Aug 29, 2016

Tarot Deck Review: Brotherhood of Light Egyptian Tarot

The Brotherhood of Light Egyptian Tarot was designed to be a companion deck to the book, The Sacred Tarot, by C.C. Zain, which explores the relationships between the Tarot, the kabbala, astrology, and numerology. The deck was originally designed by Gloria Beresford and published in 1936 as a black and white deck. It has recently been redesigned by Vicki Brewer as a full-color deck.

The Cards
The cards measure 2 1/2" x 4 1/4" and feature reversible backs. There are symbols in each corner of the card, including the card number, astrological/zodiac/planetary symbols, suit symbols, and some other symbols that I don't recognize (and don't see mentioned in the LWB) along with what looks like Hebrew letters/characters. The cards are also meaningfully color coded.

The system used for this deck corresponds the twelve zodiac signs and thirty-six ultra zodiacal decante constellations to the Major and Minor Arcana. Constellations are woven into the cards themselves. The Majors feature Egyptian scenes, while the Minors are pips, meaning that they are not scenic illustrations. Normally I'm turned off by this, because I prefer to read cards that have scenes on them, but the Minors in this deck have meanings that differ greatly from the RWS meanings I'm used to, so I had to look up the meanings anyway.

The Majors hold the same basic meanings as the RWS interpretations (albeit it with additional musings), but the Minors are very different. For example, the Five of Coins, which in RWS style illustrates a couple of people down on their luck, both health-wise and financially, the same card in this deck augurs abundant wealth! In fact, all the Fives are covered by the planet Jupiter, so they all depict good fortune of some sort. It was neat for me to actually smile when Fives would appear in a reading!

One of the things I really love about the method used with this deck is how the Horsemen are portrayed. The Horsemen are placed in the deck where we usually see Knights. However, they play an interesting role in the deck:
"The Horsemen do not represent people, but denote thoughts or unseen intelligences. In divination they are read as thoughts or intelligences that have an influence upon the life of the client. The one who thinks the thoughts is indicated by the Court Card nearest to the Horseman in the spread."
How cool is that? I'm considering the possibility of incorporating this method into my other deck readings.

The system used in this deck make reading the Court Cards precise. For example: "The Queen of Cups signifies a person ruled by the sign of Scorpio: active, selfish, proud, resentful, reserved and thoughtful. Right way up, it denotes a Scorpio woman; reversed it indicates a Scorpio man. The dominant idea is I DESIRE." And likewise, a King can be viewed as a woman, if reversed. Reversals with the other cards in the deck are akin to a planet receiving a bad aspect, which, depending on the card, may be more or less unfortunate than right side up.

How it Reads
Surprisingly, even though the Minors required me to refer to the LWB, the readings were accurate. One day I drew the Ace of Cups (a letter from a loved one) and the Eight of Scepters (a political appointment) and I had just received an email from a dear friend referring to who will win the Congress seats in November! It's probably the only email I've ever received regarding politics, and the cards nailed it, which was quite amazing to me.

I didn't expect the deck to read as well as it does, considering I have to look up the meanings for most cards. So even if one is not yet familiar with the method used for the Minors, it doesn't mean accurate readings can't be given, provided you aren't too inconvenienced or proud to refer to the LWB.

The Little White Book is 48 pages. It begins with an introduction to the deck and information about the cards' back design. The Major Arcana are each given a keyword or two, along with interpretations for the Spiritual, Intellectual and Physical meanings. This is followed by a sort of old world, sometimes enigmatic, message. Example:
Arcanum VI: The Two Paths

In Divination, Arcanum VI may briefly be interpreted as Temptation.
  • Arcanum VI expresses in the spiritual world, the knowledge of good and evil.
  • In the intellectual world, the balance between liberty and necessity.
  • In the physical world, the antagonism of natural forces, the linking of cause and effect.
Remember, then, son of earth, that for the common man, the allurement of vice has a greater fascination than the austere beauty of virtue. If The Two Paths should appear in the prophetic signs of thy horoscope, take care of thy resolutions. Obstacles bar before thee the path thou wouldst pursue, contrary chances hover over thee, and thy will wavers between two resolutions. Indecision is, above all else, worse than a bad choice. Advance or recede, but do not hesitate; and know that a chain of flowers is more difficult to break than a chain of iron.
(We, the readers, are always referred to in these interpretations as "son of earth", by the way.)

The Minors are arranged in the book by numbers: all Twos together, all Threes together, etc. There is a paragraph describing the celestial correspondence with each number, along with the various areas of influence the number covers. Then each card is given a simple divinatory and inner interpretation. Example:

Jupiter, in astrology, is the general significator of good fortune. Therefore the Fives in their more common divinatory significance must relate to good luck in the particular department of life signified by the suit. But in their application to higher planes, they reveal the influence of, and can be interpreted by, the fifth decante of each zodiacal triplicity, starting with the movable signs.

The divinatory significance of the Five of Scepters is good fortune in business; its inner interpretation is REFORMATION.

The divinatory significance of the Five of Swords is escape from a danger; its inner interpretation is STRUGGLE.

The divinatory significance of the Five of Coins is abundant wealth; its inner interpretation is INSPIRATION.

The divinatory significance of the Five of Cups is good fortune in love; its inner interpretation is RESPONSIBILITY.
The LWB ends with several pages of instructions on interpreting the cards, a paragraph on reversed cards, and two spreads (a 5-card "Yes or No" spread, and a 7-card "Magic Seven" spread).

Final Thoughts
I was honestly surprised that I received good readings out of this deck, simply because I had dismissed it at first as "another Egyptian deck" that I (personally) wouldn't relate with or understand. Not being interested in Egyptian decks, I didn't think I would get anything useful out of this deck, and I'm glad to say I was wrong.

I will probably not use the deck much at the moment, not because it's not a good reading deck, but because I don't have the time to learn a new method of reading, and memorizing the alternative meanings for the Minors. And I'm not too keen on having to refer to the LWB for every reading. I'm not that patient. But I can definitely see the benefit of learning this interesting system sometime in the future when I have more time to devote to it.

Overall, I was unexpectedly impressed with this deck, and that's saying a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed the surprises I would get when I'd flip to the book and read such accurate descriptions of what I had asked the cards about. And I absolutely love the role the Horsemen play in the deck.

I would definitely recommend this deck to anyone who isn't afraid to learn a new system, or refer to the LWB for readings. If you do have the time and interest in learning the method, I assume the book (The Sacred Tarot) would be a wise accompanying investment (though I haven't read it, so I can't comment on its contents).

See below for more images.

Suits: Cups, Scepters, Swords, Coins
Court Titles: Youth (Jack), Horseman, Queen, King
Justice/Strength: Justice 8, Strength 11
Cards: 78
Card Size: 2 1/2" x 4 1/4"
Backs: Reversible
Deck-specific LWB: Yes
Publisher: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Deck: Brotherhood of Light Egyptian Tarot (by The Church of Light, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

This deck review was originally published on my previous blog (Tarot Dame) on 6/16/10.