straits, a long way from home, and the card that leapt out was the Three of Cups. In common with many of the other images in the deck, this one bears no resemblance to the corresponding Rider Waite Smith version. It depicts a cauldron of bubbling liquid whose steam forms into the shape of a lion. Behind the animal arises a spear which points to a turreted castle in the sky. More steam leads toward a distant sun and a moon on either side of the main scene. Quite different from the RWS cabal of three women holding goblets aloft, although the guidebook does follow some traditional meanings.
As I gazed at the card, it began to draw from my consciousness a rich bank of ideas and meanings. Some of these ran parallel to the RWS card, but that was partly coincidence due to the subject matter of the question. Pertinent characters, scenarios and solutions all appeared to me, woven into the card’s symbols. There also emerged a deep spiritual insight which quite took me aback. The card is continuing to suggest ideas.
Although I looked at the guidebook definition of the card afterwards, and found it illuminating, my own interpretation had provided more than enough useful information. Incidentally, the day after the reading, I heard that one unexpected possibility presented to me by the card was actually going to become a reality.
I am tempted to say that this is not a beginners’ deck, but that would not be quite right. It is merely a different system which can be internalised and developed like any other. Those who are willing and able to untether themselves from the shore and cast adrift into the far reaches of their consciousness can read these cards. However, this is clearly not a choice for someone wishing to embark on any conventional Tarot learning method.
I anticipate my copy of the deck being a marvellous exploratory vehicle for dream work, self-development, meditation and past life readings, and for bringing an extra dimension to more run-of-the-mill Tarot tasks.
Images used with permission from the publisher.