DECADENT DREAM TAROT & TAROT of SIDNEY SIME REVIEW by KATE LARGE for PAGAN DAWN 2016
Eleanor Boyce has been incredibly prolific in her recent tarot work, following up her fantastic Singing Serpent Tarot with not one but two more decks. Boyce's own art is deeply idiosyncratic, sometimes disturbing, always technically assured and inherently subversive. Her Decadent Dream tarot is a 78-card deck featuring artists including (to name a few), Beardsley, Klimt, Burne-Jones, Delville, Morris, and Austin Osman Spare.
Boyce really knows her art, so when she curates a deck you know you're in for a treat, as the Decadent Dream demonstrates. While symbolism and Pre-Raphaelite works are the main focus, there are also early surrealists, modernists, Art Nouveau, and (a favourite of mine) a wonderful flash of flesh, as only Luís de Falero can paint it. 'Decadent' is more than just a title - it also characterises this deeply aesthetic deck.
Boyce knows her tarot as well as her art, ensuring that the Decadent Dream is not just beautiful, but functional too. The colour, semi-matte cards come with a comprehensive guidebook, with a useful artistic background to the works featured in the deck. Boyce doesn't organise her Minor Arcana by suit, as is most common, but by number (or place in the court cards). This is an approach that really appeals, highlighting the commonalities between cards that can at first appear utterly unconnected. This is a perceptive, incisive deck, holding some of the same simmering energy of the Singing Serpent, though more lyrical in articulation.
The Tarot of Sidney Sime, meanwhile, was my first exposure to this artist and illustrator, best known for his collaborations with Lord Dunsany. This is a black and white majors-only deck with five additional cards: The Wild One; The Warrior; The Harpy: The Sleeping King and The Aspirant.
The Sidney Sime comes with a hand-produced sheet of meanings for each card, more than enough to get an experienced reader ground off the ground. I was particularly drawn to the five additional cards – the archetypes are unexpected, yet universally applicable. And what a delight to find a harpy in a deck!
Sime's style ranges between densely-illustrated images with a lot of fine detail, and more restrained cards, such as The Devil and The Magician. Some images appear as black-on-white: others seem almost like photographic negatives. Beyond that, describing the effect – rather than just the execution of – Sime's work, is much more difficult. Each card elicits an emotional response, ranging from horror to awe, and I would confidently bet that no two people would either read or use the cards in the same way.
That said, this little deck is one that nobody should miss. Fans of illustrative and fantasy work are certain to love it and if you're a fan of Spare, Beardsley, Rackham et al, you really shouldn't be without it. Majors-only decks can vary hugely in quality and some can be pretty sketchy - but when they're good, they're absolutely great.
The Sidney Sime is ideal for the big issues in life: times when you need the weight of archetype, married to density of detail and winged by fantasy. The Decadent Dream is a more languid beast, ideally suited to exploring people and relationships, while the Sidney Sime is more cosmic, perfect for both inner journeying and external workings. This deck's influence is completely at odds with its small size: yes it's artistic, but most importantly – and far more rarely – it's truly magical.
Miss it and miss out.
ETSY REVIEWS of DECADENT DREAM TAROT
"Very unusual deck! Eleanor Boyce has illustrated her cards with works of art by an assortment of artists from the pre- Raphaelite, Symbolist, Art Nouveau and other movements not normally included in Tarot decks. Her goal was to access "deeper twilight worlds of imagination,dreams, myths and the occult." She has succeeded in creating a moody and evocative deck, one that may appeal particularly to artists and lovers of art classics. Don't expect a typical deck with the usual symbology- this deck is perhaps more suited to someone who is already grounded in the meaning of the cards, although the Decadent Dream Tarot book that can be purchased separately defines every card, and includes attribution to each artist referenced. The deck, taken as a whole, is a very interesting, esoteric, freestanding work of art. " - Laurie Silver
"Gorgeous deck and a lovely booklet explaining the thoughts behind the deck creation. I can tell this is going to be a favourite already! " - kizzia30
"This Tarot deck blew my mind. I don't know how else to say it in fewer words. Brilliant! Love the imagery and dark and light. Even the way the cards were ordered when I received them made me look at them in a new way. I collect decks, and this deck is one of my favorites! If you like the Pre-Rafaelites and Symbolists and Art Nouveau, take a look at the website-- then purchase! You will not be disappointed." - Linda
"Been on the hunt for a symbolist/romantic/pre-Raphaelite inspired tarot deck for years. Its a beautiful deck that isn't typical at all and I just adore it. I received my deck dripping ethereal remains of incense too. Made me very giddy. Either she smudged the deck before wrapping it to cleanse it or where ever she has the deck printed smells incredible. But I digress...
Shipped rather quickly and it's the perfect size, weight, and thickness of card. Extremely pleased." - Seriel H.
"I've had my eye on the decadent dream tarot since it came out, and I'm so happy to have it my tarot arsenal now!! The artwork chosen 4 each card is so perfect and inspired, the images literally take my breath away! I immediately had to go and research each artist who's paintings r in the deck- I'm now obsessed with these artists- literally stayed up all night enthralled!! Thank u NAKTHAG for a new favorite tarot deck! This was obviously a labor of love! Also the quality of the deck is perfect! They were a little pricey- but as far as I'm concerned- worth every penny!!" - Michelle Fischer
SINGING SERPENT TAROT REVIEW by HEATHER MENDEL for AECLECTIC 2015
As an artist and as a mystic, I find this to be a perfect Tarot deck. Eleanor Boyce presents us with a deck of powerful and transformative images that are sensual, edgy, lyrical and otherworldly. She takes us to the liminal realm in which the unconscious flows into awareness. Her beautiful imagery lingers in the mind long after the readings end. The introductory text is as powerful as her drawings:
“This deck is not themed beyond all recognition, but rather based firmly in the visual tradition of Tarot, albeit with a unique twist, coil and slither.”
The Singing Serpent’ calls to us from a place unknown – mysterious and magical. Like some element of dream or an optical illusion, her images make us aware of what we see and wonder about what we do not. Each image calls to us with the hint of a story suggested but untold. As in any ancient ritual, the power of the masked figures is tangible in these wonderful interpretations of archetypal powers that, to quote Jean Houston, “never were and always are.”
The black and white design of this deck is distinctive, the stylized serpent is featured on the back of each card as well as in each illustration of asymmetrical figures. It serves as a reminder of the serpent as a constant companion and guide on the spiritual journey and sets the sensual tone of the drawings, which are refined, delicate and elegant— a perfect counterbalance for the strength of bold splashes of black shapes on a white background.
If our lives are aimed at finding a balance between the polarities, ‘The Singing Serpent’ invites us to enter the mystery and entices us to seek the balance between light and dark, conscious and unconscious. This deck is a must have for novice and collectors alike.
SINGING SERPENT TAROT REVIEW by FELIX CHEYNNE 2015
The Singing Serpent Tarot is a beautifully constructed and gorgeously illustrated deck.
The numerological correspondences for the pips are very nicely done and clearer than most. The linkages between some cards seem stronger than those in other decks, if not immediately obvious visually, it certainly is so in operation, or at least this is my experience.
The card stock is flexible, springy, fine-grained, nicely textured and seems quite durable; and the pouch/carrying bag was a very nice added bonus.
The deck shows a stylistic unity, as well as a thematic unity, and the individual cards show remarkable control of, and consistency of, style. They are both stylish and stylized, and the work is frankly gorgeous. It is "native" art, and of the very best sort. I find the art strikingly beautiful and vital and powerful. Primitive. Mythopoetic.
The deck is quite a special piece of gear, I would say, an impressive piece of work both as a whole and as separate cards, and I look forward to learning (and reading from) it.
SINGING SERPENT TAROT REVIEW by KATE LARGE for PAGAN DAWN 2015
I've had the great privilege of seeing this deck evolve from first design, through to holding it in my hand. Years ago I saw Eleanor's ideas for some Major Arcana cards online and was blown away by its stark, stunning beauty.
The Singing Serpent is completely monochrome, a symphony of contrasts and somewhere on each card appears the titular serpent, threading its way through the action. The deck is traditionally based, with Justice appearing at VIII and Strength at XI. Card XIV, Temperance, is transformed - pardon the pun - into Alchemy, coincidentally one of my favourite cards of the deck.
The cardstock is thin, but that belies an extreme strength and flexibility: these cards would withstand the handling of the busiest professional reader. It comes boxed with a small, glossy Little White Book (LWB) with a prologue, introduction and guide to meanings.
As you might expect from a deck that "took from Samhain to Samhain three times to complete" as Eleanor explains, magic is woven into its very being. On unboxing, rather than exploding into a riot of impressions as some decks do, the cards - much like a serpent itself, give a regal greeting, then curl up to observe. They love to be kept in a special, magical place, among working tools, delighting in the company of cauldrons, bones and seasonal treasures.
My 'key' to the Singing Serpent was taking cards out for contemplation and study. This could be done via dreamwork (though be prepared!) But using them for meditation is probably better. It's astonishing how black lines on a white background leap into life once your inner vision is opened. The eyes of all of Eleanor's characters - save for Death - appear blank, a detail that could appear odd to some, but which I always found intriguing. Are they really blank, or just closed? You decide.
I wouldn't be the first to draw parallels between Eleanor's style and that of Aubrey Beardsley - the same sinuous, monochrome whiplash curves apply. But Eleanor also conjures a rich scene and back-story within each card.
Unlike some highly coloured and richly detailed decks that clash in large spreads, with the Singing Serpent you can really let your imagination run free and let rip on those big spreads you've always wanted to try. It will happily show off its flexibility in freestyle readings too, and often when cards are placed next to each other, they create an unexpected yet perfect tableau - a really stunning effect.
The Singing Serpent is a rare bird - a unique deck in an increasingly crowded tarot market. It's so regal, so unapologetically magical: a true child of light and the dark, hewn from deep, hard-won wisdom. If this deck invites you into its life, be prepared for an adventure of quite amazing discovery.
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