Mary-El Tarot; Further Impressions

Just over four months have passed since I first came into possession of this deck, and very few decks have had such an impact on me (you can see my immediate impressions here). It feels like a slumbering, deep-rooted, long term impact.  So many decks have excited me with their arrival and – I agree - there is much to admire in many a new release, but this deck feels an octave deeper than all the others. It make so many other decks feel shrill and frivolous in comparison and yet this is not a deck I feel an urge to use constantly. I’d love to say that this is the deck I take everywhere and use every day but that would not be the case. Plus my notion of “use” here is subject to debate. But something about this deck still captivates me a few months on. I have got into an odd rhythm of compulsively reaching for this deck at certain intervals. Sometimes I forget all about it for a couple of weeks, then remember I have it in my tarot chest, in my wardrobe, in my life. It is the deck I feel an urge for when I want to heighten introspection and when I want to throw the inner self, the inner me, into stark relief and wallow in it. In the midst of a crowded day, this deck is instant, contemplative solitude for me and the only other deck that sometimes gives me this sensation is the Thoth. For this reason, it doesn’t really feel like a reading deck exactly. I have been trying this week to try and identify what it is that fascinates me so much about the Mary-El Tarot as I know no other deck like it, and thus cannot seem to use it like I use my other decks. 

Recently, I started work in a new position. I was promoted some weeks ago and am now getting into the swing of a new workday rhythm.  One of the advantages of this new job is that I work very near home and so I have the luxury of being able to go back for lunch. I cannot even begin to describe what a difference this makes to my working day. To be able to have instant peace and quiet, surrounded by my own things, in my own space, not subject to the chatter of work colleagues (not to mention the difference this makes to my weekly expenses) is a real luxury. I can permit myself just over an hour, long enough to change into something more comfortable, take off my shoes and it feels like a tiny oasis in the middle of the day, an opportunity to centre myself, cobble something together quickly, eat in blissful silence, uninterrupted thought, before returning for the afternoon stint. After a few days, while pondering how a tarot deck can sometimes help us to instantly centre, I reached again for my Mary-El, found that it fit the bill perfectly and now it has become a kind of habit. I almost called this post “On not reading cards”, as I have been thinking about the role that tarot cards can play in our lives when the days are full to bursting, when time is of the essence and there just isn’t the opportunity for quality bonding or “reading” with your cards. I think I have found a way to feel uplifted, geared up and recharged by my tarot cards – in this case the Mary-El Tarot -  which helps me deal with the trials and exasperations of the rest of the working day. On the table by the sofa where I drink my coffee after lunch and where I have my daily contact with the cards (sometimes only ten or fifteen minutes), I have gathered together some grounding accessories, my favourite bits of obsidian and an earthy pentacle and find that sometimes it is enough just to look through the deck.

Every card in the Mary-El has something to contemplate. I don’t do a daily draw as such, I simply choose a favourite card to look at, an image to tumble into and the image often pops up in my thinking at various moments during the afternoon. Yesterday it was the Knight of Cups as seen in the top photograph. Sometimes I just lay a few cards side by side that seem to harmonise well together. No idea why, just for the heck of it. I’m not reading, I simply feel an urge to detach myself a little in solitude from the working day, re-etablish the core of myself that work tends to maul. Sometimes I just shuffle and feel the weight of the cards in my hand. Sometimes, before leaving, I leave a single card face up to act as a sort of lucky charm at a distance. At any moment in the afternoon I can summon up the image from afar and try to remember all its details. I find something peculiarly soothing in doing this. I suppose I think of it as grounding. I confess that I have had a certain amount of difficulty in trying to conventionally read the Mary-El Tarot in accordance with the systems I am familiar with but I have learnt to take it on its own terms and find personal meaning in its sometimes bizarre symbolism. The deck as a whole seems to scream “be yourself!” and it is filled with that burning, striving, individualistic energy that is perfect for when we want to establish a distance between the self we project out there in the real world and the inner life (the real “us”) and a lunch hour is  – I think - long enough to be able to muster it. The Mary-El Tarot makes me feel intensely, exhilaratingly “me” (hope that doesn’t sound too egostic, but I can’t describe it any other way). It feels like one of those portable oratories that used to be taken on journeys and contemplated for comfort, placed on the bedside table in strange hotels to evoke meaningful dreams. In fact, I often leave it by the side of the bed with a specially chosen card face-up on the top thinking “this is the mood I want my dreams to have tonight.” It is one of the few tarot decks that actually feels sacred – I don’t use that word lightly – and if pushed, I really can’t think of many others, except (again) the Thoth. The Rider Waite Smith for all its Christian symbolism doesn’t actually feel sacred to me. The iconography of this deck feels inexhaustible and the glossy black backs and borders framing the images make it feel as bottomless as obsidian. I just feel the urge to say – yes – I still love it.

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About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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21 Responses to Mary-El Tarot; Further Impressions

  1. I want this deck lol! What a beautiful setting, love it! And how cool is that you can now come home for lunch! (Albeit in my head i’ll miss your ephemeral temples at the bus stops ;)

  2. Chiriku says:

    Your odes to decks are unparalleled. A gift to the tarot world.

  3. Ari says:

    I was going to go to bed with a book tonight. But now I’m thinking I’ll lie down with the Mary-el in hand, and just LOOK. I’ve had mine for a few weeks now, but haven’t had the time to devote to it, so I’ve just tucked it away. I’m definitely inspired to pick it up now!

  4. Joan. says:

    Resonated with your review. I have had similar difficulties with use of this Tarot deck and also arrived at predominantly using it for certain depth reflections and meditations. Excellent presentation, Le Fanu.

  5. sapienza says:

    How wonderful you can escape home for your lunch, what a difference that must make to you life. I’m very happy for you. I love the idea of having decks that you don’t feel compelled to read with. It’s like those friends you have where you can sit together in silence and know that it is ok to do so. I guess that’s the kind of relationship you have with this deck. Very special.

  6. Lately I’ve become disenchanted with doing spreads for myself – too mechanical, feels disassociated from the rest of my life. This post gives several wonderful techniques for connecting with tarot in a sacred way that integrates organically with the rest of one’s life. Thank you so much for this gift.

  7. Jeri Lawson says:

    I love this deck. I reach for the Mary-El Tarot when I need to dive deep and don’t have to resurface for a few hours. I am sure these are the cards the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo uses.

  8. raggedpoet says:

    I don’t have the Mary El deck, but I did enjoy this post. Your writing has an aura of calm and peacefulness, outside of the realms of daily life… I can almost feel the quiet of your home…. and how wonderful to be so close! I hope it is far enough to be away from work. Thank you Le Fanu.

  9. missytarot says:

    Le Fanu, Your post is what finally pushed me over the edge to order the Mary-el. Thanks! Looking forward to getting this one. — missy

  10. missytarot says:

    *peering* Le Fanu, I was going to ask what baba bag you might suggest to go with the Mary El. What is the one in the photo, if you don’t mind me asking?

    • Le Fanu says:

      It was a limited edition one made out of some 60s/70s fabric. I cannot remember the name of it. One of their limited edition numbers. I actually bought it for my Balbi but it just seemed so right for the Mary-El with the vibrant colours etc that I cannot imagine using any other bag for it. I think something predominantly black would work well also.

  11. Arafel_sedai says:

    As someone stumbling back into the world of tarot after a long absence…in large part due to this deck alone…I’ve very much enjoyed your direct and lyrical way of reviewing. The imagery really does strike me as a gallery of fine art and I feel like I’m falling into a vortex when shuffling through them.
    I’ve been personally impressed with how the cards seem to interrelate to one another’s imagery and symbolism at ‘random’…and flow.
    Thank you for this review and several others that I’ve read on your site….

    • Le Fanu says:

      Thank you. This must be a wonderful deck to rediscover after being absent from tarot. You will remember the allure of this deck forever, for that very reason. It was the Victorian Romantic which lured me back into tarot after 20 years (I think it was) and you never forget the power of the deck that brought you back into the fold. It has to have that extra gumph to pull you back in. So many others passed me by over the intervening years!

  12. Nathalie Vasquez says:

    I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to give this deck another chance! Initially I had quite a reaction to it! But now, I love this deck and smile at other’s initial fearful reactions to it lol. It’s amazing, beautiful, wild and does indeed invite infinite possibilities….And it’s great for readings too.

  13. john s markoeta says:

    I’m from a wold of tarot in my youth. my mother drug me around as a child to every person she visited. both she and my aunt were known in there group of people in Hollywood. my aunt became blind and was known to read with clarity even with that affliction. i have no belief in any spiritual powers. although i do believe in a parallel existence of a variety of waves that could carry world of emotion and souls. i also know, by what i have seen, that there are way of connecting to that sea of energy. i am impressed with the feelings that are being portrayed in those cards and I’ve seen a lot of cards in my youth. i don’t know why but i must say something. i think it has something to do with the people identifying with the cards themselves instead of the reading that they people give..

  14. Gratis tarot says:

    I really like tarot cards, I collect decks of all kinds and this I find beautiful and very artistic, thanks

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