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Champion of Coins Tarot

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Dragons, dragons, everywhere. . .

Cico books have gone dragon mad with their latest release - The Dragon Tarot box-set includes 78 colour cards with a 64-page book by Nigel Suckling, all covered with dragons, big ones, small ones, intertwined and in-your-face!

"This Tarot project came about through a lucky combination of circumstances," said author Nigel Suckling. "It was our editorial director Cindy Richards' idea and she thought I might be interested in doing the writing. When she then asked if I knew of any suitable artists I immediately thought of Roger and Linda Garland, with whom I've worked a few times before. Their style is just perfect for symbolic icons like Tarot cards."

Dragons have been linked to the Tarot for a long time. Suckling said: "Most of the old classic packs have at least one close relation of the dragon on the Wheel of Fortune card which is presided over by the cockatrice or basilisk, often known as the King of Serpents because all dragons and serpents are afraid of it. Sometimes it's shown as an Egyptian sphynx but the principle is the same.

"Beyond that, reading Tarot cards is a lot like engaging with an alien intelligence that speaks a different language and has a very different viewpoint from our own, and dragons represent that perfectly. That is kind of the spirit in which we chose dragons as the theme of our pack.

The artwork is important to the overall use of the cards. "One's imagination needs to engage with the cards for them to work fully so in that sense the artwork is as important as the cover of a book," said Suckling. "But having said that, Tarot has an innate symbolic structure so if you had the plainest deck imaginable it would still work, but fuzzily, like listening to AM radio in bad weather. Sympathetic illustrations kind of cut through the static."

posted by Sandy 9:11:00 AM • feedback

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14 March 2006

Into dragons? Then this is definitely a tarot set worth possessing as the artwork is superb. New decks are often crude or lacking originality, but this suffers from neither of these complaints. The dragon is an eminently suitable symbol to link with the tarot, possessing mythic power and mystery that enhances the cards' ability to probe the unconscious mind. This is a traditional 78-card deck at a great price, which includes a 64-page colour guide book.

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1 May 2006

Humankind has always been curious about what the future has in store. In the past, seers have examined the entrails of oxen or seen omens in the flights of birds. However much we declare ourselves to be free of superstition, there are always times when we cross our fingers or touch wood. Each one of us has rituals we perform without which, events of the day will go wrong. Perhaps we just want something to blame for misfortune. The Tarot system has developed out of that desire.

Even in our modern age, there are people who consult fortune-tellers, some of whom go for reassurance or guidance. There is no longer the suggestion that, in Western society, fortune-tellers are witches or in league with the devil, about to seduce your soul from the path of righteousness. A Tarot pack usually consists of 22 cards that make up the major arcana and 56 of the minor arcana. The latter are very similar to the familiar playing cards, being made up of four suits but with four court cards instead of the usual three (king, queen, knight and page). The suits in a Tarot set are wands, pentacles, cups and swords representing the four elements fire, earth, water and air.

Most people who use the Tarot already have a set, so why should anyone want to buy this one? The answer is simple. Roger and Linda Garland are talented artists. With this set of cards you have 78 beautiful miniatures. The major arcana are particularly fine, detailed pieces of art. These cards are more for admiring rather than using. They would look splendid in frames and hung on the wall, not so much as individual pictures but in groups, much the way that collections of cigarette cards are presented. If you should want to use them for divination, the little book that accompanies the cards provides a little of the history of the tarot, several methods of laying out the cards for a reading and the meanings of each card. Interpretation is a lot to do with instinct. The booklet itself is also lavishly illustrated, reproducing in even smaller images, all the cards.

This particular Tarot will also appeal to all those who are fascinated by dragons. As the fabulous beasts appear in all of the major arcana and the court cards of the minor arcana.

There are only two drawbacks to this set and they contradict each other. The size of the cards makes them a little awkward to use for divination. At the same time, they are too small to see all the exquisite detail of the pictures. Whatever you feel about fortune-telling, this set is worth having just to look at.

Pauline Morgan

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December 2006

“Behind the unfriendly tales in which the dragon serves largely as a test of valour for passing knights-errant lies an esoteric tradition of the beast embodying forces of nature that we barely understand. Though occasionally hostile, as when an Earth Dragon stirs and our cities crumble, or when Water Dragons release torrents from the sky, river or ocean there is no personal malice. Dragons simply operate by different laws that do not automatically have human interests at their heart. Understanding and bending to their laws is one path to wisdom.”

The Dragon Tarot, blending Tarot and dragonology, is the first deck from English author Nigel Suckling. Not to be confused with the other Dragon Tarot by Pracownik from US Games, or the Dragons Tarot by Baraldi and published by Lo Scarabeo, this deck has been attractively illustrated by Roger and Linda Garland.

The dragons in this deck represent “unconscious forces trying to break through into consciousness and the real world”. In the major arcana, dragons and humans generally co-exist to create a themed version of traditional tarot imagery. There is a small dragon instead of a dog in the Fool; the Magician wears a dragon head-dress and has the emblem of the creature on all his tools; tiny baby dragons hatch at the feet of the Empress and are carved into the arms of her throne; the Hanged Man is dangled from the tongue of a dragon; and Death rides a grey dragon. The Star and the Moon are the only cards with only dragons: two dragons bay at the moon, and there is a blue dragon instead of a naked woman pouring water in the Star.

In the minor arcana, Cups are associated with water dragons, Swords with air dragons that govern weather, Wands with the fire dragons, drakes and salamanders, and Pentacles are linked with the earth dragons, most often seen as guardians of hidden treasures. In imagery, they were not quite what I expected – they are not fully illustrated in the Rider-Waite sense and don’t feature dragons in the same way as the majors. Instead, the minors have the number of suit emblems arranged in different patterns, placed over a landscape background that changes significantly between suits and subtly between cards. Cups cards show a sunset sky over water, with land sometimes visible. Wands have an orange clouded key and large mountains in some cards.

In imagery, the deck seems to follow European deck traditions most closely. Justice and Strength are numbered VIII and XI respectively, and the minor arcana look more like pip cards with arranged suit emblems rather than complete scenes, though the given card meanings in the book are similar to Rider-Waite interpretations.

The deck and square companion book are packaged in a light, heavily-laminated cardboard kit, with a plastic insert that holds the cards and book precisely. The book has glossy white printed pages and is 64-pages in length. It seems like it could have been much longer, as I was a little confused by the somewhat random information provided about dragons at the front of the book. I discovered later that the author’s website mentions that this was due to space constraints and has both a much fuller introduction to the concept for the deck, and a more detailed explanation of Tarot’s origins than is provided in the book.

The section of meanings for the major arcana has a large image of the card upright and small reversed image, four or five keywords that sum up the card, an outline of the card in general and the symbols used in this deck, then an upright and reversed meaning. The minor meanings have just the upright and reversed interpretations and a small, upright card image. Both sets of meanings are of the divinatory or fortune-telling kind, focusing on practical advice and help with decision-making.

I was initially a little disappointed by the numbered suit cards, but the major arcana, ace card and court cards of the Dragon Tarot are attractive and detailed cards of dragon fantasy. Overall, the deck worked for me in readings as a straight-forward divinatory deck (in conjunction with the companion book, as I’m not practiced with pip cards). I’d probably recommend it most for dragon fans who also prefer to use European-style decks.