The Bonefire Tarot by Gabi Angus-West is a colorful journey through the tarot. This tarot deck is painted against a black background accompanied by black border. This makes the colors of every image “pop;” and in some cases, almost render a 3-D effect. The colors used for this tarot deck are vibrant and come across to the viewer with a powerful energy. The art style is reminiscent of vintage tattoo art with people of color featured prominently. Upon every tarot card the image of a pair of burning bones, hence the name of this particular tarot deck, The Bonefire Tarot.
The organization of the Bonefire Tarot is traditional. As with the vast majority of tarot decks, The Bonefire Tarot has 22 major arcana cards that begin with The Fool and culminate in The World. Strength is the eighth card and Justice is the eleventh card. Suits are Wands, Swords, Cups and Coins. Court cards are Page, Knight, Queen and King.
This tarot deck is housed in the traditional heavy-duty cardboard hinged box with magnetic closure for which Schiffer decks are now known. The cards are housed within two recessed wells with the guidebook resting flush on top. When stacked this tarot deck measures 1 ¼” high. The cards measure 3 ½ x 4 5/8”. This gives the cards a squarish shape. They are not as rectangular as other tarot decks, which for me causes some slight difficulty in shuffling causing me to seriously consider trimming the side edges of the cards off, but this would impact the art with the removal of the black border. I more than likely will not trim the deck at all. The lamination is high-gloss and slick with the cards being well protected. The Bonefire Tarot ought to withstand years of shuffling.
The card images of The Bonefire Tarot are all rendered in the vintage tattoo artistic style. You can well imagine these images gracing the bodies of individuals who wish to stand out from the crowd. Figural representations are fluid as they appear to drape or flow through and around the symbols of their particular cards. This gives the images of this tarot deck an ethereal look to them. One would think the ethereal would clash with the tattoo style, but within the Bonefire Tarot the ethereal flow of the imagery works very well with the vintage tattoo style.
The card symbols of this tarot deck include those you would find in a typical Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, though I would not call the Bonefire Tarot a RWS clone, per se. It has a style all its own with other symbols included that one does not find in RWS decks, but those symbols still lend valuable meanings to the cards. A nice touch is that artist Gabi Angus-West incorporated the title of each card into the actual image on the card. Titles can appear along the base of the image, but are more often than not they are interwoven into the very image itself and can appear anywhere on the card in a variety of stylistic renderings that obviously reflect the artist’s own handwriting. I find that both charming and quite interesting from the perspective of a reader and artist as I wonder if card meaning had any influence on the placement of the card’s title within the image.
The guidebook for The Bonefire Tarot is in paperback and measures 6 x 9″. It consists of 192 pages. The original self-published edition of the Bonefire Tarot came housed in a burlap drawstring bag with a lovely iron-on image of the deck’s logo that is now the card back for the Schiffer edition. I was pleased to see that Schiffer maintained the burlap look with the guidebook as well as maintaining the original logo that decorated the bag of the self-published edition. The burlap weave is duplicated in print on the front and back cover of the guidebook. It’s a nice touch and will be appreciated by those who purchase this edition who already own the self-published edition. The box is rendered in the same style.
If you are an artist yourself or interested in how an artist goes about creating a tarot deck, then the guidebook will be a special treat for you. Gabi Angus-West describes her creation process for each card and weaves her commentary so skillfully into the accompanying text of each card that her creation process becomes part of each card’s meaning. She tells the reader in what order she painted the symbols, or the reasons that particular symbols occurred to her and not others that may be more commonly associated with a particular card. Her commentary on the Death card, for example, is a fine demonstration of the merging of her discussion of symbols used with the meaning of the card. She brings the reader’s focus to the two towers behind Death in the background and tells us that the tragedy of 9/11 is what is being represented. That alone gives the Death card a whole new level of meaning it does not have in other decks.
Do yourself a favor and read the guidebook from cover to cover. Not only will you learn which symbols the artist considers to be the most important, but you will be able to draw your own associations with each of the symbols, thus making The Bonefire Tarot a much more personal deck for you than it otherwise would be. Also, be sure to spend some time reading the Glossary of Bonefire Symbols that begins on page 184. The author provides brief meanings for all of the major symbols on the cards. Familiarizing yourself with her list of symbolic meanings will add further dimension and meaning to your readings with The Bonefire Tarot.
Personally, I very much enjoy reading with The Bonefire Tarot. This tarot deck quickly became one of my “go to” decks. I use this deck in about 60% of my professional readings and it is one of three favorite tarot decks I use when reading for myself.
I highly recommend The Bonefire Tarot. This is one of those very rare tarot decks that is not only very interesting to a seasoned professional reader such as myself, but has its own unique charm that makes it a friendly deck to first-time readers.
Dr. Nefer Khepri
Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this deck from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.