Fenestra Tarot by Chatriya
Publisher: U.S. Games Systems, Inc. RRP: £15.87 ($21.95) ISBN: 978-1-57281-646-6
The Fenestra Tarot is a visually pleasing deck to behold. Right out of the box, I found myself attracted to the faded rose and burnished wood colour palette of the cards. The card backs themselves feature a stem of thorny roses, reminding us of the beauty as well as the sharpness of life. You get the sense that you want to proceed carefully with this deck lest you get pricked.
According to the little white book (which consists mainly of basic keywords for the cards, both upright and reversed, as well as a simple outline for a Celtic Cross spread), the artist Chatriya drew from a number of different influences, such as Egypt, Art Deco, manga and mythology, in her creation of Fenestra Tarot. The Latin word fenestra means window and, appropriately, each of these cards is surrounded by its own ornate frame. Flipping through the deck, I get the calm sense that I am admiring a set of stained-glass windows as the sun goes down.
The deck closely follows the Rider-Waite tradition, so it would be a user-friendly deck for anyone already familiar with this system as well as newcomers to tarot. With that said, the Fenestra Tarot doesn’t have much to add in terms of new layers of meaning. The Fool is there with his white rose and his dog, the Sun shows the typical beaming child on a white horse, and the Ace of Cups even features four streams of water overflowing from the chalice like we see in the Rider-Waite. This will be good news to readers who like their decks to follow the well-trodden paths of tradition, but those who want to see new takes on old archetypes won’t have much to work with here.
There are some attempts to modernise the images (such as the woman in the Nine of Pentacles who would be quite at home in a 2020s night club), but for the most part the people in this deck inhabit a timeless fantasy land. There is also an interesting choice made in the Temperance card where the angel is shown dipping her toe in red liquid: perhaps blood, or perhaps it’s just the hue of the setting sun.
The male figures in this deck have an almost androgynous appearance about them while the women are highly feminine and, to my eye, idealized, even objectified, but all this may be the deck’s manga influence showing itself. Nevertheless, those who would prefer an ethnically-diverse deck featuring realistic bodies will probably find that this is not the deck for them.
The quality of the cards and the box are pretty much typical of the output I’ve seen from U.S. Games: the cards themselves handle easily, and the cardstock is able to withstand an occasional riffle, but the box is a rather flimsy tuck box affair and after handling the cards only a few times there is already some wear showing on the corners of the box. For anyone purchasing this deck to use rather than simply to collect, the cards will almost certainly need to be rehomed in a sturdier box or fabric wrap.
Personally, I find that the best way to get to know a deck is simply to read with it, so I pulled two cards to see what would happen. The cards that appeared for me were the Fool and the 6 of Swords. Interpretations aside, the reading flowed easily and I was surprised how relaxing I found it to look at these images. There was something comforting about the intricacy of the frames, the familiarity of the symbols, and the warmth of the palette that made the reading an overall pleasant and rewarding experience. I don’t think this will become a go-to deck for me, but I will definitely be reaching for it the next time I want just a slight variation on the usual.
Reviewed by Maria Hummer