"The DruidCraft Tarot"
by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm,
Illustrated by Will Worthington
Published by St. Martin's Press
$24.95 US $36.95 Cdn
A Review (c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2005
The DruidCraft Tarot is an extraordinary and visionary work in the world of Tarot. The authors, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, have combined the two most popular Pagan traditions in the Western Culture, Druidry and Wicca, and created an insightful and inspiring book and deck set. The artwork by Will Worthington is nothing short of beautiful, evocative and deeply respectful of the traditions of the Druids, Wiccans and, in particular, the Tarot in the tradition of the Golden Dawn. This was a huge undertaking. The integration of both the ancient divination crafts and Bardic tradition of the Druids; the relatively new religion of Wicca (although the authors make a claim for it as being ancient, it is quite a new religion - Witchcraft is ancient) in combination with the Hermetic Tradition of the Golden Dawn, is a complex and challenging project. They have accomplished an extraordinary and meaningful work in bringing it all together in this deck and book set.
I find involvement with the Pagan and Tarot communities much like trying to herd cats up a hill in a driving rainstorm - I actually think that herding cats would be easier. Those of us who have been involved with the spiritual community over the years and have been involved with internet discussion lists know that there can be serious arguments, brutal intolerance and hateful disagreements between Druids and Wiccans in the New Age and Pagan communities. The Tarot community is little better and can be just as hatefully divided, jealously guarded, ego driven and arrogant. It does make one wonder if they are all just really missing the point. The authors and artist of The DruidCraft Tarot are very bravely trying to construct a bridge between these groups and have done an excellent job of finding the points of convergence and commonality between Druidry and Wiccan using the Tarot as the medium to tell the stories.
The DruidCraft Tarot book is 192 pages long and broken down into three sections: The Outer Mysteries (The Minor Arcana); The Inner Mysteries (The Major Arcana) and How to Use the Cards. The book is nicely sized and easy to read - over the years my vision has increased but my eyesight has deteriorated so I have a great appreciation of text that doesn't have me scrambling for my glasses. The Introduction is very insightful - a lot of complex information is shared with impeccably simple clarity and without the endless rehashing of what Tarot is that is so common in too many books on Tarot. The authors give us some very basic background on Tarot, the Western Magical Tradition, The story of Ceridwen and Taliesin, The Alchemical Wedding and their sources of inspiration for writing the book and creating this deck.
The section on the Minor Arcana is categorized numerically or by the Court card, with an introductory page outlining the properties of the number and the significance of the Court. I have always found this easier to utilize and feel that it is particularly courteous to anyone who is beginning their Tarot journey. They use Kings, Queens with Princes and Princesses instead of Knights and Pages. One page of good information is relegated for each Minor or Court card with a small black and white image of the applicable card included on the page. Each page contains Keywords and a Divinatory and Reversed meaning for each card and I find nothing in their interpretations that I would disagree with. The information they have provided is clear and cogent.
The section on the Major Arcana is more indepth and is articulated as The Fools' Journey. The introduction to this section is a pleasure to read as they speak of the Grail Quest, the Process of Individuation, The Fools' Journey, The Three Degrees in Druidy and Wicca, The Fools' Story, Mandala's and Meditation and The Purpose of the Spiritual Quest. They follow the traditional Tarot method of The Fools' Journey as 3 cycles of 7 phases and compare them to the three degrees of initiation and training that exist in most formal practices of Wicca and Druidry. The first degree in Wicca is called the Bard in Druidry ; the second degree would be called the Ovate and the third degree, the Druid.
They do number The Fool card with a 0 and start the section on the Inner Mysteries with The Fool. There are those people in the Tarot community that disagree with numbering The Fool and think that it should be positioned at the end of the Major Arcana - you can actually hear these peoples' teeth grinding and their blood pressure rising if you suggest otherwise. Personally, I have no problem with the placement or the numbering as long as the philosophical, psychological and divinatory aspects are accurate. Tarot has a history and a mystery of its own, we are all merely students although there are many who presume mastery.
Each Major Arcana is also outlined with Keywords for both the upright and reversed meaning, the Significance, Meaning and Reversed Meaning as well as the Message of the Card. There are some variations from the traditional Tarot. I found that these are quite wonderfully thought through and refreshingly insightful. The Empress Key III and the Emperor Key IV are called The Lord and the Lady in this deck and they used the Waite inspired Strength as Key VIII (depicted with a boar not a lion) and Justice as Key XI. The Heirophant Key V is The High Priest. Key XIV Temperance is The Fferyllt, or the Druid Alchemist. Key XV The Devil is Cerunnos, the Lord of the Animals. Key XX Judgment is called Rebirth.
The authors share the legends, stories and myths of the Celtic tradition through the Major Arcana and they weave these stories masterfully with considered grace and thoughtful gentleness. They also give a sense of timing and time frame with the Majors - always a wonderful addition to the interpretation of Tarot. It is always nice to know the what or have an insight into a why, but knowing when can be a wonderful boon and is often one of the major drawbacks of working with the Tarot. The also connect the Majors to other Majors which have a complementary meaning or connection. The information provided doesn't focus on the numerological, astrological or Kaballistic traditions associated with tarot although the numerology is noted in the introduction to each of the minor cards. The artwork is nothing short of incredible, straightforward, not cluttered or intimidating. The artist, Will Worthington, has done a phenomenal job and he deserves the highest commendation for the creation of such a profound and beautiful deck.
The book contains 6 original card layouts all of which I found quite intriguing. The Awen Spread, The Lunar Spread, The Pentagram Spread, The Hexagram Spread, The Spirits of the Circle Spread and the Chalice and the Wand Spread. Each layout is accompanied with an explanation as to its' purpose and the meaning of each position. For the sake of this review, I decided to utilize The Lunar Spread. This is a 6 card reading. Cards 1 and 2 are laid in the centre as a cover and a cross. Card 3 is to the right, 4 is the foundation, 5 is to the left and 6 is the crown. This reading is designed to "help in nurturing or giving birth to ideas or projects , or for exploring your creativity". My query for the reading is regarding my writing and if I will ever be in the position of having a book on Tarot published. Card 1 is The Place of the Unknown - Queen of Wands, 2 The Place of the Known - Ten of Wands, 3 The Place of Promise - The Sun Rev, 4 The Place of Increase - The Star Rev, 5 The Place of Fulfilment Queen of Pentacles Rev. and 6 The Place of Rebirth - The High Priest.
The Queen of Wands is depicted as a woman of strong, wilful strength with charisma and leadership abilities who reflects passion through her creativity and generosity. She is good a communicating the big picture and is inspirational to others as well as being a strong catalyst in a group or organization. This would be an appropriate description of myself. The Meaning given, if not denoting a person, talks about a calling to voluntary or charitable work - my missing person and cold case work as well as my taking in of abandoned children. Again a highly accurate description of myself. This position in the reading, The Place of the Unknown, relates to the dark side of the moon and our subconsious feelings regarding ths issue and my fears and anxietites related to the issue.
Card 2, The Place of the Known, represents the light side of the moon and represents my conscious awareness of the issue as well as my hopes and wishes. I drew the 10 of Wands in this position. This card represents the burdens and responsibilities that I am carrying - which are abundant, It reminds me that around me I am surrounded with the results of my efforts and successes but I can't enjoy them because I have so much to do. It also points out that the project I have initiated (writing the book) is developing into something much greater and more complex than I had originally anticipated - very true.
Card 3, The Place of Promise refers to the powers of the moon and the Tide of Sowing in the spring. It talks about the relevant factors and influences regarding the issue at hand. I drew The Sun Rev, which talks about how we can be dazzled by our own charm, abilities and radiance which, instead of serving me, acts as a hindrance. It indicates it can be about being overly concerned with my appearance - which isn't me - but goes on to say that it could simply mean that my success is delayed but that in time I will succeed.
Card 4, The Place of Increase refers to the power of the full moon and the summer Tide of Growing. It relates to the factors and influences relevant to the manifestation of my idea of project. In this position I drew The Star Rev. It speaks of how when the water of life doesn't flow, we can really feel it. We feel diconnected and our inner compass can't keep us on track. We feel like we are losing or wasting energy and also speaks about feelings of low self-esteem or loss of innocence. It suggests I need to reconnect with water to get back on track. This is very indicative of what I am feeling right now so I'm heading for the tub....
Card 5, The Place of Fulfillment refers to the power of the waning moon and the Tide of Reaping. It offers insights into the outcome of the project. I drew the Queen of Pentacles Rev. which means I am having a hard time having trust in myself and in life. It indicates I have to make some adjustments in my life - which is very true, I do too much.
Card 6, The Place of Rebirth refers to the power of the new moon and the Tide of Death and Renewal associated with winter. It offers insights into what needs to be released. I have been dealing with a lot of deaths within my family and friends for the past several years and am still dealing with the grieving process. I drew the High Priest in this position which can be indictative of my need for a marriage on a deeper level and my need to follow the wisdom and counsel of others who have travelled the same path. It can also indicate someone coming who will help and guide me on this endeavour. It represents the world of major religions and churches, higher formal knowledge, education and academic accomplishments. My writing is very often at a very high level which concerns me in that it will not have appeal to many because it is at high level. It also indicates I may need to conform to more orthodox ideas and conventional approaches....hmmm.... The ultimate message is the value of discipline and routine and maintaining my spiritual and my worldly life - see the 10 of Wands.
All in all I feel I got an accurate description of my life and circumstances and I guess I'll just hang in there and keep writing - conform and be orthodox, I don't think so though. This is a wonderful book and deck set and I give it my highest recommendation. I also give St. Martin's Press cudos for making this available at a reasonable price and in a wonderful package - and for sending me such a beautiful gift. This is definitely going to be one of my favourite decks.
Images from DruidCraft Tarot