The Mary-El Tarot

The Mary-El Tarot

Author: Marie White
Artist: Marie White
Schiffer Books
ISBN #978-0-7643-4061-1

I am one of the legion of people that have followed the progress of this deck from day one (that would be day one, ten years ago!). I am incredibly excited to now have it in my hands, and to be able to work with it. The cards were painted in oils, and maintain the traditional structure of the 22 Major Arcana (with traditional titles), and the four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks), with the Court cards entitled King, Queen, Knight and Page. Justice is VIII, Strength is XI. Schiffer includes two extra cards with each deck – one card includes information about Schiffer, while the other card includes other Schiffer titles being offered. I feel very blessed that my book, “Tarot, Birth Cards, and You” was listed on this card, along with Jeanne Fiorini’s “Tarot Spreads and Layouts”. Some days life is just good to us!

In the 192 page companion book – “Landscapes of the Abys”, White begins with the thought that art is the language of the soul. This has never been more evident than in this deck! Part of White’s intentions with this book are to reveal the glorious paths that run through the iconography, the history, and the innovations in the Tarot. She speaks of the Major Arcana as originating in the Middle Ages, in one of the most artistically creative times in all of humanity. That it is a universal key that can be used to write the powerful name of every single thing, including God. The Minor Arcana are seen as the poetry written with the alphabet of the Major Arcana, and are seen to be every bit as important. White sees a perfect symmetry between the two – one representing the world of spirit, the other the corporeal world.

On one level, White sees the Minor Arcana as representing the different aspects of body and soul, and the journey to be one of developing the different aspects of self. In the end, White sees Tarot as a reflection of our own soul, which, in turn, is a reflection of thw wisdom of the universe.

From the book: “The Landscape of the Abys”is the landscape of the Moon, of the High Priestess, it is the geometry of the temple, it is the shape of the tree of life, the Merkabah, the caduceus! It is the doorway between heaven and earth, between microcosm and macrocosm, between the world of eternity and infinity. It is the horizon in all ways.

The Abys is the world of life and death we jump into as the fool so we can experience all of this glorious beautiful life.

There is quite an interesting section on the history of the Tarot, including the following:

Mr. Emperor, we must dance!

Oh Death, your horrible figure
changes for me all my nature.
I was mighty and rich,
The highest in power without peer.
Kings, princes and lords
had to bow for me and honour me.
Now you come, you horrible form,
to make me food for worms.

Death answers:
You were chosen, will you realize that,
to protect and preserve
the holy churches of Christianity
with the sword of justice.
But haughtiness has blinded you,
you have not recognized yourself.
My arrival was not on your mind.

From Lubeck, 1463, St. Mary’s Church in Lubeck, Germany, by artist Bernt Notke.

At the end of the introduction are two charts: one delineating the Major Arcana, and one delineating the Minor Arcana. Following this is a note on the foundation for the “Mary-El Tarot” – that it is built on the three pillars of the Marseille, Rider-Waite and Thoth decks, with deep respect for their wisdom and tradition, as well as the evolving iconography that reflects the inner truth that we all carry.

The cards are presented with black and white scans, a discussion of the card, and the imagery used, upright and reversed keywords, and traditional divinatory meanings. Short quotes are used throughout the book, many from one of my favorite people, Joseph Campbell.

Spreads present include a two card Daily Reading spread, a three card Advice spread, a seven card Relationship spread, a three card Yes or No spread, a five card Past Life spread, and the ten card Tetractys spread. At the end of the book is a bibliography – in the case of this book, an invaluable resource!

The cards and book come in a medium size lift top box (6” by 11 ¾”) with the trademark Schiffer magnetic close lid. I love this – the box can be inadvertently knocked over (I have three cats!), and the cards are snug in their little home! The background for the box is black, with a red mythical looking bird across the top, followed by the deck name (in red lettering) and the artist (in white lettering). The sides of the box contain deck information and small images, while the back talks about the theme of the deck, “the Alchemy of the Soul”. The back cover for the companion book is black, with only the ISBN information. The front cover is black, with the deck name in red lettering, the name of the companion book, and the artist’s name, in white lettering, in the middle of the cover we see two intertwined ouroboros (the snake holding its tail in its mouth).

The cards are 3 3/8” by 5 ½”, with a reversible back (black, with two entwined ouroboros in the middle). The card face carries a ½” black border. For the Major Arcana, the card number (in Roman numerals) and the card name are in gold at the bottom of the card. The Minor Arcana Pips (numbered cards) show the card number and suit at the bottom of the card in gold lettering, while the Court cards show the card title and suit at the bottom of the card, in gold lettering.

The colors in the cards (done as oil paintings) are magical! The symbolism is non-traditional, but entirely representative of the energy of the card. While perhaps this deck could not be used for class use (where the deck of choice is generally the Rider-Waite), it could be used to learn the Tarot by studying the LWB (Little White Book, Companion Book). The research behind this deck is phenomenal! My advise – go buy every single book in the bibliography! Now!

Death – a card that is generally not on anyone’s list of favorite cards, IS a favorite of mine in this deck. I look at it, and I feel calm, peaceful, and in a very good place. White calls Death Tarot’s “memento mori”, that it is there to remind us that we are mortal, and to liv e a good life, to the fullest, because one day we will die.The imagery shows Morta the Crone, the cutter of the thread of life, giving our soul liberation. The threads of water are her radiating hair, while the flower is a traditional memento mori symbol, as flowers bloom only for a short time.

The Magician stands between the primordial mother, hidden beneath the surface of the water, and the primordial father, with his sun and infinite lemniscate. The two trees are the doorway between the spiritual and the corporeal world, and the Magician, cloaked in the brown of earth, is handing us a Metatron’s Cube (or a Phoenix’s egg). The dark of the abyss shows in that under the Magician’s cloak we only see black – there are no facial features.

The Fool carries a bag that contains himself – all that he is. He is a living Tree of Life, the beginning and the end. The image is a universal key, with all of the elements of creation. The dragons are the twin serpents held by the Sumerian God Enki. The butterflies are symbols of transformation.

In the 2 of Swords is creation through word, the space between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang. White notes that nothing is solid in this card – what we see is a combination of swords, wings, and locust.

The Knight of Wands draws you in immediately – he is the Dark Knight of transformation and transmutation. It was interesting to note that while I immediately saw this as a black bear, it was originally meant to be a Black Panther. Needless to say, it evolved into a somewhat ambiguous figure with glowing eyes, carrying a lightening bolt. This Knight searches for light, power, and energy, and absorbs them.

The Three of Wands is a card that I hesitated for a moment to include here. I am entirely drawn to it, but it does carry a definite level of energy. White notes that it is the third pillar in the Tree of Life (the pillar of Mildness, which reconciles the pillars of mercy and severity. It is the Kundalini, the serpent coming up from the base of the spine. Here we see quite literally the snake moving up to the eye.

The 8 of Cups shows the lion skin of Hercules draped over a young and innocent child, symbolizing that strength is due to an open heart, and a lack ofbitterness. The 8 of Cups acts a s a mirror with the outside world reflecting the inside world.

The 3 of Disks is the journey of the soul into flesh. What we see are a mother, father, and child, all covered in layers of gold fabric (gold carrying the symbolism of having been brought up from the dark reaches of the earth).

I found this deck to be very easy to read with , containing many layers of meaning. I love the symbols, and the esoteric quality. Aside from use as a primary reading deck, this deck could be used in comparative reading, or for journey, meditation or ritual work. I highly recommend it!

© February 2012 Bonnie Cehovet

30 comments on “The Mary-El Tarot

  1. OMG! What a beauty!!! A must have! And another wonderful review by you!

  2. Lena –

    Happy to see someone else as excited about this deck as I am! 🙂


  3. stardreamer says:

    Heart stoppingly gorgeous deck and a wonderful review! Thank you!

  4. Tierney says:

    Bonnie, I’m so jealous you have this in your hands. I can’t wait to see it. The cards you chose to highlight are gorgeous.

  5. Stardreamer – Thank you for the kind words! It is a gorgeous deck!

    Tierney – Don’t be jealous – approach the publishing houses for review copies! 😉 Every card in this deck is gorgeous!


  6. mystereum says:

    Reblogged this on The Land of Mystereum and commented:
    The long-awaited “Marey-El Tarot” by Marie White is now available! Read Bonnie Cehovet’s review to whet your whist-El!

  7. […] The Mary-El Tarot ( […]

  8. pnagy1231 says:

    Wonderful review of a major deck. I look forward to seeing a copy soon!

  9. Paul –

    You will adore this deck! I look forward to reading your review on it! 🙂


  10. Jet Aluna says:

    I’m so jealous you have yours already, Bonnie! Beautiful review…

  11. Jet Aluna –

    I am very lucky, as it is a review copy. Thank you for the kind words on my review! It is a stunning deck, and companion book. 🙂


  12. Anonymous says:

    Hi Bonnie
    Your review, as always, is just excellent. I had promised myself that I was not going to buy another Tarot Deck as my “collection” has grown to exceed shelf space, however, I just might have to break that promise to myself 🙂 You are such a treasure and resource for the Tarot Community. Thank you! I hope to see you at RS12.

  13. Garnet –

    You will not chastise yourself for breaking your promise! This deck will be right at home with your other decks – and looks to be a stunning deck for ritual work! No RS this year, but I am sure that we will meet up again at some point in time! 🙂 Thank you for the kind words!


  14. […] “Mary-El Tarot”, from Marie White (Schiffer Books, 2012). The link to my review is here – This is a traditional 78 card deck, with non-traditional imagery and a Qabbalistic foundation. It […]

  15. manxwytch says:

    Mary thank you for creating not only a fantastic tarot deck but an inspiring collection of visual poetry.

  16. manxwytch says:

    Bonnie, her art is an inspiration.

  17. Manxwytch –

    I agree – both Marie’s art and words are awesome!


  18. Manxwytch –

    I very much think that Marie is an inspiration! 🙂


  19. Reblogged this on moderndayruth and commented:
    Bonnie Cehovet is my all time favorite reviewer and here is what she has to say about Mary-El Tarot… I can only add that to me personally the artwork is magickally beautiful and of genius execution too. I was flabbergasted to hear from the deck’s creator, my online friend Marie White, that she encountered harsh criticism at a certain once-cool Tarot forum… I have no words, really, i still don’t want to believe some members of a Tarot community can be downright mean and jealous at other’s success… Meh. But, as i posted elsewhere, let those haters eat their hearts out – and let us enjoy Marie’s amazing artwork!

  20. jema says:

    Reblogged this on jema and commented:
    Wonderful review of an amazing deck that I hope to hold in my hands – tomorrow!

  21. stardreamer says:

    Reblogged this on Stardreamer Stararts & Tarot and commented:
    The Mary-El Tarot holds a special place in my heart. Just looking at the images has changed me. It truly is indescribable but Bonnie Cehovet has done an amazing job at doing just that, so I have decided to share her post here on my blog.

  22. Mi-Shell says:

    I soooo hope that my deck will arrive soon.
    for now all I can do is enjoy all your words of praise!

  23. Mi-Shell –

    Hoping that your deck gets there soon! 🙂


  24. James Joss says:

    Really love the look of this deck and need to get it in stock soon! That death card is magnificent

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