Victoria Regina Tarot Review
Victoria Regina Tarot by Sarah Ovenall
Submitted by: Julia Auger
If Victoriana is your thing, you will love this deck. The designer, Sarah Ovenall says her major goals in creating the deck were to provide a new way of thinking about nineteenth century England, to present new insights into what the cards might be saying and then to connect the two. To do so she combined original engravings from various commercial sources-which she is always careful to identify-to create a black-and-white collage deck. It works and it doesn’t work.
The Minor Arcana cards focus on specific historical moments or cultural trends of Victorian England, yet many of their meanings are not that different from those of other decks. The name changes of the suits seem a bit contrived to me. Wands become pens, and the accompanying book by George Patterson and Sarah Ovenall explains that this was chosen because it was, indeed, in the nineteenth century that the steel pen was mass produced. The use of guns for the suit of swords is selected because they represent the “power” of the industrial age. Cups are represented by Mason jars, invented in 1850. Coins are represented as clocks or pocket watches, because their intricate design and manufacture demonstrated wealth and stability, yet they also began to be available to the common man during Victoria’s era. Sometimes these various Minor Arcana symbols are cleverly interwoven into the scene, and sometimes they seem simply overlaid on the card, but then, so do the pentacles in many of the Rider-Waite-Smith cards (notably the Six, Seven, Nine and Ten cards of the suit.), so the designer is in good company here.
Each court card features a well-known historical figure from the late Victorian era whose life presumably illustrates the meaning of the card. They are one of the most interesting aspects of the deck because their “interpretation” is, in fact, a little story about the person portrayed. Each court card takes it’s meaning from that person’s story, so these are often not your usual definitions of court cards. I think they serve two purposes: they sometimes introduce you to little-known facts about an actual person and, in connecting that person with the card, cause you to rethink what the court cards-which are often the hardest for tarot readers to understand-might mean in other decks, as well. This is one of the major values of the deck, i.e., that it can startle you out of your usual understanding of the card even though many definitions are fairly conventional.
Scenes on some of the Major Arcana cards may likewise startle you. For instance, on The Chariot card, a woman drives a tricycle through a busy London street, unconcerned by the chaos around her. She has a serene bearing and direct gaze. Although the meaning of the card deals with focus on control and taking action to achieve your goals, once you have considered, and remembered, this card you will never look at The Chariot card in any other deck in quite the same way. In the back of your mind will always be the serene “tricycle lady.”
To more fully understand the deck, I drew two cards a Major and Minor Arcana. For the Major card, I asked what was the major principle the deck would like me to convey to potential readers. I drew Justice card (No. 11), which the book describes as a Valkyrie holding a gun aloft in her right hand and her set of scales in her lowered left hand. The book says that when we draw this card we are being called upon to weigh our decisions, the various possibilities available, and be guided by our sense of rightness and truth.
Justice is a particularly important card for me to work with this year, so perhaps the message was a personal one for me, yet I think the deck also says that when you use the Victoria Regina Tarot it will remind you, as tarot author Hajo Banzhaf says, that all life is an echo. Consider how the principles of the past-and possibly outdated but beloved values-still influence. To the left of the Valkyrie a young woman clutches a dagger, while to her right, and old woman sits writing. Is this a visual pun? Write/right. No matter, the image clearly shows that this is also a card of the triple goddess, which, while it may be implied in other decks, is not so obvious. We know immediately Justice is intimately connected with The High Priestess, The Empress and The Moon cards, even though the book does not make this connection. Surely it is no coincidence that fairly sexy women are contained on those other cards. Is the Valkyrie their protector, their aggressive aspect, so that they can otherwise be seductive?
In drawing the Minor card, I asked the type of readings to which the deck would best be suited (it’s practical purpose), and drew the Six of Swords. The scene is that of a man bundled against the cold, holding a rifle. Five other rifles stand in the prow of his boat, which floats in front of large icebergs. This is defined as a card of voyaging rather than aimless wandering, which suggests that if you can warm your heart to this deck, it wants to be used as a vehicle for a different kind of trip through the tarot world. Will you go bundled up and protected or will you travel lightheartedly?
The Victoria Regina Tarot comes as a book/deck set (ISBN 1-56718-531-2) published by Llewellyn Worldwide. The set also contains a velvet bag lined in indigo satin to hold the deck.