This deck. THIS deck, people! It is just amazing. Prepare for some serious gushing because I love the Mary El so much. I’ve had it for about six months now and wouldn’t part with it for love nor money, it is my zombie apocalypse deck. If the shit hit the fan and I could only take one deck with me, this would be it, the imagery is just so evocative and visceral. You will probably tire of reading this word, and I will try not to repeat it too much, but the best way I can find to describe it is raw; it is a burning torch thrust into your sub-conscious and unconscious mind, it slices through every façade you’ve built up and leaves you bare, warts and all. Throw your keywords and tarot books away because this deck is primal, it doesn’t speak in words, it hits you right in the gut with raw emotion.
On that note, I must add that while I connected instantly with the imagery of this deck, I can have a hard time connecting with it as a tarot deck. It isn’t RWS, Thoth or Marseille, you will often find that the guidebook meanings do not have any relation to the established systems and you will rarely see imagery that is familiar; it is in a class of its own. Tacking established meanings onto the cards will, in many instances, leave a huge disconnect with the imagery (this is more true for the Minor Arcana than the Majors), so it can be pretty daunting at first, and you do have to put the work in. For this reason, I find it easier to read with if I just put aside tarot traditions and think of it as a kind of oracle deck. Take a few keywords or concepts from the guidebook then stare into those cards and let your intuition do the rest.
Speaking of the guidebook, I do find it a bit bananas in places, there’s quite a bit of repetition (seriously, if I have to read Magnum Opus one more time) and it feels a bit rushed and hap hazard. There is much mention of Western Esoteric Kabbalah, which I am not really familiar with, so perhaps her deck is intended to be closer to the various meanings of the Sephiroth and their paths in the Tree of Life than any specific tarot system (?). I don’t know if Marie White channelled these messages or was just a bit frenzied with excitement when she wrote them, but an editor would not have gone amiss. This is a very minor quibble though and is of no detriment at all to the deck.
I’ve seen a lot of pictures on the internet where people have removed all the borders and titles from the cards so the images can stand alone, and I can certainly see why; on a number of occasions I’ve felt that the titles just get in the way because I know what I think the card should mean, but I am not looking at a visual representation that supports it, I’m looking at something else entirely. I’m not quite ready to put the cards to the guillotine and corner cutters yet, but I could see myself doing so in future.
As you will see, I got a bit carried away with the interview, these babies are addictive, so I added a few more questions to my regular interview just so I could keep talking to these cards!
Tell me about yourself, what is your most important characteristic?
Seven of Wands – Just look at those sharp green eyes penetrating the soul of human kind. Here I see a steadfast spirit. This wolf knows what she has to say, and knows its truth. She has the courage of her convictions and does not fear confrontation. This deck isn’t here to make friends, its message is a dare to bravely go against the grain and fight, fight with all your strength for your soul and never give up.
What are your strengths as a deck?
Ace of Wands – The burning, the movement, the power! This deck is raw creative inspiration manifest. It is fire and passion and talent, it does not whisper its message, it roars. It is bold and fierce in its dispatch.
What are your limits as a deck?
Six of Swords – On of my favourites! Could you tell? This deck is about inner journeying, shamanism and spiritual transformation. It doesn’t even speak the language of the mundane, it goes deep and for every answer this deck delivers it poses ten questions more, so it is probably best to leave it be for ‘everyday’ questions. This is angelic guidance we’re looking at here so be prepared to dig deep if you want to speak to Mary El.
What are you here to teach me?
Strength – This deck is here to teach me to integrate all sides of my nature, human, beast, divine, base, hunter and prey. It will help me to learn to trust my inner strength and love the wildness in my heart – my beast and I will tame each other with compassion and courage, and learn the gift of intentional stillness.
How can I best learn and collaborate with you?
Ten of Wands – I can best collaborate with this deck by approaching it with a ready and seeking heart. No dullness here, no phoning it in, I must have energy, time, and a burning curiosity and conviction when I approach it. Reading with this deck is not going to be like chatting with a friend over a cup of tea, it is going to be an adventure chocked full of highs, lows, victories and obstacles to overcome.
What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?
The Empress – The potential outcome I see here is growth, bursting creativity and nurturing new techniques in the way that I approach tarot.
And my additional questions:
Which Major Arcana cards best represent your core message?
The Lovers and The Emperor – These cards tell me that the Mary El’s core message is the reconciliation of duality and the stabilisation of a seemingly chaotic existence with a compassionate heart and a discerning mind.
And because I JUST CAN’T STOP PULLING CARDS, numerologically, Lovers + Emperor = Wheel of Fortune – within it this deck holds all of the ups and downs of life and a glimpse at the unfixed nature of fate. It says that with the completeness of love seen in the Lovers and the harmony of order found in the Emperor, the blooming lotus at the centre of the wheel can be found, ever able to rise above the muck and detritus life can throw at us.
Which Court card best represents your personality?
King of Wands – fire of fire, charismatic and enigmatic, passionate and daring. His kingdom is the pure force of will tempered by knowledge. He teaches fearlessness and an irrepressible loyalty to the self. This king’s life is one lived to the full with no shame or regrets.
Which Minor Arcana best represents where we are now?
Eight of Wands – a time of change and growth, incubating ideas under the blanket of night. The burning lion, the soul’s guide, prepares to deliver me to myself, offering the keys to my deepest soul.
Well I finally managed to put the cards down. I’ve noticed a lot of wands and lions here! So much fire, passion and spirit. With the presence of the Empress, Emperor and Lovers I’m seeing a bigger picture about unification, wholeness and integration; the soul’s desire to unite with all, inside and out.
Below I will leave you with just a few of my favourite images from the deck. Sorry about the less than stellar picture quality, my phone seems to have been in the middle of a weird focusing moment.