Thought you all would want a look at one of the newest self-published decks, The Whispering Tarot by Elizabeth [Liz] Hazel, author of the excellent Tarot Decoded: Undertanding and Using Dignities and Correspondences. I love the deck name as I was strongly impressed by a fantasy novel (The Destiny Dice by David Bischoff) in which rune stones decided among themselves who would answer the reader’s question. When the reader reached into the runebag, the chosen rune would leap into the reader’s hand. The rune then would whisper it’s message to the reader, even arguing with him. The particular rune’s personality and style of communication was a significant part of the message. This deck reminds me very much of that story.
This is a bright, sunny, playful and very usable deck with a pagan/nature spirit slant. Printed by Playing Cards R Us, it is poker-size with black borders, shuffling nicely and perfect for small hands. Though some of the pictures are quite detailed, the use of a fine point pen for drawing makes the images distinct. The pen and ink drawings were then colored with prismacolor markers. It comes in a two-part custom box (nice touch!).
While the Golden Dawn and Rider-Waite-Smith deck were among Liz’s major influences (especially the astrological attributions), this is no clone, but a fresh, original deck. Magical creatures abound: Zephers (wind-spirits), dragons, mermaids, water faeries, harpies and more. Additionally, there are regular animals like snakes, dolphins, birds, horses, cats and even an elephant. Birch trees characterize the Wands suit. Pentacles utilize geometry and people in their environment to get the message across. The card backs have an unusual art nouveau/celtic knot design (based on a color palette from 1895).
I emailed Liz with a few questions and comments that I’d like to share with you.
ME: I’ve had the most amazing experience—in reading after reading I received all four suits and a Major Arcana card among the seven cards in the spread! This is incredibly rare but seems to say that the deck is looking at things from every angle. There’s also a sense of blessing and unity about it.
LIZ: As far as I know, this is the only tarot deck that’s ever come with a blessing charm on it (it’s on the sign & number card). The charm refers to the North Node (Dragon’s Head). The whole project was a Goddess offering, so I’m glad to hear that it conveys a blessing/unity. Am glad I changed the name to Whispering Tarot – it was an inspired choice, and I was amazed/thrilled no one else had ever used that name for a deck.
ME: What was the initial inspiration for this deck?
LIZ: My stubborn, determined & picky Taurus rising! I wanted a deck with everything I find pleasing in tarot, and with nothing I find displeasing. I wanted Kings and Queens to look in love with each other, not angry or constipated looking, or on the verge of divorce. I wanted pip designs that clearly conveyed the divinatory meanings. I also wanted specific production features like the custom two-part box. Looks nicer, lasts longer. I wanted no numbers or specific attributions on the Major Arcana, so the reader could choose. Basically, the deck was a big Venus-driven “gimme.”
ME: I can see Rider-Waite-Smith/Golden Dawn elements but so much more—what are your other major influences? Can you give me an example of one or two cards that diverge greatly from the RWS/GD and why?
LIZ: Here’s some brief summaries for changes: Magician: No table, no clothes. He has the raw elements in play around him. The dragon rises along his arm in 3.5 curls – the unfolding of kundalini. Yummy no-frills symbolism. The Magician reappears in the Judgment card. Hierophant: The guru levitates half-way between heaven and earth, and is surrounded by animal totems, a more Buddhist and shamanic image. Less paternalistic, intolerant & dogma-bound; more spiritual intermediary, gentle advisor or spiritual counselor. More astrology related, too. Eclipse: Switched the title/image to distinguish between The Moon card and the moon-attributed High Priestess. An early DM [divinatory meaning] for The Moon is eclipses. Frankly, eclipses are WAY weirder & scarier than a plain old moon. An eclipse is much more distinctive symbolism, and a lot more in tune with the DM’s. 4 Swords: The guy is in the meditation asana, and levitating over a maze. His calm demeanor suggests he’s in a good frame of mind to see the big picture and figure out puzzles. Of course, it could also indicate a dead person’s soul rising from a house. I like the gentle ambivalence, and the card is peaceful in spite of the clashing green-orange colors. I’m tweaking Waite’s nose here.
ME: Anything else you’d like my readers to know?
LIZ: I considered depth and distance perspective a lot when designing these cards. Distant vistas, like in the 2 of Wands, suggest that more is out there, or that the meaning involves the greater world. Cards with close or compact perspective take the reader into what might be a more intense, narrow, or claustrophobic situation. In a few cases, I deliberately changed the historic (RWS) perspective. For example, in the 7 of Pentacles, the guy sitting at the chair looks pretty miserable or tired of waiting; but the door is open, and the pentacles lead out into the world. The old man & bush image is a dead bore.
I didn’t hesitate to chuck RWS symbolism, Masonic, and Christian symbolism and other authority figures out of my third floor window, and that was rather the point as well as my greatest delight. My greatest influence as an artist comes from the Golden Age of Illustration artists: Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, the Robinson brothers, Beardsley, Harry Crane, William Morris, and Charles Rennie Macintosh, to name a few.
The deck is pan-spiritual, and is divested of cryptic symbolism tied to Waite’s blinds. In the act of pleasing myself (and believe me, it’s a monster ego stroke to do readings with my own deck) I hope I’ve created a deck that will please other readers.
This is a deck created by a long-time student and experienced practitioner of both tarot and astrology. It shows in the book where traditional meanings are modified by an awareness of the modern concerns that come up in psychic fairs and other public venues. Liz’s original spreads will help you address the practical needs of most querents.
Copies of The Whispering Tarot and Liz’s book about the deck will be available from Jeanette Roth (TarotGarden) at LATS and BATs and Archon. Liz Hazel says she hopes to have enough sales to merit a second printing but, “not signed & numbered, never again!!!” Collectors will want to jump on this first edition, which can be ordered directly from Liz here.