I’ve never been gifted a Tarot deck before. That is until Tarot deck creator, D.W. Prudence contacted me with an offer to receive The Alchemystic Woodcut Tarot to review. I’d seen Benebell Wen’s review on the deck and became intrigued with the colors, the woodcuts themselves , and the idea of ‘collecting’ this deck seemed a predestined certainty. (It was, in fact, in my Amazon shopping cart waiting for payday in order for me to buy it…how’s that for coincidence?)
FYI….I’m not a Tarot expert (not in the way I consider Benebell an expert) and so I hope that this review from a learners perspective can do right by D.W.
Let me start by saying this first. I love (and I mean LOOOOVE) unusual, unique, eclectic, and stimulating decks and oddly enough I’m in love with woodcuts in general. I remember seeing my first woodcut by Albrecht Durer and wondering how in the world he did that! As a special kind of art form, the woodcut transmits imagery in a way that is simplified and yet detailed all at once. The artist must think in terms of ‘negative space’ much like how Michaelangelo did when he sculpted David. I love the ‘old-ness’ and often times ‘strangeness’ of woodcuts that often depict demons and naked women and skulls…lots and lots of skulls…
While I was waiting for the deck to come, I was looking forward to seeing how the colors of these cards, overlaid on the black and white skeleton of the original woodcut images, would appear in person. I was also excited to get my hands on the companion book to the deck and see what I could learn from D.W. Prudence.
The deck arrived last month, but much to my dismay, I have only just now had the opportunity to sit down and write a review of it. Life circumstances, especially those that hit with full force on and after June 13th’s full moon (which happened to also be my birthday and the start of my new and now ended job), kind of got in the way of me enjoying any relationship with my own cards, let alone getting to know a new deck.
So now I have some time to write what I hope is a decent opinion of this very interesting Tarot deck. Here goes…..
What strikes me about the deck is the intense coloration of each of the suits background and foreground imagery. The colors are hyperchromatic and I believe this is to help to give emphasis to the elements as well as providing an additional layer to the symbolism of the woodcuts themselves.
The Alchemists feature a royal purple background, the Mystics have an indigo blue. The Mages are before an orange background and the Shekinah cards have a blood red background to finish up the Minor Arcana. All of the Major Arcana except the Tower card have a bright emerald green background.
At first glance, I found the images and the intense coloration of the cards difficult to look at. The phosphorescent glow of some of the woodcuts when contrasted to the green and purple and blue backgrounds make some of the imagery harder to see than those with red and orange backgrounds. But then I thought about what the significance of the background colors might have and if color was a unifying factor to the images selected for each ‘suit’ or ‘key’. I couldn’t find anywhere in the guidebook that speaks directly to the use of color for the cards but I was able to find some information on the internet that seems to fit. (D.W…. when you read this please email me so I can clarify this with you).
According to the blog, ASKNOAH.ORG, colors have an association with the various emanations on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life:
The following list shows one traditional Kabbalistic correspondence between the Divine Emanations/Sefirot, and their associated colors, taught by Rabbi Joseph Tzayach (c. 1500 C.E.). This was expounded by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (author of the “Code of Jewish Law”) in his book “Pardes Rimonim“.
The Divine Sefirot and their allegorical colors are as follows:
1. Crown / Keter – A blinding invisible light.
The Sefirot of Intellect:
2. Wisdom / Chokhmah – Includes all colors
3. Understanding / Binah – Yellow and Green
The 7 Sefirot of Emotion:
4. Lovingkindness / Hesed – White and Silver
5. Strength/Judgement/Restraint / Gevurah – Red and Gold
6. Beauty/Mercy / Tiferes – Yellow and Violet
7. Eternity/Victory / Netzakh – Light Pink 
8. Splendor/Humility / Hod – Dark Pink
9. Foundation/Connection / Yesod – Orange 
10. Sovereignty / Malkhus – Blue
Take for example the “Alchemists” suits (equivalent to the suit of cups in RSW/THOTH based Tarot cards). The color violet corresponds to the emotional Sefirot of Tiferes which represents beauty and mercy which is seen in many of the images featured on this suit in the Alchemystic Woodcut Tarot deck. The Major Arcana are primarily yellow and green which is appropriate for the nature of the first 22 cards of the Tarot as their primary purpose is to convey the highest level of Understanding (Binah) to the reader. Most striking, (often shocking and severe) of all the images are found in the suit of Shekinah (Red background) which correlates with Strength, Judgement and Restraint. The Four of Shekinah features the scales weighing what looks like a human heart while the Five of Shekinah show two demons holding a rope that is against a man holding his arms against his chest. The question is are they going to tie him to the tree or have they just freed him?
These are just a few of my initial observations upon examining the cards, and I am even more thrilled to see a beautiful and simple description of the symbolism of the card in the companion booklet. I love that there is a very deep and esoteric Christian meaning to each card in the Minor as well as Major Arcana.
Yes, folks, the underlying theme of each of the 78 cards is undeniably based on a Judeo/Christian context with many of the cards relating to a lesson or teaching found within the Holy Bible. I know that there are some Tarot readers who are immediately turned off by the mention of Jesus, God, Satan or the Bible let alone a Tarot deck steeped in Biblical references. However, this is what I love most about this deck….each explanation of the symbolism and meaning of each card uses Biblical passages to concretize the meaning of that card. AND, I find it easy to remember the meaning of a card when there is a lesson attached to the imagery and the Bible (lets face it) is full of lessons. Certainly for any Christian Tarot reader looking for a deck to answer the “is Tarot Evil” question posed by family or friends (or even random strangers on Facebook), THIS is your go to deck.
The companion booklet is well written, easy to read and rich with references to other writings and authors on the subjects of Alchemy, the Kabbalah, Mysticism, etc..that you could go look up on the internet. (I’m a book-aholic and I have the equivalent of the. Library of Congress of Occult studies in my wee bedroom!)
What I love most about this deck is that it is well suited for anyone interested in a course on Christian Mysticism…each card is a lesson requiring a little bit of concentration and even some homework to understand. I have been pleasantly surprised by the many layers of knowledge gifted to me by the cards and guidebook. The only thing I can say that is at all negative is that I might consider trimming this deck as the gold border takes away from the central image on the card which is rich enough in it’s colouring and symbolism that it really needs very little for a border.
I rate my satisfaction with this deck at a 9.5 out of 10
Many thanks to D.W. for his generous gift and I should add that I’m not being compensated in any other way for giving this review.