by Ed Buryn

Red Feather, 3rd edition, 2022
‎ISBN: 978-0764362521
RRP: £21.99

William Blake is one of the world’s great artists, primarily known for his poetry expressing wonder but also despair at the state of the world. Literary circles historically (and intentionally) overlooked his mysticism, which expressed itself in the creation of a new religion with writings and artwork to accompany it. But the two are inextricably interlinked. Blake’s new religion came from, and reflects, his perception of the world and society around him. Isn’t it time to bring all this genius back together, where it belongs? The William Blake Tarot does exactly that.

First, the basics. The cards are illustrated with Blake’s stunning artwork and excerpts from his writing. They are gilt-edged and slightly larger than most tarot decks, which I like very much. The card stock is on the thicker side which adds to the feeling that you are working with something very special. And the deck is beautiful in readings. The finish is matte with a very slight sheen that brings out the colours.

This third edition of The William Blake Tarot has brightened the artwork and Blake aficionados will notice that they are considerably more vivid than his original engravings. I love bright colours and so I appreciate this decision, and I do think that in a Tarot deck, it works very well to bring out the details in this way. The colours of this deck are just spectacular.

Even if you are new to Blake, you will not get lost in The William Blake Tarot. The full-colour guidebook offers an introduction, a selection of spreads, and a clear explanation of each card. The deck has twenty-three Triumphs and four Creative Suits, for a total of seventy-nine cards. Card number seventy-nine is the twenty-third Triumph, Eternity. It is numbered 00 and, like The Fool, it belongs both at the beginning and at the end of the Trumps.

The Triumphs all have titles to give you clues to their meaning, as does each card in the Creative Suits, e.g., the 10 of Poetry (the Earth suit) is ‘Prophecy’ and the 8 of Music (Fire) is ‘Discontent’. The Court Cards are Angel, Child, Woman, and Man.

The suits of The William Blake Tarot are Painting, Science, Music, and Poetry. Now, usually I groan a little bit when I see that a tarot deck has its own tailored suits because it often means that you have to memorise an entirely new system to use it. But that is not the case here. The Minor suits are associated with the four elements Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, each element being represented in the border, as you can see here:

The cards in the suit of Painting (Water) are framed by waves; Science (Air) is framed in dark blue with stars; Music (Fire) has subtle flames in the border; and Poetry (Earth) is signified with autumnal leaves and grapes. Because the guidebook is in full colour, and gives pictures of all the cards, it’s easy to find the ones you draw and read their meaning.

There is one little note in the front of the guidebook that I want to mention, because I missed it at first and it changed everything. There is a free, full-size (76 pages) downloadable guidebook available from deck creator Ed Buryn’s website and it is amazing – fascinating reading on its own. This is where you will find out about Blake and his mystical vision, where you’ll find the names of the paintings used in the deck and the excerpts from his poetry, and even more spreads to try.

But how does the deck read? Like a dream. I asked for some advice for the holiday weekend: To do, To not do, and Advice. Eternity advises me that I have a world of opportunities at my feet and nothing but clear sky ahead! Error tells me to avoid getting distracted by baser things, especially since the Child of Poetry is here to urge me on in my creative work.

You can find considerably more detail on these cards – and all of the cards in the deck – in the free, downloadable guidebook. If you find yourself tempted by this review, why not download it and have a look? There is a wealth of information there that explains the mystical beauty and wisdom of this truly remarkable deck.

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