Oh, sweet baby Jesus in a pecan pie, it’s good to have my hands on a new Tarot deck again. And what a hell of a deck this is. The Ostara Tarot is a collaborative deck, the work of four illustrators: Molly Applejohn, Eden Cooke, Krista Gibbard, and Julia Iredale. I first learned about it from Asali of Asali Earthwork, and have been itching to get a copy ever since.
The deck comes in a lovely box with a detailed LWB that has a full-color image of each card along with descriptions of upright and reversed meanings. Each suit of the Minor Arcana was drawn by a different one of the four illustrators, so they each have their own feel, and working with the LWB really affords the opportunity to explore that. The Swords, for example, are quite muted and simple, while the Cups are more visually complex and have a brighter color palette.
All of the artwork in this deck is exquisitely done. The illustrators’ styles have a fair amount of variation (just look at the contrast between the Emperor and the Tower), but they complement each other well and come together to form a cohesive-feeling deck on the whole.
For the most part, the imagery is intuitive–it’s a deck that ends itself to reading with visual symbolism and unfiltered stream-of-consciousness connections, rather than with formal techniques. We do catch a little bit of esoteric symbolism in some places–for example, with the ram horns on the Emperor. But this is definitely not a deck for which you need any kind of systematic knowledge of the Tarot. It practically cries out to be read intuitively.
Just look at how pretty this deck is! This is one of those decks that I almost don’t need to read with, because it’s just so breathtaking. I would gladly order prints of these cards and hang them up in my home. (Except, y’know, I don’t have room for 78 posters. I live in a very small room.)
This deck features a lot of animal imagery. It’s not an exclusively animal deck the way the Wild Unknown Tarot is–that is to say, there are humans featured in some of the cards–but most of the imagery is definitely non-human. You need to have a solid grasp on animal symbolism to get the most out of the deck, particularly with the Court Cards (all of which feature prominent animal figures).
The one thing I will say about the Ostara Tarot is that the card imagery, albeit beautiful, can be a bit opaque. Some cards, like the Two of Cups, are very easy to read and are fairly in line with traditional RWS imagery. But others, like the Eight of Cups above, have their own feel that doesn’t much resemble the wider Tarot tradition. This is a great deck for intermediate to advanced readers who want to push their relationship with the cards, or for intuitive readers who rely exclusively on visual cues. For anyone who is just starting to learn Tarot and is working with meanings out of a standard Tarot book, this deck is probably going to be fairly difficult to learn.
Ugh, I just love that the Seven of Swords in this deck is a raccoon. It literally (literally) made me laugh when I saw it. And that Ten of Swords is just heartbreaking.
Above are a few of my favorite cards from this deck. I think the big strength of the Ostara Tarot really is in its art, both in the diversity of the illustration styles and in the way the deck creators managed to make every card image feel like it was part of a single, cohesive whole. There’s a lot of stag imagery running through the deck, which I quite like. And some of the images are just hauntingly beautiful. That Ten of Cups takes my breath away.
There are a few cards I don’t love as much, such as the Six of Wands and Three of Cups. Primarily, that’s a matter of the ways in which their imagery deviates from the traditional Tarot scenes I’m used to and the meanings that accompany them. Anyone who’s read any deck review on my blog knows that tradition is usually a bit of a sticking point with me. I’m a fuddy-duddy. But for me, that just means I’ll need to spend some time with the LWB and learn how to read this deck by its own lights. Even in the cards I don’t love, the artwork is breathtaking.
I’m delighted to have added the Ostara Tarot to my collection. As I said above, I think this is ideally a deck for readers who already have a decent orientation with the Tarot and are looking to experiment with non-traditional Tarot decks. I’m looking forward to getting to know this deck better in the coming weeks.