I've desired this deck for a while now, tempered only by the instinct that we weren't ready to connect yet. I love the art style- it reminded me so much of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis I couldn't help but be interested. Add to that, it's named after the gorgons (who I've always thought to be black women with some truly bangin' locs) so how could I resist?
GETTING INTO THE DECK
The deck comes in a sturdy box with magnetic closure. In it the cards fit snugly into their pocket, as does the roughly index-card sized guidebook. It is not the most portable packaging, but it remains a great place to keep the cards protected while I find a pouch large enough to hold them safely.
The cards themselves are HUGE, and I'm not just saying that because I have tiny hands. They are nearly six inches wide in diameter! That being said, I do love a circular deck and I'm perfectly okay with the fact that most circular decks seem to be women (and femme, but more on that later) centered.
The card stock is good and thick, not idly bent, which I am counting on as I want to keep this deck with me for a long time. The cards are very glossy; I worry with glossy decks that the shiny film will start to wear and peel off little by little. Additionally, it makes the deck a little harder to photograph well but I'm learning to ignore that weird gleam that always happens when I take a photo. The gloss also makes the cards stick together at first, but with continued use that's becoming less and less of a problem. Shuffling is a mess. At least the usual shuffling I'm used to. Like I said these cards are huge, and the gloss doesn't make it easier. And again, this deck is very lovely, I'm willing to work past that.
The card's art is illustrated in black and white with rare instances of red, as in The Gorgon (bonus card) and The Devil. I want to wear most of this deck- the prints and patterns are amazing. I am not solid on the actual details of how the art came to be- but it feels like this really cool blend of hand drawn illustration and computer graphics that just draws you in. Normally I would fuss about the thick black border around the art, but I love how Dolores made this work. The font she used for the card titles feels so much a part of the landscape created. Additionally, there's always a bit of the landscape sort of spilling over the border.
The RWS influence is strong in the art but not in any way that makes it dependent on traditional meanings. There's an air of inspiration from decks that played with RWS messaging like the Motherpeace Tarot- which is even credited in the LWB as contributing to card intepretations.
We get the usual Majors and Minors with the usual court card titles (unfortunately). We also get a bonus card, The Blind Gorgon, the heart of the deck. We are to receive this card as a portent. When The Gorgon appears she invites us to dive into an honest evaluation of what we're getting ourselves into. She is not necessarily trying to dissuade us but is more of a reminder to be sure of the choices we are making.
Whether intentional by the creator or not, I find this deck makes it easy to find fuller spectrums of gender and sexuality. As I read with it I can't help but read all the characters as women and femme. Even those referred to with he/him pronouns in the LWB I'm inclined to queer them as intentionally femme-presenting (not that there's any one formula for femme identity).
Would I still have like for the court cards to be renamed? Absolutely. One thing I'm not very attracted to in court card interpretations like in this LWB is the 'motherliness' or 'fatherliness' of a King or Queen (I feel very similarly about The Emperor and The Empress) and that being the way they are related to each other in explanation.
I completely understand why that is often so in this and other decks, but I much prefer reinterpretations that speak to different experiences or places in life cycle (like the Slow Holler Tarot, with Architect and Visionary or the Numinous Tarot, with Mystic and Creator). Especially as Dolores did seem to have a thought for undoing the gender binary in some cards here, ex: the Hanged Man becomes the Hanged One.
Still there's room for transformation even with those interpretations.
In the abstract sense: for example when we mother or father projects, creations, goals...etc
In the definitive sense: if I read everyone in the deck as queer, there is room for some radical parenting of ourselves and other people.
So again, the courts are a quibble but not a deal breaker. I'm just a bit tired of having to work that hard to queer my decks.
I did note when using the deck day after day is that the detail in the art can be overwhelming. It's worth taking the time to parse it all out and notice it bit by bit. I love that these cards require that level of mindfulness. It's not so much about doing a large spread, it's about taking more time than than a cursory glance. The cards tell a good enough story for quick daily readings, but I'm finding that the treasure is revealed when one takes the time.
I recently did a four card spread with these cards that just laid me bare the longer I I studied the cards. I notice the landscapes, prints, animals, stars, flowers, and sometimes the last thing I notice with all of this is the people. There's a story behind each choice Dolores made- or at least it feels that way. It's that storytellers attitude threaded all throughout the art and the LWB that wins me over beyond any quibbles I might have with the deck. It all seems minor in the face of such wise counsel.
While I wouldn't automatically think of this for a beginner in tarot, I see no real reason why one wouldn't be able to begin with this deck. The information in the LWB is sound, and it also provides the keywords one might be more used to when starting out. More experienced intuitive readers will enjoy the humor as well as the symbolism and surprises embedded in every card. Bonus if you're looking for a very high-femme deck. After all we could always use a charming, wise, fashionable, well-traveled, and experienced aunt to take us by the hand or the ear as needed every once in a while.
ETA: You can also preview the entire deck at Dolores' site (thank you Beth for the link!).