Created by Juliet Sharman-Burke and Liz Greene
Illustrated by Tricia Newell
Published by Fireside, 1986, 2001
78 Cards: 22 Major Arcana, 56 Minor Arcana
Card Size: 127 x 75mm
Tradition: Mixed, influenced by Rider-Waite-Smith
Suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles
Court Cards: Page, Knight, Queen, King
Majors not numbered
This particular deck has become close to my heart as I was lucky enough to attend a 9-day workshop in Bali in 2009 with one of the decks creators, Juliet Sharman-Burke. Having the first-hand experience of listening to Juliet as she passionately told the tales of each of the myths and their connection to the card’s divinatory meanings meant I was able to see the connections quite quickly. The book that accompanies the deck is very thorough however, and so I was familiar with the myths prior to attending the workshop. Not everyone is fortunate enough to sit down and listen to Juliet talk about the deck so I think if you are purchasing this deck you should definitely get it with the book, which is very detailed and an indispensable source of information in helping you get a true understanding of the mythology and psychology contained in the deck.
The mythology adds an extra layer of meaning to what is still primarily a deck of RWS tradition and if you are familiar with RWS you will have no trouble interpreting this deck. The Major Arcana have the same titles and although numbered differently in the book, the cards themselves are not numbered leaving each person free to number them as they prefer. The suits also carry the traditional suits of Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles with the court cards Page, Knight, Queen, King.
The deck brings to life the tales of the Greek Gods, Goddesses, demigods, heroes and villains that are contained within each of the 78 cards. The way the archetypal characters contained in the Tarot are intertwined with the life experiences contained in Greek mythology is extremely effective in revealing profound truths that are reflected in our lives today.
With the Major Arcana we meet a huge cast of characters, such as Demeter the Earth Goddess as The Empress, Persephone the Queen of the underworld as The High Priestess, and Pan the God of sexuality and untamed passion as The Devil.
When we get to the suits one myth flows through the pip cards from the Ace to the Ten and it is worth concentrating on the way the myth flows through the ten cards to appreciate the connection to the divinatory meanings. It is a clever approach. For example, in the suit of Wands there is the story of Jason and the Argonauts. In the Ace we meet Zeus who is the initiator and moving force behind the tale to spur a creative vision forward. In the Two Jason steps out on his journey. In the Three there is an initial completion as he reclaims his crown and then hears of the Golden Fleece. In the Four he and the Argonauts celebrate after building their ship Argo which will take them to the Golden Fleece. In the Five there is a battle to be fought before they can continue. In the Six Jason is victorious and holds the Golden Fleece in triumph. In the Seven Jason meets stiff competition with the King who had the fleece in his possession. In the Eight Jason escapes and sails smoothly home. In the Nine Jason’s reserves of energy are called for to get them through the clashing rocks and in the Ten Jason finds himself overburdened and weighed down with cares.
In the suit of Cups there is the story of Eros and Psyche which moves from their initial meeting, through struggle to living happily ever after. Swords tell the tale of Orestes and the curse of the House of Atreus with the curse finally ending in the Ten, and with Pentacles we have the myth of Daedalus who after trials and tribulations finishes by founding a dynasty. The court cards have their own individual myths which complement their divinatory meanings and their astrological associations are included.
The Mythic Tarot is a deck that is rich with content and is great to read with. I really love it, yet there are a couple of minor things that could have made it even more appealing for me. The card stock is a little flimsy and the card size a little large, not unlike decks published by Magic Realist Press. That said, my deck is holding up fine without scuffing and the size is just manageable. These once again are minor criticisms.
One final observation is the inconsistency of the illustrations. They oscillate wildly between being truly brilliant and being awkward and out of proportion. When I first started working with the deck this was a little off-putting but after a short time it was no longer an issue as the images are vibrant and colourful and the content is so strong. There are some cards that I could stare at for ages, such as The Empress, The Star, Temperance, the Queen of Pentacles … there are many.
The Mythic Tarot has been a successful deck and is loved by many. I think it is a collector’s classic and I highly recommend it, especially if you have a love of Greek mythology. But even if you don’t, you will find the mythology utilised in this deck elucidates the meanings of each of the cards, bringing about a greater understanding of the Tarot.
Be quick if you are after this version of the Mythic Tarot as this edition has been superseded by the New Mythic Tarot, published in May 2009. There are still some copies of both the deck and sets available both new and second hand.
Stella Luna © 2010 The Tarot Reader. All rights reserved.