And now for something lighter, frothier, prettier and freshly unhistoric. I have been reading about Etteillas all week and delving into Papus, Huson, Dekker, Depaulis &c and then something pastel and “feel good” dropped into my mail box – as if by parachute – a couple of days ago. The new deck by Paulina Cassidy, the Joie de Vivre Tarot. I’d love to say that this deck is not my usual taste at all but I’m actually a secret Paulina Tarot fan so this new one was always on my radar. It took me a while to love the Paulina, I kept resisting but it was no good. The tangled sepia brambles, forest dusk half-light, sinister peerings from the undergrowth and those elegant Kings with runny mascara and attenuated limbs had me in their spell. However, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the scans I’d seen of the Joie de Vivre in the months running up to publication, but when I received my deck a couple of days ago I changed my mind. Why do I feel slightly guilty about liking this deck? I can feel some inner demon battling with me not to like it. Is it too twee for me? It feels that behind the virtuouso sketchy façade of Cassidy’s art, the illustrations have the soul of those doe-eyed children pictures from the 60s and 70s which hung on many a young girl’s bedroom wall. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but I cannot help feeling that they feel like updated, scribblier 21st Century versions of them.
But I set myself the challenge of overcoming my prejudice (always a good exercise), as I did with the Paulina. It didn’t take long (go on, I confess, I was already halfway there once I’d broken the seal). I really should reflect more on this; on liking decks we know we shouldn’t, the pangs of guilt we must learn to ignore. So I did a reading. Best way to dive straight in. I invented a spread, off the cuff, off the top of my head. A 5-card spread. Something concise and to the point. Not the “Spreading The Joy” one from the book (this must be the first ever U.S Games deck which doesn’t reiterate the Celtic Cross) but one of my own making;
About work. Upper two cards; the past that has brought me here. Bottom two cards; where I’m heading. Central card; me now.
Starting with the upper two cards (7 of Cups, 8 of Cups); I see a juxtaposition, as if – on the left – there I was, enjoying the attention, being in the spotlight as it were, enjoying the role. Then I just wanted to take my little basket and float away and disappear, go to the Moon, carried aloft by a cortège of (?) jellyfish. This is so true. These two cards and the images depicted resonate with me. I look at those images and cannot even remember what the Rider Waite Smith meaning is, as these are the ones that speak loudest.
The 9 of Wands central card – me now – and the pirate patch made me think immediately “turn a blind eye” – overlook what may bother you right now. Just don’t even see it. And look how he shows us the locket in his chest; keep your feelings to yourself (he seems to be saying). He’s in an enclosure that he could easily step out of, but for the moment, he stays where he is. A wise decision.
Bottom two cards – where I’m heading – the King of Coins and Knight of Coins (how odd that after having shuffled the deck and had them fall off the desk and onto the floor twice, owing to the slippery lamination, these two neighbouring cards should come up next to each other in the spread.) The fact that both of these are Coins makes me feel a sense of relief that there is fixity and security and, judging by the King himself, dignity, ease and worldly comfort. He holds a flower, he continues to bloom, time is on his side (note the pocket watch dangling) and yet I sense that the wide-eyed Knight on his steed is his alter ego, and still looks at the world with wonder (I so hope that’s me in the future) and that he has the energy to gallop off and continue journeying and continuing to indulge the joys and the curiosity that the pressures of work haven’t yet extinguished. I hope I’m not being too optimistic. This Knight is almost like The Fool perched on his cliff. If that’s the future then I can’t complain.
This deck has such a distinct voice that when laid out, the cards really do sing. Although ostensibly Rider Waite Smith based, it generates its own meanings by dint of the vivid illustrations and impish touches. These images have so much in them, tiny wispy details to pick up on that, as a deck, it reads effortlessly. It’s pinky, it’s girly, it’s playful, inane and yet deceptively bold in its imagery. It’s not easy to find a Rider Waite Smith based deck that can bulldoze over the so-called traditional meanings with a sweet smile, a wry wink and let its own personality speak so much louder. I ask myself Oh but shouldn’t I be reading with the Thoth? There’s a time and a mood for everything, of that I’m sure. And I managed to write about this deck without once using the word “whimsical”. How many others can accomplish that?