Musings on Tarot Decks: The Victorian Romantic Tarot

The Victorian Romantic Tarot

Most regular Tarot readers stick with one deck. It’s just easier to become familiar with each card and it’s meanings, and recall them automatically through repetition. I began collection Tarot cards many years after I began reading with them, and like everyone else, I read with one precious deck. Even after I acquired a crazy number of collector decks, I still mostly fell back on one deck for readings. That is, until I acquired The Victorian Romantic Tarot Deck by Baba Studios. Suddenly, I got it—different decks had different personalities, and these personalities actually colored your readings a bit. Choosing the right deck for each reading became fun. This ‘a-ha’ moment changed things for me and I feel my readings grew and became richer.
The Victorian Romantic Tarot Deck is one of the most beautiful decks I’ve ever seen and the images evoke a sweet, emotional mood, perfect for relationship readings.

The husband and wife team Karen Mahoney and Alex Ukolov of Baba Studios are masters of the collage, and their inspiration for creating this deck sparked when they found a book of art engravings from nineteenth century Germany. They spent the next two years searching for more books with engravings from the same period, many very rare. They have taken these gorgeous images from turn of the century wood cuts, layered them with beautiful colors and tastefully applied metallic ink. The individual cards are brilliantly constructed, and the result is a surprisingly readable Tarot deck that mostly follows the Rider-Waite/Smith formula—with a few surprises.

The deck came with the prerequisite tiny book sitting snugly in its box, but you can also get the 220-page illustrated companion book separately, and it’s worth the extra effort to track it down. It’s chock full of descriptions and interpretations, witty and illuminating histories of the artwork, and specially designed spreads. It’s written well, easy to read, and contains not only tips about card reading in general but also a mini art history lesson describing the origins of the deck and the creation of each card.

What I love:I love almost everything about this tarot deck, and I use it frequently. The cards are oversized but they feel good in your hands and are easy to shuffle. The images are clear and almost intuitive, even if you’re working with them for the first time. For obvious reasons, working with this deck always seems to put me in a good mood.
I really like the Four of Swords. Most tarot decks use a prone image with swords hanging menacingly over the body. Not so with this deck. 

This is a calm, peaceful card, and you get an immediate feeling of rest, exactly what this card means.

I also really like the Ten of Wands.

This card is so perfect. A peasant woman carries a huge pile of sticks on her back, some falling out, while at the same time carrying a baby in a cradle. Heavy responsibilities, and just too much to do. The feeling of being a servant, and carrying the lions share of the work either physically or emotionally, or both, is succinctly expressed by this card.

This Tarot Deck has two ‘Devil’ cards and two Lovers cards. Believe it or not, this really works. Each Devil card represents a different style—temptation to excess, and obsession

The first ‘Devil’ card speaks of temptation to excesses. A female Devil, obviously self-gratifying, leans forward provocatively, tempting with jewels and red roses, while she crushes the purity of lilies under her feet. To the side we see piles of coins—tempting us with treasure. She looks almost innocuous, though her smile is sly, but her wings look evil. Theyre a dull red and slightly recede, as if to fool us into believing we are in no real danger.

She smiles seductively, but it doesn’t feel sexual. It’s a sly invitation to overindulging and excess, and we are being tempted to focus on wealth and physical gratification.

The other Devil card is a naked Eve wrapped sensuously around a huge and obviously evil snake.

Here is an obsession that is quite certainly not going to turn out well. We know what happens—Eve ends up losing almost every good thing. This is the perfect card to signify the out of control aspect of obsession, and the destructive result.

The two ‘Lovers’ cards are equally as distinct and meaningful.

The first ‘‘Lovers card feels like a clear reference to marriage.

This ‘Lovers’ card feels peaceful, and there is an obvious sense of security. The event is out in the open during the light of day. We witness an agreeable event, perhaps even a legal, binding contract conducted before witnesses.

The second ‘Lovers’ card exudes much more passion.

This card definitely seems less about a legal commitment and more about compulsion. It’s as if the significance of the relationship, one way or the other, feels almost fated and karmic. A definite ‘meant-to-be’ indicator, and it does not feel peaceful at all. The card is obviously night, indicating perhaps a possible secret liaison.

I also really like the feeling of the Eight of Wands in this deck.

The feeling of rapid motion is perfectly conveyed here. Whatever might be happening, it’s happening fast! An antlered deer and naked man hurtle headlong down a hill, running alongside one another, almost racing.

What I don’t love.

There are just a few cards in this deck I find puzzling.

For instance, what exactly is going on with this Four of Pentacles?

If you really study this card you can see a box of jewels to the left of the image, but this card in no way speaks to me of financial restraint, saving money, or stinginess.

The Three of Wands

Some guy standing in a field with a dragon on his head, blowing a horn? Really? That’s supposed to mean ‘waiting for his ship to come in’ or even business planning or acumen? This card misses by a mile, and it even makes me laugh.

The ‘Romance or Relationship Spread’

This spread uses eight cards, but it is not complicated— it’s actually pretty straightforward. It also works quite well in examining a working partnership or a platonic friendship.

1. My (or the querent’s) role in this relationship

2. ‘Their’ main role

3. The underlying fundamentals

4. My hopes for the relationship

5. Their hopes for the relationship

6. My worries about the relationship

7. Their worries about the relationship

8. Advice for improving the relationship

See? Simple and straightforward.

This can become a standard throw for all relationship queries.

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