Better Together: Illuminated Tarot + Art Oracles
Confession: Sometimes I get reeled in my shiny sparkly object syndrome and to completely circumvent buyer's remorse, my head goes into full-on 7 of Wands mode trying to come up with reasons to justify said purchase.
This isn't what happened with these two decks. In fact, I had managed to not buy them for a pretty long while. I had seen these two decks on the shelves of Fully Booked for a while, but managed not to give in despite them totally falling into my aesthetic for a couple of reasons:
1. The Illuminated Tarot doesn't follow the typical 78-card tarot system, but instead has a quasi-playing card structure that uses 53 cards. Artist Caitlin Keegan pulled a card a week for a year and ended up with 53.
Apart from that, I think, the rationale behind the deck's makeup is that certain Minor Arcana cards can coincide with the bigger archetypes of the Major Arcana—why not put them together? The premise felt a little too complicated for me, since I am super used to reading the tarot already, so it was a hard no.
2. Art Oracles was brought up to me by several friends—many of them tarot dabblers but not professional readers—because they love art and they know I do too. I find oracle decks a little tougher to get into though, and if I've ever read for you, you probably know that I stick to just two or three of my favorites and use them again and again.
I know artists (the more widely known ones), but not enough to be able to go off my intuition with these Art Oracles card pulls, so this got another hard no from me.
And then one day, I was having a conversation with a friend who'd actually purchased the Illuminated Tarot—she told me that the graphics were engaging and modern (ding, ding, ding!) and I should look into them. And then, the deck began showing up all over my Instagram feed. And so, I gave in.
My story with the Art Oracles is a little different. It was sitting on the bottom shelf of my neighborhood Fully Booked and I remember going into the bookstore just wanting to buy something (anything!) et voila. A month or so later, one of my friends who I read for, came home from the US and said she had a gift for me—lo and behold, it was the Art Oracles box straight from the Broad in LA. It was unexpected and an absolute surprise and now I hold this deck even closer to me because it was such a lovely gift.
The decks go together, IMHO, because they're similarly sized. Larger than your typical tarot deck, they come in sturdy beautifully designed boxes (4.75 in x 6.25 in) that would look great on your bookshelf. Cards wise, the Illuminated Tarot has a linen texture, while the Art Oracles are matte and smooth—both benefit from overhand shuffling since they're so large-sized.
While I chuck most guidebooks away, the Art Oracles' guidebook is essential—because unless you know all the 50 artists included in the deck (and know them with deep intimacy), I don't think it's possible to capture every card's meaning fully just by reading the phrases written on the card. Don't get me wrong, the words of advice are good for a quick look, but if you think you want a some majorly transformational guidance, then it's important to understand each artist's individual biography.
That's what makes this deck a bit of an inconvenience—they're good for light readings and quick draws. But if you want some full-on life-changing advice, you're going to need to sit with this one and run through the book. The bios are just a paragraph long each, but knowing an artist's life (even in digest form) can shed proper light when you're looking for meaning.
The guidebook is also an essential part of the equation for the Illuminated Tarot, especially if you're familiar with the tarot. When I opened this deck, I went on a guessing game to see whether I knew exactly which Minors were doubling as Majors too. I was wrong a lot. LOL.
The keywords are few and far between, but I wouldn't discount the guidebook mainly because it's how you'll know exactly what you're pulling. Also, like the cards themselves, it's designed so beautifully. I have a soft spot for graphic design so I appreciate this a hundred per cent.
I love how the decks contrast each other—the large, zoomed in images of the Illuminated Tarot pair well with the wide angle vignettes of the Art Oracles deck. The color palettes are also on point (the Illuminated does distinguish between suits via color). If you're a stickler for modern imagery like me, then you'll be hard pressed to say no to these two.
That said, these aren't the types of decks I would bring to an in-person reading. Better relegated to those who get subscription or email readings from me, because I'm able to really sit down and meditate on the images (and consult the guidebook!) without any time pressure.
The Art Oracles is actually pretty cheeky with its advice. It divides everything into Life, Work and Inspiration—appropriate for artists and non-artists. I feel like it probably gives better advice for general readings rather than specific and targeted questions. The Illuminated Tarot, on the other hand, can function just like your run of the mill tarot deck because it pulls from RWS imagery quite well.
The court cards, in and of themselves, are already confusing... and having to shift into Jacks, Queens and Kings from your conventional Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings can be a little jarring. Again, this is why the guidebook helps—it can be your crutch as you get used to the more condensed form of the tarot.
I can imagine using these decks for someone who's got a fine eye for art, who's not into traditional imagery, and who's just looking to dip their feet into tarot. Reserve your other decks for the bigger, deeper stuff—this one's a good gateway drug for those who think they may be interested in the tarot and just need a little artful nudge. :)