Deck Review: Guardian Angels and the absence of irony
I am by no means a religious person, despite my being brought up Catholic. There are certain parts of the religion that I love and embrace fully—Holy Week (which is always around the time of my birthday) is a somber time of year here in the Philippines, but because I grew up attending all the special masses and ceremonies and midnight prayers that come with it, I've grown to find comfort in the tradition. Simbang Gabi (Dawn Mass) is another annual tradition here, where 4 or 5 AM mass is held everyday from December 15th to 24th. They say if you complete the nine masses, you can make a wish and have it come true! (I regret to say that I did this for about nine years, from high school all the way to college and never got what I wished for—not once. Which is probably a blessing in itself. Haha!)
When I came across the Guardian Angel Tarot, I dismissed it as another one of those saccharine decks that were too froufrou for my taste. We don't get a lot of deck options here in Manila, but this was one that made a regular appearance at the neighborhood bookstore. And then, the video reviews started popping up on my feed and nearly every one I watched, from reviewers and YouTubers I trusted, shared my initial sentiment. That this deck was a clear NO. But then the reviews went on to talk about how everyone couldn't stop thinking about the deck so they finally caved and were ultimately surprised because this deck dealt the truth sharply and clearly, but with a very kind and compassionate voice.
About three reviews in, I thought, "I may as well," since the deck was so accessible and tarot is hardly ever accessible in this part of the world. I snapped it up, I shuffled the cards, and my first pull gave me the exact same feeling it gave all the other tarot enthusiasts whose reviews I had watched or read. This one is for real. Do not be fooled by the guardian angel airbrushed on the cheesy box or the lace cut-outs that decorate the card backs. Do not worry about Doreen Virtue's gray area reputation and seemingly divisive persona. Be open, give your first pull a chance and within the first five seconds, this deck will convince you of its authenticity and authority.
I don't own any Hay House decks, but I was aware of its reputation for good quality boxes and card stock. Yes, the box is great, and so are the cards. They are gilded a very shiny, in your face gold that can fade as you riffle shuffle the cards. I prefer an overhand shuffle with this—the size of the cards makes it difficult to riffle anyway.
The cards, as I said in my previous blog post, remind me of my first communion and the comforting feeling I get walking into the church I've been going to since I was a baby. Turning to this deck is like going back to the Holy Week traditions I've always enjoyed—I know the whole the whole religion thing can be controversial (to say the least), but this deck embodies the best that church has to offer. Turning to its messages is like lighting a candle before saying a heartfelt prayer (and not switching on to auto-mode when reciting the mysteries of the rosary).
The aesthetic of this deck is so unlike anything I love. AND YET! I appreciate it in the context of irony. Yes, there is nothing ironic about this deck, but all those angel wings and lace do remind me of the time Urban Outfitters released those "Mary is my Home Girl" and "Jesus is my Home Boy" t-shirts. They also remind me of Baz Luhrman's Romeo & Juliet, where the Capulets had Jesus and Sacred Heart images splattered all over their guns. It's a so-cheesy-it's-good kind of thing.
The deck comes with a very thick guidebook which you really don't need because every card has an entire paragraph of explanations to accompany it. Now this would normally irritate the hell out of me (pun intended), but with this deck, all is seemingly forgiven. Sometimes, you just want to stop thinking and just be told happy, shiny, heartfelt stuff. This is absolutely the deck for that.
I've only used this for a client once and it was her first time getting a reading. I feel it was the right fit because she was new to all things tarot, and sometimes people do need something that can help them ease into the practice without anything too "scandalous" or striking to rock the boat. This deck reads like a hot cup of tea with a generous serving of honey.
I find that the three to four sentences that accompany each card makes it perfect for daily draws as well. It gives you just enough to think about without overcomplicating things. Maybe a seasoned tarot reader will have no problem using bigger spreads with these cards, but really, I think they're better off just giving you a sprinkling of guardian angel wisdom. Because you've got such wordy explanations to go with each card, this deck can also work as an oracle deck, especially for those just starting to study the tarot.
And lastly, when I've had a particularly rough and shadow-heavy Celtic Cross, I like to cap off readings with a single card from this deck to let me know that everything is going to be okay.