The Pagan Tarot brings a fresh and unique approach to the tarot in general, and specifically to many of the individual cards. While based on the Rider-Waite-Smith template as far as structure is concerned, that's where the similarity ends. The imagery is totally new and often features scenes of modern daily life, yet is rich with symbolism and interpretive potential. The trump cards bear little resemblance to the historical counterparts, bringing a contemporary vision that I found curiously enticing. The court cards are renamed from pages, knights, queens, and kings to elementals, novices, initiates, and elders; another change I found that offers new insight into arguably the most difficult cards to interpret. The suits are named in a traditional fashion as pentacles, swords, wands, and chalices, corresponding respectively to earth (physical), air (mental), fire (spiritual), and water (emotional), but again with distinctively inventive scenes, familiar yet suggestive of a deeper meaning, beyond the conventional.
As its name suggests, much of the symbolism and imagery is pagan in nature, with scenes ranging from traditional Wiccan ritual to shopping at ones favorite metaphysical boutique. There is little nudity however, and I would feel comfortable using this deck to read for all but the most prudish. The religiously conservative may also find exception to a variety of the scenes, but for most typical tarot readings, this deck would suit both querent and reader quite well, regardless of background.
The standard-sized 78 card deck features a thin, white border on which the card name, number and/or suit appear at the top in English, and in Italian, French, Spanish, and German at the bottom, leaving the greater part of the card for the illustration. And illustrated they are, with sometimes totally new perspectives, or familiar symbols in different surroundings or situations.
On the familiar side, the three of swords depicts the traditional heart in which three swords are inserted. Yet below, a woman is seated at the foot of a couch on a hard, polished and tiled floor, arms wrapped around bended knees, head bowed and eyes looking down. A clear picture of an ending, a cycle's completion - in this case causing the pictured woman some amount of thoughtful introspection.
Somewhat less familiar is the Empress, depicting a child, a young woman, and an older woman all casually attired, apparently working in a home garden, planting the seeds of fruition. Maiden, Mother, and Crone, working in concert, bringing to pass the fruits of their labor. A refreshing and meaningful change from the traditional "queen" figure, seated in a throne.
Totally new is the nine of wands, depicting a scene in which a tow truck prepares to tow what would appear to be a disabled car, with the apparent owners, a young couple, paying the tow-truck driver. Quite a change from the traditional "man behind cell block nine" scene.
For me, the most unique aspect of this deck is the clear recognition of the blend of elemental energies in all of the cards. The six of swords with fire in the background, the thick gray smoke churning up through the air, as the canoe is paddled quickly and quietly through the waters. A cleansing indeed, as the couple lets go of the past, and heads into the future. Or the eight of wands, where a woman is seated at the foot of her couch, bills stacked about her, cash in hand, wands in front, books in back, all on a blue carpet. Or the nine of chalices, where a woman is shopping, looking at the chalices neatly displayed behind the clerk, with swords, wands, and jars of liquid in the foreground, shadowed yet evident.
At first, I though the accompanying "lwb" (little white book) was somewhat sparse. It crams 5 languages of meaning into 63 little pages, only 12 of which are in English. While each of the major arcana have their own paragraph of interpretation, the court cards and minors are grouped by suit and/or number, and have no individual meanings outlined. After a short time, I found the wisdom in this approach - no preconceived notions to interfere with my interpretations of each cards appearance. Only the gentle guidance of a general direction of energy to bring the meaning forth.
Every tarot I own had at least several cards that don't work at all for me. This deck has none of that. Every card is a "good one", every card speaks clearly and enunciates its meaning with vigor. And unlike some of my other decks that spoke loudly at first, only to lose their energy after no more than a second glance, this deck endures. Each use brings greater detail, new discoveries, and deeper insight. I look forward to each and every reading.