I recently got the second edition of the World Spirit Tarot, and I like it a lot. I’ve been struggling to find a second deck for day-to-day readings--I love Shadowscapes dearly, but I've been using it exclusively for over a year and a half, and almost all of the people pictured in the cards are thin and white and heterosexual. I want to have more choices and new perspectives!
This deck has lots of racial diversity and some size, gender, and sexual orientation/relationship style diversity. The images are hand-colored linocuts, with strong, intense colors, and there’s lots of imagery in each card to draw on. It follows RWS pretty closely, with a few detours I like and some I’m not in love with, particularly the Three of Swords, but I’m interested to see how they grow on me. One slight change that I like is The Tower, which shows the Tower from the perspective of the storm. There’s also a Little White Book (LWB) that is brief but well-written (one 3.5 x 5 inch page for each minor arcana, sometimes longer for the majors). Finally, a few of the cards in the second edition have been redesigned, particularly The Sun, and I like the new designs. Here's a sampler of cards:
The cards are quite big (I can shuffle them like playing cards, but barely), and have a shiny finish. The cuts are not perfect and some of the curved corners look a little funky, with tiny tags/imperfections. It doesn't impact use, just aesthetics. Also, the backs have an asymmetrical image, so they aren't fully reversible.
Overall, I like the deck a lot and I’m looking forward to working with it more! I pulled a few cards for an interview, using questions I’ve seen on Little Red Tarot for other deck interviews. Here's what I got (behind a cut because I cussed one time and I don't want to get you in trouble at work):
Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?
Four of Cups: A light-skinned person sits crosslegged on a self-contained stone platform, totally focused on their internal state. Their back is to the sea, which symbolizes emotion, so they may be blocking out their feelings. Their cups have spilled or gone empty, except for one idealized, floating cup. They are in a walled garden lined with lilies, accompanied by a little haloed rodent that I can only think of as Life of Rats* (SQUEAK). Behind them, the stone circle becomes a path leading through shadowy lands and then to the sea, where the sky is full of majestic clouds.
This card seems to be saying that the deck understands the need to sometimes block out emotions, to live in your head, and to find a safe space to rest. But it will also encourage the seeker to challenge themselves to, when it’s time, leave that safe, cramped space, to journey through the unknown, and to swim in the sparkling, sunlit sea again.
I’m caught by how similar this card is to an aspect of The Tower, which I’ll write about in a later post. The walled garden reminds me of The Tower (which, in this deck, has an open door, much like the opening in the wall behind this person), and of the deliberate decision to go to a place of safety to shut out the world. The difference is that in this card, the person gets to choose when they want to leave, as opposed to being cast out by forces beyond their control, as in The Tower.
What are your strengths as a deck?
Sage of Swords: One of the things that made me want this deck was the renamed court cards. Instead of Page, Knight, Queen, and King, this deck calls them Seer, Seeker, Sibyl, and Sage. Buuuuut… the pictures are clearly intended to show ladies for Seer and Sybil and dudes for Seeker and Sage. Super irritating, super typical. Whatever. Plenty of people who aren’t dudes have luxurious facial hair, and plenty of people who aren’t ladies have lovely flowing hair and sweet femme fashion, and I’m just going to go on imagining every gendered image as wildly gender fabulous as per normal.
So when I look at this person, all I see are amazing fashion choices. The ice-throne in the middle of an ice-lake surrounded by ice-mountains. The spiky legwarmers, bracelets, and lapels. The sweet boots, beard-braids, iron crown, and spiked hair. The pale cheeks and the heavy eyeliner. The human skull in one hand and the sword of victory in the other. And, finally, the best friend who is also a raven. This person is goth as fuck and definitely doesn’t need you.
That is to say, this card is typically about an intensely intellectual person who can be so focused on logic as a method of interacting with the world that they become harsh and isolated. They are successful and have lots of external power, but they lack empathy and pragmatism.
Really there are lots of ways to interpret this card, and you can probably tell that it’s not one of my favorites. I was surprised to get it as the “strengths” card for the deck, because it seems like such a colorful, cheerful deck. But I’ve done a few readings with it now and there’s a lot of depth to it. It doesn’t pull punches. I think this is saying, this deck will help you cut through the bullshit, but you need to do the work to make sure that you balance that incisive perspective with warmth and grounding.
What are your limits as a deck?
Three of Cups: Three friends of varying skin tones are hanging out in a cool green garden on a hot summer day, being topless and comfy and drinking lemonade. This is actually how I’d like to spend the rest of my day, although I don’t know why the older person doesn’t get to take their top off too. Maybe they aren’t into that, which is fine.
This card is about the sweetness and joy of friendship. I like the intergenerational connections in this particular version and the quiet, comfortable feeling of it. Like the previous card, I was surprised to get this in the “limits” section as this deck seems so friendly, but I think that's the message of this card. That is to say, the friendly, comfortable feel of this deck can actually be a weakness if you don't balance it with delving more deeply and being open to the discomfort that often accompanies learning and growth. I like the way the Sage of Swords and the Three of Cups work together here!
What are you here to teach me?
Justice: A blindfolded light-skinned person stands comfortably, legs wide and feet planted. Their hands are folded over a sword, which rests point down on the ground. The floor they are standing on looks like a model of an atom, with electrons moving in their orbits. A pillar on their left burns with flame, and holds a scale. The pillar on their right is covered in leaves, and holds a book topped with flame. Behind them, there is a starry sky or ceiling, and sun pokes through the top of a window, sending out two beams of light. There’s a lot of duality in this picture, and perhaps the idea of breaking things down into their parts to better understand them, expressed in the atom diagram? It’s not mentioned in the LWB.
I think this is saying, this deck can teach me how to look at different perspectives and facets of a situation, to hold various conflicting viewpoints at the same time, and to make fair decisions. The blindfold that Justice wears can symbolize lack of bias (a rich person looks the same as a poor person) but it can also symbolize inflexibility, harshness, and the refusal to look at all the elements of a situation. I think this card relates back to the Sage of Swords (which can also be someone like a judge)—the deck has lots of law and logic to offer, and it’s up to me to temper that with experience and pragmatism.
How can I best learn and collaborate with you?
Sibyl of Pentacles: This card corresponds to the Queen of Pentacles. It shows a dark-skinned person wearing a tall crown (which the LWB tells me is the crown of Chicomecoatl, Mayan goddess of corn), a broad collar, a brown shirt, and a purple skirt, sitting on a stone chair engraved with a pentacle. They are barefoot. Pink flowers bloom behind the chair, and a snake coils at its base. In the background are bushes, tall trees, a field of corn, and a Meso-American pyramid, crowned by clouds and sky and sun.
As I mentioned above, I’ve been searching for decks that are more diverse, and this is one I like for many reasons. But, as with many tarot decks, I feel a bit stumped when faced with a card that has symbolism that isn’t part of my birth culture and that I haven’t had time yet to study in depth, especially when I don’t know the author’s connection to that cultural image (I’ve tried to research that for this deck and there’s little information). For instance, a very quick internet search indicates that Chicomecoatl is an Aztec goddess, not a Mayan goddess, although she is associated with corn and agriculture. Obviously, reading a couple of internet articles doesn’t qualify me to hold forth on what this goddess represents, and attempting to do so would be highly disrespectful.
For the time being, my plan is to think more about cross-cultural interpretations, to talk about that with other people, to look for more authoritative sources on this particular goddess, and in the meantime to interpret the card as if it were the standard RWS Queen of Pentacles. I’m also thinking about cultural appropriation and how to balance concerns about that with wanting to have decks that challenge me to learn and that are welcoming and relevant to seekers from different cultural backgrounds. I don’t know all the answers, but I’m going to keep studying and searching and talking about it. And that’s a pretty good answer to the question of how I can best learn from this deck right now.
What is the potential outcome of our professional relationship?
Ace of Pentacles: All of the aces in this deck include this, um, almond-shaped structure, which seems to me a lovely symbol of birth and new horizons. In this one, it’s covered with morning glory, which is a gorgeous, enthusiastic plant that will murder everything in your garden if you let it get going. It’s a plant that requires strong boundaries. There’s also green grass, a hill, a bright sun, and a waxing moon.
I think this is saying to me, this deck can support me as I take my tarot nerdery out into the world, and it can help me build strong boundaries out in the world too.
I'm looking forward to working with this deck! I'll keep you posted about our adventures.
*Death of Rats is a recurring character in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Much like Death, he is a skeleton with glowing blue eyes, wears a hooded cloak, carries a scythe, and SPEAKS IN ALL CAPS. It's just that Death of Rats is, well, a rat, his scythe is the size of a toothpick, and all he can say is SQUEAK. Hence, the glowing/haloed/plainly extremely alive rat as Life of Rats.