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Connolly Tarot Review
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Connolly Tarot Review

connolly tarotI must admit to having dreaded writing a review for this deck as anyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I am an absolute Connolly devotee. I really love this deck – it was my first tarot deck and I am very grateful for having had the chance to use it.

The Connolly deck is of course, a Rider-Waite clone and for me has far more appeal than the original Rider-Waite will ever have. It is far more colourful, I find the artwork beautiful, it’s reader friendly, and has the air of dragging the traditional Rider-Waite into the here and now – even though the cards were designed in the late Eighties and the card settings are definitely not C21st.

Needless to say the Minor Arcana suits are swords, wands, cups and pentacles. The order of the Rider-Waite Major Arcana remains untouched apart from the two most publicly misinterpreted cards (Death and The Devil) which we find here as Transition and Materialism. In this sense the deck is excellent for face-to-face readings, as all the potential negativity is removed. In fact, it is excellent for any type of public reading as it eliminates all the risk of the client’s thoughts of “Oh my God, I’ve drawn the Death card” (as I’m sure many of you will have experienced over time!).

The artwork is easy on the eye and spreads are not under threat of being swamped by one colour (as with the Gendron tarot deck, for example). I usually find cherubs and the like horribly sickly, but this deck manages to pull it off with style. It is both traditional and yet modern, clean and detailed, ‘pretty’ and practical. I am very surprised that it has not overtaken the Rider-Waite and 1JJ decks as the first choice for beginners.

The book is admittedly not the best starting point, particularly for interpretations of Minor Arcana cards, but the Celtic Cross spread here makes a lot more sense in my eyes than others I have seen. Strangely enough, the slightly odd definitions for the Minor Arcana helped me in the most bizarre way when I started learning, but then that can probably be put down to fate – the Queen of Swords and Queen of Pentacles actually look like people I know personally and I believe that they fit the personalities given for those cards (the latter is blonde, which also makes a nice change). I’m beginning to think that this deck was simply produced for me!

These cards have depth, sense, simplicity and are suitable for any level of tarot reader. I love them dearly and this is highlighted by the fact that this is the only deck I possess in which the edges have become rather dirty. I’d advise you all to go out and buy it. I should also mention the fact that the backs are grey marble (for those of you that like to know these things).

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Melissa Martinez

This deck is one of the prettiest of the numerous Waite-Smith-like decks. It is also one of this reviewer’s favorite decks. It is a perfect deck to use when introducing a the Tarot to someone who is unfamiliar with it and might be put-off or even frightened by the images in the RWS or Crowley decks. With images that have vibrant, richly saturated colors, this is very pleasing deck. While the Connolly deck shows its obvioius RWS roots, it also displays some significant differences. The Devil is replaced by “Materialism”. The card depicts a male figure, suspeneded in mid-air, who has one hand chained to a large pentacle, the other chained to a cup, one ankle chained to a wand and the other to a sword. A female figure looks on from behind a rainbow. To this reviewer this card depicts the true meaning of Trump XV better than any other.

Trump XX, Judgement is also a departure from RWS. It shows no kind of resurrection scene, neither Christian nor Pagan. It depicts a knight with his helmet off, holding a wand and contemplating both his sword and an open book. A woman and baby are walking away behind him, but looking back over their shoulders at him. A very different and thought provoking change to Judgement.

The Star is another card with big differences, and one that this reviewer is still after more than a year, not certain she likes. In a departure from almost every other deck, Trump XVII depicts a male figure.

Redeeming this is this reviewer’s all-time favorite version of Trump VII, The Chariot. It dipicts a Roman charioteer in full legionary armour. This classical scholar was impressed with the accuracy and attention to detail in the depiction of the armour, every detail of the lorica segmentata is perfect.

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Maddie

For the most part, The Connolly Tarot Deck is a Rider-Waite clone. As a matter of fact, in earlier editions of Connolly’s books, Rider-Waite Smith is the deck she used for illustration. In her current deck, the changes she makes are often either arbitrary or confusing.

I have to admit that at least some of what I dislike is purely a matter of taste. For instance, changing the figure on The Star from the traditional female to a male — with the beatific countenance of a 1970’s pop idol wearing a mullet ‘do — seems entirely arbitrary, at best.

The creators of this deck have striven to purge the deck of “unnecessary and negative symbolism.” Towards this end, Trump 15 has been renamed Materialism and bears an image of a young man in robes, looking particularly messiah-like, boogying in chains. Behind him arcs a rainbow. The meaning, according to the booklet, however, remains essentially (and superficially) the same: “The tools of life have been abused… His cup is empty, and the grip on the pentacle appears firm.” I’m really not sure why one would want to get rid of negative symbolism. The Devil in the Rider-Waite Smith deck is shocking, its effect immediate. Not so with Trump 15 in The Connelly Tarot.

Similarly, Trump 13 is no longer Death, it is Transition. The image on the card is neither intuitive nor compelling. A be-mulletted person of indefinite gender gestures towards a horizon. (Yes, the mullet is a very popular hairstyle in this deck!) “His robe is green,” the Little White Book tells us, “representing his foundations and roots. Over his robe he wears the protective and generous cloak of purple. His spiritual master has protected his transition and brought him to the light of beneficial change.” This card does retain some of the original symbolism (the sunrise, the white roses, and a bishop’s miter, although the bishop himself is missing), but if you compare the central figures in this deck’s 13th Trump with those in the Rider-Waite Smith card, you’ll see that Connolly has reduced this Trump to a banality. The figure of Death in Rider-Waite Smith, while at times, perhaps, signifying an actual physical death in readings, at the very least evokes a sense of fear — our natural and understandable fear of death, that final and utter act of transformation, irremediable and unfathomable. It also, however, is linked to concepts present in mystery rites of initiation, and even baptism in the Christian church. In other words, there is a wealth of symbolism in the old card worthy of study and meditation. In the Connolly deck, without Death, much of that richness is lost merely so that, one suspects, the client doesn’t jump when he sees the card.

The Nine and Ten of Swords — you would never guess the difficulty that these cards suggest by looking at their images. The Nine shows a man carrying swords through the snow. That’s it. You don’t see the grief, guilt and despair that this card signifies. Similarly, the Ten shows, simply, a peaceful and attractive woman surrounded by a white aura with five swords on either side of her. Where is the unhappiness? This deck’s persistent use of so-called positive imagery denies the undeniable fact that sometimes life’s ugliness and pain is just that: ugliness and pain. And these are things we should cringe from. Sugar-coating hardship trivializes it.

All that said, I really do rather like the deck’s artwork. The colors are rich and varied, and if you aren’t bothered by the false and unnatural optimism the images pretend at, this could actually be a desirable deck to own and use.

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