I was excited to get my hands on a copy of the long awaited Mary-El Tarot (Schiffer ISBN:  9780764340611) by artist Marie White.  I had seen some of the pictures and so I knew it was going to be a stunner.

And oh, what a beauty indeed!  First of all, the packaging is exquisite – a big, gorgeous cigar type box with a ribbon pull and magnetic closure.  This is standard for Schiffer and I must say, I just love that they put so much care into creating a solid package.  This makes all of their decks feel special.  

The quality does not end with the box though – the cards and book inside are well made as well, making this a tarot lover’s dream set.  What I love most is the card stock.  This deck is made from firm, glossy cards that will stand up to years of readings.  Although they feel a bit stiff at first, I do appreciate that they are strong as there is nothing worse than a flimsy deck that falls apart after a short period.  The cards are slightly bigger than standard size which is a bit awkward for small hands but it didn’t hinder me (there are some decks with much bigger cards so this is about midway).  

The deck contains the usual 78 cards with Majors, Minors, and Courts.  White based her deck on the work of the Marseilles, Rider Waite and Thoth.  You can certainly see the Thoth influence in some of the cards such as The Devil.  


Each card has a black border with the name of the card on the bottom, giving the deck a nice, uniform feel to it.  The back has a reversible image of two snakes linked together.


The artwork is breathtaking – brilliant colors, ethereal images, and striking symbols.  This is a true feast for the eyes!  I could not stop looking at the cards and examining all the details.  Apparently, this deck was illustrated with traditional oil paints which explains the richness of the colors.  In my opinion, each card is like a mini-masterpiece.  White is an amazing talent and her work is very unique.

The accompanying book, Landscape of the Abyss is loaded with information – quotes, keywords, divinatory meanings, reversals, spreads and more.  This is not a “little white book” – it is a full sized book with a lot to discover.  

The book was necessary because the deck was not clear at times.  For example, if the cards for the Page of Swords and the Queen of Swords were not labeled, I would not have any idea what I was looking at.  And because these images are not typical tarot, the book was absolutely needed – and would be especially so if you were a beginning tarot reader (I would hesitate to recommend this deck to newbies for that reason).


Some of the cards were a bit creepy which might be a turn off for sensitive types.  The 10 of Sword and 10 of Cups for example, although gorgeous, would be a bit much for some who are squeamish.  (I happen to like them but I know that not all would be comfortable with this sort of imagery.)  There is also quite a bit of nudity which may not be suitable for younger readers.  


That being said, the readings that I have gotten with this deck have been intense.  The interpretations provided in the book have almost a mystical poetry feel to them and lend well to esoteric or deep contemplation.  

I asked the Mary-El what I need to know about this deck.  I pulled The Star.  A line in the book grabbed me: “In the blackness that was the Tower the Star will guide you home.”  That seems to sum this unique deck up perfectly – it’s dark at times but the more you reflect with the deck, the more you discover about yourself.


This may be one of the most beautiful tarot decks I have ever laid eyes on.  It’s powerful, creative, vivid and at times a bit shocking.  The images will grab you and the book will enlighten you.  I would highly recommend this deck for intermediate or experienced readers or for anyone that loves to collect tarot. 



© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2012

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