Hoo boy, it’s been a week. The world’s a wild place right now. Let’s do a deck review.
I’ve had my copy of the Tarot of the Divine (from deck creator Yoshi Yoshitani) for about two weeks now, and have been itching to open up this box and review these stunning, stunning cards, but there’s been a lot going on in the news and it didn’t quite feel like the right time. But let me tell you, friends, this deck is magnificent.
Each card in the deck presents an image from a legend or folk tale from around the world, but unlike many decks with such a theme, the Tarot of the Divine takes the “around the world” bit very seriously. There are many figures in these cards whom I recognize, but they make up a minority of the deck: The majority of the cards come from cultures I’m not familiar with and stories I had never heard. There are Lakota, Akan, Korean, Norwegian, Maori, Japanese, Mongolian, Yoruba, Iroquois, Persian, Romanian, and Gunwinggu figures in this deck (among many, many others). One of the most delightful features of this deck is the opportunity to expose myself to stories I might otherwise never have encountered from cultures that are not my own.
There is a small companion book that comes with the deck, which provides interpretations as well as the name and origin of the tale that gives each card its imagery. However, the LWB does not include the stories themselves; for this, you’d need to buy Yoshitani’s book Beneath the Moon, which is sold separately and provides a retelling of all 78 myths and legends. I did not buy the book, because I’m broke, but I rather wish I had. Looking through this deck, there are many figures and stories I don’t recognize, and I want to learn more about them—both because doing so will make this deck easier to use and because of simple curiosity about a whole world full of mythology.
This is such a beautiful, exciting deck. I just want to know all of these stories. More than anything else, that’s my takeaway from this deck. Tarot readers like to talk a big game about how the themes of the Tarot are universal and fundamentally human. Yoshitani has taken that message to heart and has sought out those themes in the mythology and folklore of people the world over, bringing the Tarot to life in a completely new way. It’s not often that a deck makes me feel like the creator has accomplished something new, but Yoshitani has done exactly that.
Speaking only from a personal perspective, I will admit that having a deck based on so many stories I don’t know does make the Tarot of the Divine harder for me to read with. Because I don’t know the stories, I have to rely solely on the card imagery for most of these cards, and I’m unable to draw on the deeper significance that Yoshitani has attached to each image with the selection of particular tales. This is a large part of the reason I wish I had bought the additional companion book (and indeed, I may still do so). This strikes me as a deck that will reward the time, effort, and research put into understanding it—and on top of that, there are independently motivating reasons that learning more about world mythology is a good thing—but it’s not a deck that I’m able to just pick up and start reading right away.
For similar reasons, I probably would not recommend this deck as an absolute beginners’, wet-behind-the-ears deck for people who are just trying to learn Tarot—at least, not unless you’re also willing to make the commitment to learn all 78 stories. The artwork on these cards is beautiful and engaging, but the deck itself requires work. Even more work than learning Tarot with a “standard” RWS-style pack. To my eye, the best audiences for this deck would be collectors (the art is gorgeous) or semi-seasoned readers who are looking to diversify their reading practice and who are willing to make the commitment to an extended period of research and study, not just on the deck, but on the various cultures and myths depicted therein. Let’s be clear, I think that’s important and valuable work. This is absolutely a deck worth learning to read with. But I’m also aware that not every reader is looking for that level of homework. If you just want to pick up a deck and start reading right away, there are other decks that won’t demand your full attention the way this one does.
The Court Cards in this deck are still labeled Page, Knight, Queen, and King, but the Kings are all non-human figures. I had been curious to see how Yoshitani would approach the structure of the Courts, since the traditional card names stem directly from European feudalism and aren’t necessarily in line with the cross-cultural theme of the deck. By keeping the original names for the cards, Yoshitani remains in line with Tarot tradition, but I actually quite like the choice to de-personalize the Kings. For one thing, it allows for the inclusion of some fascinating non-human mythological figures who otherwise might not have made it into the deck. For another, that choice goes a long way toward subverting the implicit gender hierarchy of the Court Cards (where a man—the King—is always superior to the Queen). The Page, Knight, and Queen in this deck feel almost like equals, with the King being the inhuman embodiment of the energy that brings them all together.
I had been following the creation of this deck for quite some time on Twitter, especially as Yoshitani was in the process of soliciting new folk tales for particular cards and talking about the vision for the deck: Really trying to put together something that showed the whole range of world mythology. Personally, I think the project was a resounding success. I cannot recommend this deck highly enough, and I am looking forward to getting to know it better.
PS. Yes, I know the image formatting on this post is messed up. I tried to fix it, and I made it worse. Such things are beyond my ken.