The New Chapter Tarot is an 80-card deck from Kathryn Briggs, published by Liminal 11. It’s a reflective, meditative deck that’s well suited to quiet contemplation of the cards, and each image contains a great deal of imagery and symbolism waiting to be unpacked.
Some of the cards in this deck clearly draw on figures and stories from world mythology; for example, the Fool is two-headed Janus, and the Moon depicts the Goddesses Inanna and Ereshkigal. Other cards don’t have a clear mythological provenance given, either by the imagery or by the description of the cards in the companion book; nonetheless, they feel like they’ve connected to something deep and powerful. I don’t entirely understand the image of the Devil, but it speaks to me. It’s obvious that the art in this deck is the product of a long, intense period of meditative work with the cards, and that Briggs has opened herself up to the big archetypes of Tarot in a new and revelatory way.
The deck doesn’t clearly belong to any particular tradition of Tarot. It’s not a straightforward RWS copy; for one thing, Strength is numbered XI and Justice is numbered VIII. Beyond that, though, Briggs’s imagery is striking and unique. In some of the cards (such as the Eight of Wands), we can see how the seed of RWS imagery has grown into something new; in others, she is doing something wholly new and unexpected. Often, her Minor Arcana don’t contain any human figures at all, and represent the themes of the cards in more abstract or geometrical ways. In this sense, the cards are perhaps closer to the Thoth than to other Tarot traditions.
The production value on this deck, as with all decks from Liminal 11, is top-notch. One thing that surprised me about this deck is how small the cards are. They’re still bigger than a standard poker deck, but not by much. On one hand, I found this a little frustrating, because Briggs’s card illustrations are sometimes quite intricate and I would have loved to be able to see them in more detail. On the other hand, this will be a boon for readers with smaller hands, who struggle to shuffle other, more supersized decks.
I love the image of the Ten of Swords. It’s fascinating to me. The shattered egg captures the devastation of the card, but there’s also a sense of equanimity here that you don’t often see in the Ten. This is the sort of difference I’m talking about, which sets this deck apart from many others. The cards are recognizably Tarot, unlike some decks which deviate from tradition so much that they’re better styled as oracle decks, but there’s still something new and unique about them.
The Court Cards are labeled King, Queen, Knight, and Princess, but are not particularly gendered. Women appear as Knights and men appear as Princesses (and I love the Princess of Cups). The deck also makes a point to include people of a variety of ethnicities and body types (something that Liminal 11 is consistently good about).
The deck includes two additional cards, titled Invocation and Gratitude. Longtime readers of this blog will know that I’m generally lukewarm on added cards in Tarot, but the imagery here is nice and you can include or remove these cards from your readings as you see fit.
I love this deck. It’s fresh, interesting, and beautifully designed, and most importantly of all, it exhibits Briggs’s profound personal relationship with the Tarot. It may be difficult for beginners to use, simply because it won’t jive perfectly with most Tarot books, but this would be a fantastic deck for intermediate readers who are looking to explore a deep and innovative version of Tarot symbolism.
Note: This deck was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest review. All the opinions expressed here are my own.