deck review: The Wooden Tarot

The Wooden Tarot created by artist A.L. Swartz has been making the buzz rounds around the tarot community. It’s main attractor being the frankly incredible art.

There’s no denying it, the deck is gorgeous, particularly the Major Arcana, which were the artist’s original goal. As such they are the richest images, beautifully conceptualized. They are also very creepy. There’s no denying that. I’m still trying to figure out if I’m okay with keeping a deck that occasionally unnerves me (there’s also something to being unnerved, makes me pay attention).

The artist delights in this: “I like to combine opposites in my work by fusing the beautiful and the grotesque, the living and the dead, and the real and surreal.”

Even the back of the cards- what seems to be a rather traditional triple goddess moon is transformed with the use of an eyeball as the full moon. The cards watch me even as I shuffle.

Speaking of shuffling, when the cards came there was a slight arch to them, a mild curvature that only made itself really known after shuffling when the cards wouldn’t lie flat on each other. I don’t know what caused this, as the package was intact when it got to me with no visible damage. Still, it didn’t make shuffling any harder, in fact these are the easiest deck I’ve shuffled.

The cards are all of slightly different shades, this is because the art was originally painted on wooden boards with different grains. This might bug some, I absolutely love it. The God (Aces) cards are significantly different, a pale grey, and thus look like they might be easy to identify from the front are not distinguishable from the back and thus blind shuffle is maintained. 

The Minor Arcana [Stones (Wands/Fire); Bones (Pentacles/Earth); Blooms (Cups/Water); Plumes (Swords/Air)] have less artistic detail, and are at times disappointingly sparse, especially the Bones suit. The art is still quite stunning though. For the Minor Arcana at least, you will need your own LWB to feel out the meanings of the cards, though there are some markers you can draw out for interpretation.

I’m also unsure as to why Stones should be given to Wands and not Pentacles (though Bones for Pentacles does make sense). Stones aren’t as dynamic as the suit of Wands often is. The Stones are indicated by crystals though, which do have their own sort of dynamic energy, I’ll submit.

I don’t think I’ll be reading with this deck for others for a while. I need time to get acclimated. This is not a deck I would recommend for beginners, though if you’re willing to do the work, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get it. If only for the gorgeous art.

The Wooden Tarot deck is still available via Etsy here. The artist was later inspired to create both an oracle and lenormand deck which should still be available at their shop.