Ancestral Path Tarot Review

Ancestral Path Tarot Review

by Julie Cuccia-Watts

The Ancestral Path Tarot is a traditional deck, as it is composed of the standard seventy-eight cards: twenty-two Major Arcana, and the fifty-six Minor Arcana, or pip cards. The suits are the easily recognizable: cups, swords, staves (wands) and sacred circles (pentacles) Like the RWS decks, this one has fully illustrated pips, as opposed to cards with just a set number of cups or swords, etc. on the card.
However, the Ancestral Path is not a Rider Waite Smith (RWS) clone. This is a deck with images from many ancestral traditions: Feudal Japan, pre-contact America, ancient Egypt and Britan of the Arthurian era. Athough the cards are rich with symbols, they are from many different cultures, traditions and religions, and not the more common judeo-christian symbols Western cultures are used to seeing.

Each suit is set in one of those contexts and in a different season of the year. In the suit of swords, we are enjoying springtime in Japan. The cherry blossoms are everywhere. Even in the Three of Swords, you see the blooms of the tree to the right of the samurai warrior as he prepares to ride off and leave his family, bound on some dangerous mission.

In the suit of cups, the world of Arthur comes to life in an autumn setting. You see Morgana as the Princess of Cups, foraging through the full moon lit fall woods at midnight, looking for herbs and roots.

Each card in this suit is a beautifully rendered glimpse into the life and legend of Arthur. The Ten of Cups is Camelot itself, shining and radiant. The Ace of Cups is the grail, or the sacred chalice, if you wish to think of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s telling of the tale.

The staves bring us to and Egyptian summer, hot and dry, the only relief from this heat and dryness is found on the Nile river and inside some of the pyramids. An appealing authentic touch to one of the cards is the Basenji dog sitting next to the beautiful young African woman, who is the Princess of Staves.

Winter is visited in the suit of Sacred Circles with the Menomonee and Winnebago tribes of Wisconsin. What a welcome move to see something of the Woodland tribes, so diferent from the traditonal Plains tribes so familiar in Hollywood movies. The mystical Two of Sacred Circles takes place inside a wigwam as the Shaman works his magic, but many of the scenes are set outside in the snow. The sight of the dome shaped wigwams is esthetically pleasing and helps to keep the sacred circles in mind.

The art throughout the deck is magnificent and rich. It’s hard to pick favorite cards. Certainly the Chariot is striking with its fierce warrior and his chariot drawn by two lions, one golden, one black, a night sky seen behind the charioteer’s swirling red cape.

The Hierophant is very different, featuring three priestesses at a place like Delphi, with the head priestess seated between two pillars, one light, one dark.

Of course, the Empress is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. She wears a gauzy gown and is obviously pregnant.

This is a fabulous deck for doing one card readings. There is so much to see in each card, it’s like watching a well done movie–you keep noticing new details and new subtleties each time ou look.

Certainly there are art decks and decks we buy for their value as collectibles. Although the art here is wonderful and worthy of attention to art deck collectors, it is an easy deck to work with as well.

I’ve seen it rated as a beginner’s deck, but think that is too simplistic. I started reading with a RWS deck while taking a class on how to read Tarot cards, but halfway through the course, I put it away and took out my Ancestral Path. Not all the cards have the same meanings as do the RWS, but the meanings become clear the more you work with the deck.

This has become my number one reading deck and yes! I never leave home without it! It’s been over to Europe three times now and has given comfort and advice to people from many countries, in many languages. The art is what draws people in; the depth and power of the cards is what keeps them coming back for more.

Ancestral Path Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts, US Games Systems, Inc.
ISBN 0-88079-141-1

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