In mythology, the raven is a bird that is universally considered to be a messenger of the gods. It is, therefore, rather apt that writer Maggie Stiefvater should use this powerful totem bird as the focus for a revolutionary Tarot deck.
Maggie created ‘The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot’ as a result of the frustration that she initially felt when first trying to learn the Tarot.
It was then, whilst writing a book series that was based around Welsh mythology, that she discovered, as indeed have so many that have gone before, that the Tarot integrates beautifully with mythological themes within the Welsh esoteric tradition.
The result is a deck whose dark imagery pulls from the heart of a darkly spiritual landscape.
Of this Stiefvater says
I borrowed the curious and cunning Welsh ravens to symbolize our logical, conscious minds and emphasuzed the traditional fire of the wands and to represent creative force throughout the entire deck.
Having spent a little time working with the deck we offer our assesment of it.
‘The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot’ presentation pack is comprised of a full deck of Tarot cards and an accompanying handbook.
The book, called ‘Illuminating the Prophecy’ is a large-sized paperback, 184 pages long.
Written by the author herself to accompany her deck it offers a brief background to ‘The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot’ deck, an introductory guide to the Tarot divination system and a few Tarot spreads.
It also includes a more expansive explanation for each of the 78 cards; including their keywords and a description of what each card represents.
The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot follows the traditional format of Major Arcana, Minor Arcana and Court Cards. The four suits, as well as the titles of the Court Cards, follow normal Tarot conventions and there is no change to the order of the Major Arcana.The card sizes are 7cm xH.11.6cm (2 3/4 inches x 4 3/4 inches).
Whilst the structure to The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot cards are immediately recognizable to any student of the Tarot the first impressions of this deck is that they are quite contemporary in several regards.
Most notable is use of the color orange as a backround border around all the cards.
Secondly, this deck is also notable for its use of a very modern and striking typeface for the card titles.
But most notable of all is the near universal use of a single symbol to represent the meaning of each card. To an experienced Tarot student – one who is used to the inclusion of complex symbolic imagery to depict each cards’ meaning, this can come as an initial shock.
Surely the Tarot cannot be reduced to such simplistic concepts – can it?
The actual cards themselves are printed on strong card stock wirh a semi-gloss, non-sheen finish to them. Their reverse is a simple black background with a collection of hand-drawn symbols.
As a long time student of the Tarot I can personally attest to the complexity of this greatly-loved and respected divination system. I also appreciate those students who complain that it is just too challenging a system to get to grips with without years of study.
I often wondered whether learning the Tarot could be made any easier if it was stripped back to its bare essentials – which is exactly what has been done in the Raven’s Prophecy Tarot.
The question is, does this simplistic approach result in anything being lost from the authenticity of this divination system?
The answer to this is, to my mind, both yes and no.
Firstly, in the process of stripping back the cards to their very basics in The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot there is an eradication of the subtle color symbolism rhat makes most Tarot decks so visually stimulating and exciting.
It should be remembered that in the Raven’s Prophecy deck nearly every card, irrespective of whether it is a Major, Minor or Court card has a black background.
Heck, this is one hell of a dark deck!
I felt that sometimes this lack of color was effective and at other times, such as when a card is particularly positive such as in the case of The Sun, it does not work.
Where this minimalitic approach does work well is that being offered a single symbol for readings makes the process of divination a great deal easier than a card full of tons of visual elements – any of which can mean pretty well anything to different readers (unless, of course, you study the Golden Dawn color scheme).
After some time using the deck I found that I actually liked the simplified approach to the reading the Tarot that this deck offers.
What is evident is that the author thought very carefully about the correct symbolic image to use on each card and, despite their simplicity the majority of the cards in this deck contain subtle and extremely clever nuances – all of which gives this deck a real sense of character.
I would also add in passing that this is beautifully weighted deck and one that shuffles superbly well for reasons that I feel must relate to their card stock and finish.
What I was not so keen on was the accompanying book which has all the hallmarks of being an uncompleted project.
Whilst the keywords and descriptions are good I found that as a manual it lacked a great deal of useful additional details such as reversed card meanings, Tarot spreads tailored to the decks theme and advice on how to connect deeply to the mythology that spawned them.
Overall, though, despite the fact that this deck takes a lot of chances and dices with the strong possibility of falling down and bastardizing a much loved divination system, to my mind, it does none of these things and the result is an excellent Tarot deck – one that styles itself more closely to the other popular card-based divination system of Lenormand.
So it’s a definate thumbs up for ‘The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot’—one which I feel will be a real grower for me over time. My only reticence is that my enthusiasm is slightly tempered by a twinge of sadness that it is quite so bleak in parts and that its rather incomplete accompanying book does not do it full justice.
Dark, foreboding and strangely alluring the Raven’s Prophecy Tarot is a marked departure from the complexities of orthodox Tarot decks. Within its starkness there lies an inherent beauty awaiting to be discovered by a new generation of Tarot adventurers.