Better Together: The Golden Thread Tarot + the Small Spells Tarot

Decks used: The Golden Thread Tarot (Tina Gong, Labyrinth OS) and Small Spells Tarot (Rachel Howe)

Decks used: The Golden Thread Tarot (Tina Gong, Labyrinth OS) and Small Spells Tarot (Rachel Howe)

As much as I love color when it comes to art, I can appreciate a good, monochromatic deck too. As far as simplistic decks go, I feel that these two new offerings take the cake. Each one takes a very unique approach, but juxtaposed against each other, the Golden Thread Tarot and the Small Spells Tarot come together to create a lovely play on black and white, on digital and hand-drawn illustrations, and on modern reinterpretations of the Rider Waite Smith.

Both decks are independently produced (my favorite kind!), and the concepts behind them are obvious from the get-go. The Golden Thread hinges on technology, is primarily black with a beautiful gold foil, and comes with a free app. The Small Spells looks very zine-like on the other hand—the drawings resemble the kind of doodles you find on the margins of your high school composition books, the titles on the cards are drawn by hand, and comes with its own full-sized 92-page guidebook.

I got private messages from about three of my friends, all from different circles, when the Golden Thread tarot first came out. (I love how my friends keep an eye out for me…). I was wary about spending on yet another deck at that time, so I decided not to snap it up and instead download the app first. Just a warning for folks who think they can avoid shelling out by just getting the free app—having the very cool Golden Thread tarot on your phone will just make you want to have it even more.

After playing around with the app, which shows you both reversed and upright meanings, and is a wonderful tool for newbies just getting their feet wet with the tarot, I went ahead and ordered the deck. The first thing I talk about when people ask me about the Golden Thread is the card stock. I had no idea when I purchased this deck that it was a plastic deck (that's me, not reading the fineprint). Plastic: read waterproof, dirt proof and all the things that make my neat freak heart sing. The deck feel hefty in your hands but OMG it shuffles so lightly and so easily, you feel like a pro poker player handling it. Every client I've read with this deck has mentioned how good it feels in your hands.

As with most self-published decks, the Golden Thread comes with all the lovely little bells and whistles that tell you how big of a passion project it is for its creator. I love the packaging of this deck—it comes in a very sturdy box that's accompanied by a lovely note from Tina Gong. <3

The illustrations of the Golden Thread are simplistic and computer-generated looking… which doesn't, at all, take away from how intricate all the renderings are. I love how reflective the gold foil is (I'm finding that the fine lines are starting to chip with lots of use, though… so while this feels super great to shuffle, I'm trying to use a more careful overhand instead). The gold foil detail reminds me of computer chips and Tron and all things tech.

Regardless of how forward-thinking this deck is, its interpretation of the RWS illustrations are pretty classic. Very, very cute though! The naked folks of the tarot have never looked so cute, IMHO.

The Small Spells Tarot, on the other hand, belongs to the other side of the deck spectrum with its very handmade feel, which I appreciate! I was a teen in the 90s so all things hand-illustrated and zine-inspired truly make me happy. I love Rachel Howe's minimalistic interpretation of the RWS cards—she seems to have gotten the essence of every card and redrawn what we know into symbols that are both classic and current.

The card backs maintain that black and white look and make me think of a psychedelic chessboard… something of a reminder of how the tarot gives us different puzzle pieces we try to fit together to form a story.

One of my most frequent pulls from this deck is the 6 of wands. As someone who sucks at team sports, the image of making a basket absolutely evokes the success and victory this card is about.

The card stock is slippery and fine enough to riffle shuffle well. They do tend to spill across a table when I'm a little too excited about fanning them across a surface (this happens a lot to me :P). This is one of my favorite kinds of card stock—it's matte enough to not give an irritating glare, but glossy enough to slide and slip.

The Small Spells guidebook is a big bonus, as far as this deck is concerned. It took me a while before buying this because I was wondering if it would be too similar to the Spirit Speak tarot (which is certainly one of my favorites). I'm glad I bought it anyway because while it's a black and white deck like the Spirit Speak, it offers a different perspective, which we can appreciate in fullness because of the guidebook. 

I like succinctly it's written, how it provides different angles and possibilities for every card, and I like how no-nonsense and simple it all is, much like the illustrations on the cards.

These decks look beautiful together and work so well if aesthetic is important to you. I can imagine pairing these too with the Wild Unknown spirit cloths for a full impact, black white and gold visual theme. I've been using these two alternately every since 2017 started and I feel they've given me a ton of good vibes this year!