Crystal Visions Tarot
By Jennifer Galasso
U.S. Games 978-1-57281-702-9
Review by Christiana Gaudet
Thank goodness for the fantasy artists who have brought so much new life to modern tarot. I have often wondered what might have happened if an earlier generation of artists like Roger Dean and Alton Kelley had turned their attention to tarot.
The past few years have brought to tarot talented artists such as Lisa Hunt, Ciro Marchetti and Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. These fantasy artists and collectable card game (CCG) designers have changed the face of tarot, evolving it into the new century.
Now we can add to that list Jennifer Galasso. In some ways, Galasso’s art is not quite as strikingly detailed as that of those aforementioned tarot artists. But Galasso has done something that none of those artists have yet done. She has created a truly traditional deck in fantasy style.
On first glance, U.S. Games’ Crystal Visions Tarot by Jennifer Galasso struck me as just another art deck with fairies, unicorns and skinny young women in sexy medieval clothing. It seemed cheesy, and a bit flat. I didn’t like the addition of “The Unknown Card,” and the stark setting of some of the Major Arcana characters.
Somehow, I felt compelled to look through the cards a second time, and a third. Each time I did, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. There are figures of people in the twisted tree branches, and delicate angels in the clouds. The lush flowers and trees have lovely texture, as do the brilliantly colored dragons. The skies and landscapes are evocative.
When I looked closely at each card, I realized this isn’t a trite deck. I felt like an old woman who has mistakenly assumed a young, pretty girl to be shallow and stupid.
Crystal Visions Tarot is true to Rider Waite Smith structure and interpretation. In many cards, the subtle symbolism honors a wealth of tarot tradition, often in clever ways.
The Major Arcana is no more ornately illustrated than the Minor Arcana. The suits are easily identifiable by color and style. The beautiful cardbacks are reversible, and reversed interpretations are given in the Little White Book. The deck is standard size with white borders, and is packaged in the classic U.S. Games box.
My least favorite cards are the Magician and the High Priestess. The Magician fails to hold his arms in the traditional “as above, so below” pose. He does have the Four Tool of Magic, and stands above a crescent moon. The High Priestess stands directly on that crescent moon. Butterflies surround her – what’s up with that? Butterflies, in tarot, are best reserved for air cards. The High Priestess is a water card. Humph. But, honestly, these are small complaints when compared with the overall beauty and readability of this deck.
It would take a long time to describe all the cards I love in this deck. They include the Fool, who is female. Butterflies, appropriate for the air correspondence of this card, also surround her. Her dress has red ribbons, one of which has casually wrapped around her leg, giving her the ancient tradition of the Fool’s red-striped legs.
In the World card we see a large lotus flower cradling a globe on which sits a woman in lotus position. More butterflies here, not elementally appropriate, but acceptable, because they are flying out of her palm chakras.
As I mentioned earlier, I question the addition of a seventy-ninth card, entitled The Unknown Card. This card says that the answer is, at present, unknowable. Perhaps we need to look within and find the answer in our own heart. The card is actually quite lovely. It shows a modern Goth-looking young Pagan woman holding a crystal ball. The image is rather different from the rest of the deck. It stands out as a special card, belonging to none of the suits.
It is a legitimate tradition in random token divination to use a blank token. Many tarot readers include one of the title cards for this purpose. Some Rune casters use the Blank Rune. On one hand, it makes sense for Galasso to offer us this option.
On the other hand, I feel the seventy-eight cards hold every message we could want or need. The Moon may say, “It’s a mystery,” while the Wheel of Fortune may say, “Anything can happen.” The High Priestess may say, “Look deeply within for your answers.” With all that wisdom already available, I have a hard time justifying The Unknown Card.
That I have already started using Crystal Visions Tarot for professional readings is the highest praise I could give any tarot deck. However, I was initially unsure if I wanted to use the Unknown Card, or use my prerogative to remove it. So far, I have left it in the deck. I must admit, it pops up at very appropriate times.
As I explored this deck, its title kept grabbing at me. Where had I heard those words before, Crystal Visions...? When I read the very informative Little White Book, I slapped my forehead in a classic Homer Simpson D’oh moment. The title is a tip of the top hat to the Welsh Witch herself, the legendary Stevie Nicks. What might have seemed cheesy makes perfect sense when inspired by the ethereal Unintentional Godmother of Goth. I am so pleased to use a deck that honors Stevie, whom I have loved for thirty-four (yikes!) years. That’s just a bit longer, even, than I have loved tarot.
It has been a while since I’ve discovered a new deck to add to my short list of professional reading decks. Crystal Visions Tarot is attractive, evocative and easy to understand. Unlike many fantasy art tarot decks, its images are uncomplicated and traditional. Do not be fooled by its youthful energy, Crystal Visions Tarot will give great wisdom and depth. It will be a solid learning and reading deck for anyone from beginners to seasoned professionals.