I’ve been a tarot card reader for more than a decade, or a “tarot reader”, if you prefer the term. I consider myself more of a “researcher”, though. I’ve been studying tarot on my own for a long time. In fact, I started with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck in the mid-1990s. But I’ve been working on a new interpretation of the Major Arcana of the tarot, and I’d like to share it with you.
Timeless, potent and original, the Shadowscapes Tarot makes a bold statement. It is a fully illustrated tarot deck that explores a unique cosmology, where words and images interact, and where the cards have a dual function: to reveal the imagery of the cards, and to serve as a guidebook for the reader’s journey.
The 49 Tarot cards are symbolic representations of the elements, universal energy, symbolic guides, concepts, archetypes, and other forms of archetypal representations. The interpretations are unique to each person, but they are all created equally.
The Shadowscapes Tarot is one of Llewellyn’s evergreen decks, which means it has been a continuous best-seller since its debut in 2010. That comes as no surprise. Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, an illustrator living in Oakland, is undeniably one of the most gifted tarot artists working today.
This is one of those decks that you should examine with a magnifying lens. It would be almost disrespectful not to spend hours of contemplative study to the tiny worn lines and inlays of intricate decoration.
Three Septenaries of the Major Arcana. Click to enlarge. ” data-medium-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-major-arcana-three-septenaries-e1625429842305.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-major-arcana-three-septenaries-e1625429842305.jpg?w=640″ class=”wp-image-26226 size-full” src=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-major-arcana-three-septenaries-e1625429842305.jpg?w=640″ alt=”” />Three Septenaries of the Major Arcana. Click to enlarge.
How would I characterize the artwork on the deck? The Shadowscapes Tarot would be created if Asgard from the Old Norse tale and Tianchao, the Celestial Empire from Chinese mythology, united into one realm inhabited by factions of magical creatures in which an epic fantasy was set.
The Shadowscapes is described as an eclectic mix of Asian and Celtic fantasy elements in its own words. And that’s a fantastic combination. I can’t think of any tarot deck that combines those two civilizations and cultures together off the top of my head.
The LWB provides important card meanings in brief form, but no card descriptions, which is something I like to see in a LWB. That said, it was co-authored by Law and Barbara Moore, therefore you can trust the card meanings since they were written by Moore.
The amount of cellular intricacy on this deck is incredible. You have that awareness before you wake up from a vivid dream, but the events of the dream are starting to fade away as you return to the real world? With the smooth lines and hazy washes, that’s how the aesthetics here seem.
Suit of Wands. Click to enlarge. ” data-medium-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-wands.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-wands.jpg?w=640″ class=”size-full wp-image-26233″ src=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-wands.jpg?w=640&h=632″ alt=”” width=”640″ height=”632″ />Suit of Wands. Click to enlarge.
With the delicate washes of gold light, I adore the amethyst and steel grey color combination that prevails throughout. By the way, you can expand and zoom in on any of these photos by clicking on it.
The Wands suit includes foxes and qilin (a Chinese mythological creature) depicted in a manner evocative of ancient Chinese fine art. These photos seem to be silk scroll paintings.
Shadowscapes is a tarot deck for the dreamer, filled with fairy queens, foxes, and forest animals. The lavender spiral shells that make up the ground of this Queen of Wands are a wonderful illustration of the intricacy, as are how the compositions are fully-populated works of art. Within the primary storyline of the image, your eyes may roam from place to area, and there are many sub-plots going on.
Suit of Cups. Click to enlarge. ” data-medium-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-cups.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-cups.jpg?w=640″ class=”size-full wp-image-26238″ src=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-cups.jpg?w=640&h=630″ alt=”” width=”640″ height=”630″ />Suit of Cups. Click to enlarge.
We visit the aquatic realm of mermaids, koi fish, and sea nymphs in the suit of cups. The amethyst becomes lapis lazuli blue as it ages. There is elemental color symbolism here that identifies whatever suit you’re in, similar to the progressive darkening and lightening of the sky. In the Wands, there were more gold and crimson tones, while in the Cups, there are more deep blues.
Each item is undeniably beautiful as a stand-alone work of art. Consider the tale of the trapped swan in the Eight of Swords and the hummingbird that is playing out in your head. I can see the movement of the branches– and are those the swans’ skulls on the ground from before?
Suit of Swords. Click to enlarge. ” data-medium-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-swords.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-swords.jpg?w=640″ class=”size-full wp-image-26239″ src=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-swords.jpg?w=640&h=639″ alt=”” width=”640″ height=”639″ />Suit of Swords. Click to enlarge.
Everything comes together in this gem of a deck: the emotions, the planning, the artist’s voice, and the high degree of technical ability. I like the Ten of Swords’ harsh swath of red and how, when all the Swords cards are lined up as in the image above, it seems like a gash of a wound over the landscape. Every detail of this deck, at every level, has been meticulously crafted.
Suit of Pentacles. Click to enlarge. ” data-medium-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-pentacles.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-pentacles.jpg?w=640″ class=”size-full wp-image-26242″ src=”https://benebellwen.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/shadowscapes-tarot-minor-arcana-pentacles.jpg?w=640&h=638″ alt=”” width=”640″ height=”638″ />Suit of Pentacles. Click to enlarge.
The color wash in the Suit of Pentacles fades into jade and emerald greens. Another major aesthetic element in this card that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in previous decks is weather. Something about the Shadowscapes cranks my imagination up to eleven, coupled with my clairaudience, and I get the impression that I can hear the weather. The winds, the storms, and all the other ways Mother Nature is a living, breathing character.
While there is no dispute among tarot practitioners that the Shadowscapes is a stunningly gorgeous deck, there is some controversy about whether it is readable. Is it possible to read tarot cards using the Shadowscapes?
It seems like I’m cosplaying when I use it as a tarot deck for reading purposes, which isn’t a terrible thing and may be precisely what you want on certain situations, but it’s definitely its own thing. It’s like attempting to find answers to concerns about love, health, and profession via Lord of the Rings.
I like to look at this hand-held exhibition of high fantasy art with a magnifying lens. Like the spider spinning a web in the Eight of Pentacles, the ways in which the essence of the tarot card meaning is interpreted are wonderful. The Shadowscapes Tarot is one of those decks that will never leave my collection since I love it so much.
As an example:
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The Shadowscapes Tarot is based on the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck of 78 cards. The Shadowscapes Tarot is inspired by the Tarot of the Bohemians by Arthur Edward Waite. The Shadowscapes Tarot is very popular, and it is printed in the United States of America by the United States Playing Card Company.. Read more about stephanie pui-mun law books and let us know what you think.
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