Jane Austen Takes on the Tarot

I first read Pride and Prejudice in 2003, after a massive cryfest after watching the OG version with Colin Firth.

I first read Pride and Prejudice in 2003, after a massive cryfest after watching the OG version with Colin Firth.

It is a truth universally acknowledged… that I am a sucker for all things Austen. 

I am the absolute Jane Austen fan cliché. I have read the books (except for Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, my least favorite ones that I will get to *one day*), I have watched the movies OVER AND OVER AGAIN, I have a detailed plan of my eventual Austen-themed trip to Chatsworth, Bath, and Chawton, and if there was ever an actual Austenland, you can bet I would get a fast pass to it. 

So, it is no surprise that when I saw the Tarot of Jane Austen in Fully Booked three years ago, I snapped it right up. At that time, I was more heavily into Lenormand (a divination system using cards but way different from tarot). I did have a Thoth deck that I couldn't get myself to understand. Then, I spotted the Austen deck and had the perfect reason to get back into tarot.

The court cards according to Sense and Sensibility: Edward Ferrars (Knight of Coins), Lydia Bennett (Maiden of Candlesticks), Elinor Dashwood (Lady of Coins), Colonel Brandon (Lord of Coins)

The court cards according to Sense and Sensibility: Edward Ferrars (Knight of Coins), Lydia Bennett (Maiden of Candlesticks), Elinor Dashwood (Lady of Coins), Colonel Brandon (Lord of Coins)

The deck uses characters, settings and plot twists from Jane Austen's ride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Lady Susan to depict the different themes and archetypes covered by the tarot (based on the Rider-Waite system). If you're unfamiliar with the tarot book but are a regular Austen fan, you won't have any trouble uncovering the card meanings.

On the other hand, if you're unfamiliar with Austen themes but have the tarot memorized, it may be a little harder to figure out the card meanings—it can be difficult to pick out characters and scene depictions when you only have a vague understanding of what takes place in the books.

Suits are painted in a very charming watercolor style. Teacups represent the cups and are swathed in a moody blue. Candlesticks stand for the wands and are in a bold, passionate red. Quills depict the swords and are done in a steely gray. And coins represent the pentacles and are in rich, earthy brown.

The little white book (LWB) is a little helpful and is great for those who know their way around Austen work's because the definitions are brief. But if you really want to get into how the this tarot deck was constructed and how the meanings were derived, it'll do you well to get the full-fledged book written by creator Diane Wilkes. The deck is out of print now, but can still be purchased through resellers on Amazon. I snapped up a secondhand copy of the book through Amazon.

There are some discrepancies between the cards, the LWB and the book, but most can be forgiven—I just go with my intuition when it comes to this. 

The cards according to Persuasion: Ace of Teacups (Persuasion), Anne Elliot on the piano (10 of Candlesticks), Captain Wentworth (Lord of Candlesticks), Louisa Musgrove's near fatal jump (The Tower)

The cards according to Persuasion: Ace of Teacups (Persuasion), Anne Elliot on the piano (10 of Candlesticks), Captain Wentworth (Lord of Candlesticks), Louisa Musgrove's near fatal jump (The Tower)

There isn't a lot written about this deck, which is a pity because there are so many Austen fans and tarot fans out there (I can't possibly the only one who's into both!). The deck makes one's experience of the books a lot richer—I'm looking at the characters and plots in a brand new way, seen through the lens of the tarot. 

It did take some time for me to identify each card off the bat—it only really resonated with me until I read Diane Wilkes' text. The illustrations, while delightful, are based on the movies, and if you aren't too familiar with the specific versions that illustrator Lola Airaghi picked, the cards can get confusing. If I had to change one thing about this deck, it would be to make the Pride and Prejudice cards based on the Colin Firth movie instead of the 1940 Laurence Olivier version (the costumes are all wrong—they're repurposing Gone with the Wind's dresses which places the entire cast in the wrong period). That's just me being nitpicky :)

All in all, I love that I have this deck and I use it pretty regularly. In fact, I'm patiently stalking eBay and Amazon for deals on sealed versions of this deck so I can get myself a spare since mine is starting to look pretty worn from use. Every time I pull this deck out, I end up pulling up  my DVDs and happily dive into an Austen blackhole. 

If you're a Jane Austen fan and are in the market for a reading, send me a request and I can use this deck specifically for you.