Spiral Tarot Review
It had been at least twenty years since I’d looked at a Tarot deck when one day a friend of mine gave me a beautiful present. It was a black velvet bag adorned with blood red garnets, Austrian crystals, and jet. Tucked inside this beautiful bag I found a boxed deck by Kay Steventon, the Spiral Tarot.
The author was inspired by her Irish grandmother who read playing cards. It was Kay’s grandmother who instilled in her as a child that life is like the ancient symbol of the spiral. Each cycle runs its course and then a new cycle begins again but this time with a little more wisdom.
Because the only deck I was familiar with at that time was the Rider-Waite, by comparison I found the dark, rich tapestry of colors in the major arcana powerful and compelling. The Fool is represented by young Perceval captivated by his vision of a jeweled Holy Grail. The majors unfold from there incorporating mythological images from the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Arthurian, Celtic and Kabbalistic traditions. Corresponding Hebrew letters appear on all of the majors, and many of them also contain corresponding astrological symbols.
Examples of the departures from more traditional images that I found most interesting were the Three Fates spinning the Wheel of Fortune. Hecate, the black witch of the crossroads and symbol of psychosis joining the Goddess Demeter and the Moon Goddess, Artemis, in The Moon. Rather than a child on a white pony, the Sun God Helios in a chariot reddens the sky to meet the Goddess Eos in The Sun card.
There is, of course, a little booklet which is enclosed in the box. It gives a brief description of the card followed by its divinatory meaning and beyond that is minimally helpful. However, Kay Steventon published a book to accompany this deck, which is extremely informative particularly relative to the major arcana. In this section, a black and white image of the card appears followed by key words, the myth behind the imagery, and its divinatory meaning.
The Court Cards are not only clear representatives of their suit in terms of their assigned elements, new and creative symbols add interest to their imagery as well. A youthful dragon appears on the Princess of Wands. The royalty of swords appear to reside in a sea of turbulent cloud formations. The cups are graced with sea horses, dolphins, and a toad! In the text, these personalities are related to their corresponding astrological signs; and the artist, who is also Kay Steventon, clearly portrays these personality-types in the faces of her court cards.
With the exception of the Aces, which refer back to the court cards in design, the minors are depicted as characters from the Victorian era. Many of these cards liken themselves to the images familiar to us from the Rider-Waite deck; but, like the majors, there are some interesting and refreshing departures. One of my favorites in the Three of Swords. In it, a woman dressed in a dark cape and hat clutches a red rose to her heart. The streets are wet with rain, and the shadowy figure of a man is seen walking, almost running, away from her. Another favorite is the Nine of Cups in which a Victorian woman dressed for a party sits gleefully on a cloud – “Cloud Nine,” of course!
In the text, the minor arcana is related to the first ten cards of the major arcana, and there is also a brief explanation of the numerology given for each number. Unlike most decks, all the minors are labeled with their number and suit at the bottom of each card. I found that this makes it very easy to sort out the minors quickly when necessary.
The text also provides a section on spreads, an outline of the Fool’s journey, and a fascinating accounting of cross-cultural mythology and their penetrating psychological insights.
Kay Steventon has combined her diploma of fine art and her serious study of astrology and mythology into a Tarot deck that is not only a visual treat, but which is also rich in symbolism and detailed story-telling.
Although your Spiral Tarot deck will not come in a black velvet bag adorned with red garnet, Austrian crystal, and jet, what comes in the box with the minimally- helpful booklet will be a present to yourself and a worthwhile investment for any student of Tarot or collector.