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Seeing the Signs

The Tarot Illuminati

I first saw images from the Tarot Illuminati back in 2012 or so on Deviart.com – the Empress card was one of the very first pins on my Pinterest page and I wrote that “these cards aren’t published yet – I can hardly wait to get a set!” Beautifully rendered by Erik Dunne (http://elric2012.deviantart.com/), the entire deck was not ready for publication before May, 2013. I personally did not get my own set until this past Yule. You can see Erik’s new Tarot deck, Tarot Akropolis, at the above link – only a few cards have been posted but they are very much alike the Tarot Illuminati in artwork and theme. I particularly like the Queen of Cups but what is she doing with that apple?

The Tarot Illuminati is published by LoScarebo and it has probably the most elaborate and beautiful packaging I have ever seen. Most tarot decks come in a box with a booklet – generally pretty cheap. Kat Black’s Golden Tarot came in a small but sturdy box in which to keep the cards and the booklet was quite well written, if brief – but I have never seen the likes of this. The Tarot Illuminati are in a box the size of a 500-page novel and if you set this box on the shelf next to one of your favorite fantasy novels, it would fit right in and nobody would be able to tell the difference. Which might be the whole idea behind the packaging. On the cover of the box is the High Priestess – the one who holds the key to the Illuminations within. The box opens easily and is held closed securely with a magnet – very impressive to say the least. Inside is a booklet written by Kim Huggens – apparently, you can buy an E-book for your Kindle (if you have one) with more information but this little booklet is quite informative and honestly, the best way to get the know the cards – any deck of cards – is not within the pages of a book but by using the cards themselves. The cards are in a recess and brought out with a shiny golden ribbon. They are thick and glossy and have golden edges.

The high quality of the card stock is actually one of this deck’s drawbacks. Because the cards are so thick, they are very difficult to work with. The cards also stick together. I have never had a deck of any kind – tarot, oracle or playing card – that cling together the way these cards do. Even after a month of using these cards, they still manage to elude a smooth shuffle. The first week I had them, I didn’t even bother trying to shuffle them. I spread them out in a circle on my bed and mixed them up manually.

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(Bobby helping me with the cards)

Once I was able to shuffle the cards more easily, I spent time shuffling them and pulling out a single card and looking it over carefully. Some of the cards spoke to me immediately – usually the ones depicting women – especially the Princess cards, which I found to be most beautiful and compelling. Some I didn’t like at all. The Death card I find especially ugly. I didn’t like the Temperance card either and that is usually my favorite card. It looks like the head of Fabio on the body of Frankenstein – check out those feet. This deck is one of those decks where the cards you love you really love – like the Empress – and the cards you hate, you just don’t get anything from them at all. On some of the cards – like the Empress, but also the Queen of Cups, the Princess of Swords and the Princess of Pentacles – the artwork is absolutely stunning. I agree with Janet Boyer, who writes on her blog, “The Tarot Maven”, “Some of the card images by Erik C. Dunne are stunning and vibrant, but the mishmash of CGI, cartoonish illustration and cut-and-paste collage has a jarring, skewed result. Some of the heads and hands are too small or large for the figures, and the photorealistic backgrounds (or actual photos) with detailed foreground smashes the planes together for a flat effect.” Until I read this, I wasn’t sure what was bothering me about some of the cards but this is exactly it – the “mishmash” of images which sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t.

Like many other reviewers of this deck, I found using The Tarot Illuminati in an actual spread a challenging aspect. The booklet features four spreads – generally very simple three- and four- card spreads. I found it interesting that the Celtic Cross – which is featured in every Tarot booklet I have ever seen – was not even mentioned, but perhaps the creators of The Tarot Illuminati are aware that this is not a deck that lends itself to large spreads. I did try a Celtic Cross a few times and while I did not find that “there is a limit to how many cards can be laid out in a spread before chaos sets in” as Joy Vernon writes on her blog, “Completely Joyous”, I did find that the sumptuous design of the cards clashed with one another. It was like being at an impossibly noisy disco where everyone was dressed in as gaudy clothes as possible and the drinks were way too expensive. However, I did not find that carnival atmosphere to be a problem for divination.

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(Celtic Cross using The Tarot Illuminati)

But the way I think the Tarot Illuminati works the best is with a pendulum. I have been doing this daily for several weeks now. I shuffle the cards and cut them three times – for the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone – and then I set the three piles in front of me. Then I pick three cards from each pile and arrange them in an arc in front of the piles.

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(The lay-out: Nine cards from three piles)

Then I take my pendulum and hold it over each card. If I am to turn over the card and read it, the pendulum will move. If not, the pendulum stays still. I am constantly amazed at how uncanny this is. The pendulum always seems to know exactly what cards to choose and which ones to leave behind.

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(Upturned cards: IV The Lovers and II of Wands)

The other application that I think this particular deck works really well with is the daily draw. Because of its ornate and opulent design, the one-card draw works really well with this deck. You can even make it into a meditation – imagine walking through a dark wood and suddenly there is a bright spot – illumination. Focus on the light and pick your card. Leave it on your altar or carry it with you to look at throughout the day – this is your illumination for the day. Today I drew XIII Death – which I said before is a particularly ugly card – but perhaps by the end of today I will have seen something in the card I didn’t see earlier. One thing I know about The Tarot Illuminati is that every time you look at a card, you see something new.

Personally, I like a simpler deck – I think “less is more” – but as a collector of tarot decks, I am more than happy to have the Tarot Illuminati in my collection. I think any serious collector would feel the same way. It’s not for beginners. It’s not for children. I’m not even sure it’s quite serious. But it is magnificent.

If you would like to see the entire deck, go here: http://newvisionsbooks.com/tarot-illuminati-by-erik-dunne-2/

Works Cited.

Boyer, Janet. “The Tarot Maven.” http://janetboyer.typepad.com/blog/2013/06/tarot-illuminati.html

Vernon, Joy. “Completely Joyous”. http://joyvernon.com/Blog/deck-review-tarot-illuminati/

Dunne, Erik. “The Tarot Illuminati” http://newvisionsbooks.com/tarot-illuminati-by-erik-dunne-2/

Dunne, Erik. Deviantart. E.C. Dunne. http://elric2012.deviantart.com/