The Pagan Ways Tarot, created by Anna Franklin, is obviously a pagan-themed Tarot deck. If it strikes you as being somewhat familiar you may own a copy of The Sacred Circle Tarot (Llewellyn Publications), which she also created in collaboration with Paul Mason. The deck comes housed in a sturdy box nestled into two sections separated by a cardboard insert. The 6 x 9” guidebook rests on top of the desk in a hinged box with magnetic lid closure. This is a very nice feature of Schiffer decks that keeps the overall box measuring 6 X 9” and the magnetic lid allows for the box to be stored in a bookshelf on its end. The lid will not fall open.
The cards are covered in a shiny glossy laminate. They shuffle easily, but may be a bit difficult to shuffle for those of us with smaller hands. The card image is inset within a black border with the card title for the major arcana cards located in the lower border and number in the upper board. The minor arcana numeric and court card designations are located within the top border while the card titles are located within the bottom border. Titles of the minor arcana cards in numerous cases correspond to the Thoth titles. Court cards are designated Princess, Knight, Queen and King. The Princess and Queen cards correspond to the pagan sabbats or stations of the Wheel of the Year. Knights represent the action taken by their suit’s particular element while Kings represent the element itself.
Images for the Pagan Ways Tarot are created via photographic collage and computer manipulation in a very realistic manner that gives one the impression that you are looking through a window at a very real living scene. Anna Franklin states in her introduction to the 190-page paperback guidebook that she depicts gods and goddesses on every card. She chose to depict them in everyday clothing rather than in the garb of their time period and culture in order to create a cohesive look for the deck. A card such as the 3 of Swords does not depict a god, but Anna Franklin includes a brief dialogue between The Fool and the deity represented by this card. In the case of the 3 of Swords no deity is depicted, but the focus is on the stormy background and the deity speaking to The Fool is the Egyptian god, Set, who is the god of chaos, storms, and the desert.
Anna Franklin depicts The Fool’s journey as occurring through the entire tarot deck. His journey is not strictly limited to the major arcana, which is the case for the majority of decks. As a result, The Fool is the main character of the Pagan Ways Tarot and he dialogues with the god or goddess depicted on every single card. The dialogue develops The Fool’s character as he learns the lesson of every card.
The Fool introduces the Pagan Ways Tarot, but at that point the organization of the guidebook departs from tradition. Instead of seeing The Magician as the next card we see the Ace of Swords. The Fool then travels through the cards of the Swords (the element of Air and Intent) suit, followed by Wands (the element of Fire and Will), Cups (the element of Water and Love), and the Pentacles (the element of Earth and Manifestation). Once the dialogue between The Fool and the gods and goddesses of the minor arcana concludes then we meet the archetypical cards of the major arcana.
The major arcana of the Pagan Ways Tarot represents The Fool’s journey along the path of initiation. Card titles are a mix of traditional and pagan with such titles as The Lady and Lord for the Empress and Emperor, respectively. Additional changes include: The Elder for the Hierophant, Wyrd for the Wheel of Fortune, the Underworld for the Devil, Rebirth for Judgment, and Universe for the World. As with the minor arcana, The Fool engages in conversation with the character depicted on each card of the major arcana. The dialogue lends a vitality to the guidebook you do not often see and it makes for an enjoyable read.
The guidebook for the Pagan Ways Tarot is printed on high quality paper and what I like the most about it is that the cards are depicted in actual size and also in full color. This is not common among guidebooks, but Schiffer has done this with a few earlier decks. This feature makes the guidebook a wonderful study aid. You can take it with you to study easily enough and leave the actual cards at home.
The guidebook for the Pagan Ways Tarot concludes with three appendices. The first is a glossary of symbols depicted on the cards and a brief interpretation of each. This is very useful when a particular symbol catches your eye as you’re doing a reading. The second appendix is entitled “Using the Cards for Divination” and includes four spreads: the Zodiac Spread, a 7-card Planetary Spread, the 21-card Romany Spread, and the traditional 10-card Celtic Cross. Card positions are explained, but the guidebook does not contain any sample readings. The final appendix entitled “Using the Cards for Meditation and Spiritual Development” includes suggestions for meditating upon a single card, connecting with the Elements, and focusing on the Wheel of the Year.
The Pagan Ways Tarot is a well thought-out deck that will appeal to pagans and non-pagans alike. The imagery is vibrant, imaginative, and a pleasure for the eyes. I highly recommend it.
~ Nefer Khepri, PhD., R. M-T.
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Full Disclosure: I received a copy to consider for review by the publisher. I only review decks that I find useful to myself & that I feel my followers will also enjoy.