deck interview: a second meeting with the Mary-El Tarot

Enter the Mary-El Tarot: Landscapes of the Abyss by Marie White.

This is not my first go-round with this deck. In fact, I first got introduced to it over a year ago. I was entranced by the sweeping landscapes and arresting imagery created by Marie White. My breath caught nearly every other card as I flipped through it; I found myself both wanting to look closer at and away from the detail in the card. Calling it rich and full of depth seems an understatement. It was an incredible experience to just look at the cards. So I was quite saddened to find I wasn't ready for in-depth study with it. I didn't want to admit it, but I had to be honest and so I passed it on as a gift to a dear friend.

Then a hurricane hit all but ensuring that most of my decks were likely under flood water, some Amazon credit, a wonderfully discounted price (~$20 bucks) , and a penchant for retail therapy had me same-day shipping this lovely creation to me.

So here we are, together again and I can't for the life of me figure out what about it made me so uneasy. It's got its strange moments to be sure, and it certainly pulls no punches, but I can't stop looking at the cards and reading the treasure trove that is its accompanying guide book. I'm definitely keeping it this time (and probably updating my initial review of it).

Deck Interview with the Mary-El Tarot


Ugh. So gorgeous, I mean really just look at it. And a promising start to our relationship and hope for my journey with this deck.

WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT YOU? TEMPERANCE. Unsurprising. This is a deck that somehow manages to have some of the most dramatic art work I've ever seen and still deliver the most straight to the point readings. It's an interesting balance to strike, but it does it with beauty, grace, and a hint of risk (the risk being mine; the risk you take every time you ask a question that matters). It requires an approach that is open to nourishing both my light and shadow, understanding the integration of both these sides of us, not just so we can rely on the binary (there's little that is ever just light or just shadow) but see the benefits of the spectrum of self-created with integration.

WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS? THE MOON. And who knows about that kind of work more than the Moon who thrives in both light and shadow. A deeper tarot journaling practice is already emerging from my first draws with this deck. There's always so much to mine from the symbolism and its connection with my intuition, always so much further to go! It's absolutely natural that this deck should be at its best when I'm excavating my shadow for wisdom, facing my demons, and seeing through illusions of self. This is a deck comfortable in the darkness, moving in and out of it with ease and showing me how to wax and wane in turn. Wonderful.

WHAT ARE YOUR LIMITS? THREE OF CUPS - I can't help but see this as a warning that this isn't going to be a deck wearing rose-colored glasses. Happiness for happiness sake is likely its limit. It thrives under moonlight so the idyllic sunlit landscape in the Three of Cups is naturally challenging. I hate to pigeonhole it but I don't think that this deck would work well when everything is going as it's supposed to and all feels well- or at least it's not a deck that won't shake that reality up and see beneath the veil of shallow contentment. This is the kind of deck you buy in a hurricane.

HOW WILL WE BEST COLLABORATE? JUSTICE - Truth and nothing but the truth. Stark, unabashed, blunt, and served straight up with no chaser. My elders always say about divination, "if you don't want the answer, why even ask?". I hear the voice of my elders in this card. I must come to this deck honestly and know that it will return the same. Which means taking the risk of a question whose answer matters and being ready for the consequence the knowledge of the answer brings. Once you know, now you know. From the guidebook: "It is time to settle down quietly and go within, and to pass the last test which is to know yourself, all of yourself in truth, all of it, good and bad."


TREASURE. KING OF SWORDS - And who else could exemplify that approach to the truth of self and external matter but the King of Swords? Echoing my note about the journal are the (blood inked?) quills forming a slightly macabre crown around and inside their head. The journaling practice is meant to get deeper, is meant to reveal to me that self-truth from Justice and teach me how to walk with the wonderful weight of that new wisdom.

I love how the King of Swords is able to face Maat from Justice confidently. They know what she sees in him, they don't have to hide away from her gaze because they've faced themselves a long time ago. This King has been through it and seen it. After all, what comes from knowing yourself truly on that level is powerful and it is also painful. It leaves a mark; I can only imagine what scars those quills leave when he pulls from them to write and that golden dragon tattooed on his skin. The permanence of knowing, a visual of representation of "well if you don't know, now you know".



I can only hope I allow myself to take on this journey with an open and compassionate heart and spirit. I'm ready now.

The Mary-El is available to purchase from both Amazon and Schiffer books right now. If the cards you've seen so far at all fascinated you, I encourage you to take a chance on it. If you'd like to see more cards check out my some time back deck review of below. I had the same breathless awe even then.