Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Secret (Renaissance) Tarot: A Review and Reading

When I putter about online I happen across wonderful, tempting things (usually when I'm least expecting it!). About a week ago I saw an image of the Sun card from the Secret Tarot by Jane Lyle, with art by Helen Jones, and I really liked it. These days I suppose you could say that I'm finicky about decks… I'm not interested in collecting; I buy decks that I love, that I think I'll enjoy reading with.  And since I have so many that I love working with, I take my sweet time when considering a new purchase. Me, make impulsive buys? Never! Well, okay, almost never.

I saw the Sun card from this deck, and immediately hunted it down on eBay, without even doing a Google search for more card images (shocking, I realize)! For under $20 and free shipping I jumped on board, and I'm happy I did.

This is a highly unique deck principally due to the artwork. Rather than paintings, drawings, or even woodcuts, Helen Jones molded figures and shapes out of something rather like clay, giving the cards a slight 3D appearance. I'm not a big fan of photographic decks, but I don't get that feel from these cards. The Majors are absolutely gorgeous. They're full of detail, and represent the essence of each archetype clearly and powerfully. Each card features highly recognizable symbols such as the High Priestess sitting on a crescent moon, a pomegranate settled in the palm of her hand. The Hermit walks toward the edge of the card holding his lantern aloft, a white-headed raven perched in the bare branches of the tree above. The Minor Arcana are far less detailed, predominately featuring the appropriate number of suit symbols, but with just a touch of extra detail to help fill out the story. For example the 9 of Swords features 9 swords arranged in an arc above the head of a figure in the fetal position. The blades point downward, representing the mental pressure, anxiety, and anguish that are principal elements of its meaning. Simple images that speak very articulately! The Court cards are richly colored, and my favorite is the Queen of Pentacles. The golden figure is complimented by a rich green backdrop, surrounded by a vine covered with bright red strawberries. Hey, it screams "Christmas!" - my favorite holiday, and the time of my birth! That seems appropriate since this Queen represents the earth signs, and Capricorn begins around Yule.

Secret Tarot - Jane Lyle and Helen Jones

The accompanying book is well done, and features in-depth descriptions of all cards, including reversals. I was intrigued and pleased that Jane Lyle speaks some about elemental dignities, because this seems to be a topic not very easily found in most contemporary, easy to find Tarot literature. In the back of the book she includes sections on topics such as methods of determining time frames, and she concludes with an overview of Tarot spreads such as the Romany, Astrological Houses, and Celtic Cross.

I've read some reviews of this deck that expressed disappointment regarding the card stock, but I've found the stock to be sturdy and easy to shuffle. The backs are royal blue with a reversible, gold diamond design. If I were to complain about any aspect of this deck, it would be regarding the figures on the Minor Arcana. They don't have defined faces! At first I found this slightly creepy, but now I don't mind it so much. But I think that giving them some extra character would have been nice.

So on to a short reading….

I decided to ask about what I should be focusing on most in my life right now, and pulled:

5 of Cups reversed - 4 of Swords - Fool

Secret Tarot - Jane Lyle, Helen Jones

The 5 of Cups reversed tells me that I've recently been experiencing a period of emotional transition, moving from feelings of sadness and regret on to a focus on the positive elements in my life. When we took our trip to Michigan earlier this summer I realized how much I missed it, and started to consider the possibility of moving back so our kids could be closer to their grandparents. I missed the northern weather, and the abundance of familiar herbs. I dove into job hunting upon returning to Florida, but the only positive-looking opportunity didn't pan out, so I was back to square one. I had put so much energy into the possibility of a sudden move, that it was difficult to readjust to the idea that it simply might not be the right time for this transition. When Jorge returned from Europe we spent a couple of weeks planning and thinking and talking, and we decided to release that idea, at least until next year. He himself had a couple of exciting opportunities to explore, and that became our new focus. So I started remembering the good things we have down here in the deep south. My job is secure and flexible, the kids are settled happily in their schools. Autumn is coming which means that slowly the weather will begin to feel less stuffy and hot, and the winter is pretty nice on the account of having no snow to shovel!  So things started feeling more positive.

The 4 of Swords is certainly how I'm feeling at present. In some ways it feels like the calm before the storm, except the storm isn't anything negative, it's just a lot of movement.  Having packed away one possibility, we're focused on others, but those new opportunities don't require any significant shifts for at least another month or so. So in the meantime I'm resting, gathering and balancing my thoughts, considering where we've been and where we're headed. 

And that sense of the "calm before the storm" that I'm having is confirmed by the final Fool card. When we realized that moving back north wasn't a solid option for the time being, I was left feeling a bit like I was floating adrift at sea, untethered. I really thought we were going to do it, and then we just didn't. I felt all this energy swirling around us, that sense of immanence, but had no idea what it meant anymore. It didn't dissipate when our plans shifted, it was still very palpable. And it feels good, even though I can't entirely put my finger on it. The Fool feels right. It's the energy of new adventure, new developments, new paths. Some of that I can confirm, but I sense that there's more to it than I can understand at this moment in time. 

So the focus turns back to the center, theme card - the 4 of Swords: Savor this time. Plan wisely. Gather your energies, and then let go as your journey unfolds before you.


  1. Sometimes you don't have to move an inch to start over and begin something new. It is often just a matter of perception of your reality. The same life, house, job etc can suddenly be full of possibilities if you shift your focus.
    Just as you I am happy summer is almost over and autumn is coming.... yeah!!
    Ps A strange but lovely deck

    1. So true! Thanks for the nice words :-). Yes, this deck is a bit strange, and somehow I still find myself really enjoying it. I think the High Priestess is one of my favorite renditions over all, across decks. I love that dark blue background with the silver and gold!