I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of card stock on this deck, as it is self-published. The cards are playing card size, professionally printed with a glossy finish. The cards have a nice black border and the colors are vibrant. The font has a bit of an amateur feel about it and is difficult to read at first glance, but this could actually be considered a plus if border titles tend to distract you. The gorgeous backs are reversible, and just might be my favorite back of any deck I have.
The paintings for the cards were created using watercolors, acrylics and inks. Dana graciously walks us through the creation of the Three of Swords on the Artistic Process page of her website. I really enjoyed seeing the stages of the card from beginning to end. This is something I'd love to see more tarot artists sharing. Not being an artist myself, I am fascinated by the process through which the talent journeys.
The box that the cards came in isn't as well constructed as the deck. The glue on mine came undone within a week, by my only opening it gently twice a day, to extract and rehouse the deck.
The suits in the Tarot of Trees depart from what I am used to. They correspond to the four seasons in the following manner:
Wands - Summer
Cups - Spring
Pentacles - Winter
Though it would have been that much more wonderful to have the seasons match my personal correspondence, one has to realize that everyone has different points of view on the subject, and you can't please everyone. I really don't use the seasonal timing in my readings anyway, so it doesn't make any difference for me as a reader.
While Dana was still in the creating stages of her deck, I had followed her blog eagerly to watch the progress of the cards. I was instantly attracted to the style of her drawing. I loved the whimsical, spiral lines. I was drawn to the watercolors in purples and pinks, and impressed by how she seemed to manage to express the essence of each card without using humans or animals.
One of my favorites is the Knight of Wands, because the tree almost seems human as it grows in the middle of a path. It looks as though it is crossing the road, its adventurous spirit not being tied down by roots. The Queen of Pentacles shows a tree bent over so its branches are touching the snowy ground. There is snow falling on the top of the canopy it has created, while underneath, safe from the cold of the falling snow is a pentacle. This nurturing queen has literally bent over backward in hospitality and care taking.
The Seven of Wands shows a scene of houses dotted here and there while seven trees stand tall in the distance, between two mountains. They are holding their ground, defending their territory as the threat of new housing development is insinuated. The Lovers card shows two intertwined trees, their bottom branches creating a heart in the space between the two.
There are a few cards that require a stretch of the imagination to make them fit the RWS meaning, if at all. For example, the Seven of Swords shows a windy autumn day with seven swords in a row stuck in the ground. I don't get any real "Seven of Swords-y" feeling from looking at this card. There are a few others like this, which when they come up, I will either have to just read them by the title alone, or forget the RWS meaning and create my own meaning based on what I see. Fortunately, there are only a small handful of these cards, as the majority of the cards are very easily understood at first sight.
I am especially impressed by the way the branches have been used in such a natural manner. Rather than making them arm-like, which would have been disappointing, they look like actual trees. If they are holding an object such as a cup, sword or pentacle, the branches are wrapped around them in a natural way. This was one of the most pleasing aspects of the deck for me, that the trees have not been anthropomorphized. They are more truthful and believable this way.
Another thing that was a refreshing plus in my book is the lack of religious symbolism. This deck frees you to read the cards as you see them, and not limiting your view of cards such as the Hierophant.
How it Reads
Ah... so now we get to the real question. Sure, the cards are pretty, but how does a deck read that has no humans in it? Can a deck full of nothing but trees be considered a working tarot deck? The answer is yes, the Tarot of Trees is definitely a reading deck. It's amazing how expressive the trees are, and how much character they have, considering they have no eyes, facial features or body parts with which to express themselves. Dana has done an amazing job of using color, wind, scenery and especially tree branches to illustrate the meaning of each card.
When doing a reading, as soon as I lay down the cards, I see a fluid scene. I see movement in the cards, I feel the temperature changes between them. In fact, not having human expression in the deck actually allows for a wider variety of interpretations.
The conflict in the tangled trees of the Five of Wands is felt immediately. The tree cut down in the Death card illustrates perfectly the finality of that situation, and the trunk so close to the stump, at the point where it was severed shows the rawness and longing for what was. The Knight of Wands so obviously depicts the feeling of doing something risky, doing something that maybe others said couldn't be done. The Four of Swords is a tree whose trunk has veered to the side (horizontally), to take a brief rest on four swords sticking up in the ground before continuing its growth upward.
These are just a few examples of how expressive the cards can be, and how they are easily interpreted as human emotions and situations.
The Tarot of Trees book can be purchased together with the deck, or separately. You can see a preview PDF of the accompanying book here (which looks lovely!) The artist also offers a variety of accessories such as hand painted deck boxes, silk tarot wraps, incense tins and the original paintings used for the deck (while supplies last).
I knew when I first saw images of this deck online that I was attracted to the artwork, but I wouldn't know how it read until I used it for myself. Now that I have, I am very happy to discover that it reads so openly and freely. Another plus is that it is a completely non-threatening deck for any sitter. There are no scary images, no religion thrown in your face, and obviously no nudity in question. This is a deck that can be used to read for people of all ages and walks of life.
The Tarot of Trees is a beautiful, workable deck that has been very thoughtfully created. The production quality of the cards is stellar, and they are easy to shuffle. Dana Driscoll's self-published contribution to the tarot world with this deck is one that I hope will be supported and celebrated by the tarot community.
See below for 12 more images.
Suits: Cups, Wands, Swords, Pentacles
Court Titles: Page, Knight, Queen, King
Justice/Strength: Strength 8, Justice 11
Card Size: 2.5" x 3.5"
Card stock: Glossy
Artist: Dana Driscoll
Publisher: Artistic Journeys
To purchase this deck, visit the artist's website: Tarot of Trees.
Deck: Tarot of Trees (by Dana Driscoll, published by Artistic Journeys).
This deck review was originally published on my previous blog (Tarot Dame) on 11/28/09.