Vox Arcana, The Voice of Tarot by Jaymi Elford, Sally Rose, and a different artist for each card
Reviewed by Jade
The creative vision behind the Vox Arcana is beautiful with music, or better opera, providing the leitmotif for this collaborative project. The booklet is an inspiring appeal to look at tarot as one would look at an opera. The tarot tells a moving story, that grasps and transforms the listener. It is composed of visuals and meanings that are told via many individual voices. Every voice has its place in the whole, but each voice is also wholly unique. This is the shared vision.
Traditional tarot decks that are generally created by a small group, might be well-composed but they can lack creativity and internal diversity. The tarot comes alive through an artist’s ability to express every card’s energies and fewer artists simply mean a smaller repository of experiences, of associations and thus of possible expressions. To have a different artist express each card’s energy results in a unique expression of each card, even for those cards that have some overlap (The Moon and The Empress, for example, are both expressions of the feminine or The Sun and The Emperor expressions of the masculine). So this deck is not so much a substitute for more univocal creations, but it attempts to add a further very diverse voice to the choir of available tarot decks.
And it is a strange experience. There are so many cards I would like to show you: some I loved immediately. like The High Priestess with her sharp edges; others I disliked at first, like the buxom 6 of Pentacles, which are growing on me. Other cards again have shown me unseen depths of cards I thought familiar. The King of Cups turns into a shadowy figure that creates waves of emotion from behind the scenes. And sometimes the little white book had some incredible gems of meaning to share. So I have decided to just let the deck show itself and I drew some cards for a card interview. The first card presents its main energy, the second card its main gift, and the third card the kind of person that can work best with this deck.
The main energy is the 10 of Cups, bringing different emotions, points of view and aspects together, to create harmony. The main gift is The Hierophant, it can grant insight into traditional structures and a way to connect with different traditions. And the Vox Arcana does proclaim to be a traditionally innovative deck. Finally the person to best work with the deck is someone who is living the 10 of Wands, but who is also ready to transform this burden.
I am familiar with the 78 Tarot project, it is an independent collaborative tarot initiative, that releases a collaborative deck each year. These releases are explicitly centered around a theme, like the Tarot Mythical, the Tarot Astral and so on. And even though the 78 Tarot has a common theme to guide the artists, the Vox Arcana for some reason feels more cohesive without such an explicit thematic focus. To me it feels like there is a symbolic depth to every card of this deck that was missing in various versions of the 78 Tarot that I owned (I am not saying that it wasn’t there, just that I could not see it). It might be the fact that most of the artists are Italian and thus share a cultural background, or that the artists were made aware of the musical framing. Many of the interpretations given in the booklet do center around the world of opera, music and song. The Temperance card for example simply depicts a woman, the booklet however tells us that this maiden is about to sing an aria that will transform the audience. A very beautiful idea indeed.
A last aside, the artists have been asked to provide a song for their card should they be so moved. An incomplete playlist can be found on the last pages, a touch that I enjoyed very much. There is also a complete list of the artists and their social media.
Now finally, on to the cards themselves. They follow the Rider Waite Smith system, but two extra cards are included. These are printed on both sides and represent the four elements. The cards themselves are gorgeous, but glossy, very glossy and thus have a bit of a plastic feel to them. I personally don’t mind that, but tastes are different. The card stock is excellent, it feels thick and sturdy, riffle shuffling is quite a challenge for me, but that is not my preferred style. If you prefer very flexible cards this is not quite for you. The cards are borderless and the names at the bottom are unobtrusive. The colours are vibrant and the cards look beautiful. I did think that the comic style dominating many of the cards would put me off, but it absolutely didn’t. While there is some diversity and some acknowledgement of different cultures it is far from a balanced deck in that regard. Finally the packaging. I really like the sturdy box, with its pull-off lid. It is not much larger than the cards, something that I quite appreciate, since space in my tarot shelf is sparse.
For me this deck accomplishes what it set out to do, namely to tell many stories with distinct voices that come together to form a whole that is moving and inspiring.