Those of you who have read my review of the Archangel Power Tarot (Doreen’s second tarot deck) will already know how disappointed I was by it. It had nothing to do with how the deck is structured (using an Archangel for each suit) or the colours on the borders or the keywords at the bottom, but everything to do with the artwork. I am probably a little bit more sensitive to the aesthetics of tarot decks than a lot of people; probably due to the hundreds and hundreds of tarots that have passed through my hands over the years. When there is that much competition out there, you want to get it right, don’t you?
I had read very little by Doreen Virtue when I bought the Angel Tarot. To be honest, I haven’t read much more since. In actual fact, I have probably read more about Doreen than I have by her and a lot of what I have read has been through online forums. When this pack was released, there was a lot of negative swiping from the ‘love and light brigade’ (a name I’ve given them with tongue firmly in cheek) about how this deck is unbalanced, since Doreen claims that it is 100% safe and gentle. This claim did not bother me in the way that it did others, since I can understand that a lot of people do find tarot scary (yes, probably through ignorance or a lack of exposure) and this fear is a reality. What did irritate me (as I mentioned in my other review) is that these people have no problem with the unbalanced dark decks on the market – probably the very sets which give people the heebie-jeebies in the first place. I wouldn’t hesitate in thinking that for a lot of them, the dark deck is regarded as cool and makes them feel important and powerful.
I may have not read much by Doreen, but I do tune in to her channel each week on YouTube and watch her readings. A lot of the time, this is the deck she travels with and uses. And she reads it well. For anyone who might think she is no more than a puppet, with little to no connection to the decks which are released under her name, pop over there and have a look. She is a far more eloquent tarot reader than a lot of those you’ll find online, sodding about with their pentagrams and witchy-type figurines.
So the first thing worth mentioning is that this deck is good for anyone (be it reader or client) who has a slight sensitivity or anxiety relating to tarot cards. In order to preserve some balance in this review, let me first start with my only problem with the deck. Once again, it concerns the artwork.
Unfortunately, Steve A. Roberts falls into the same trap as the artist for the Archangel Power Tarot, since he also duplicates areas of his art, using them in cards throughout the deck. For example, look at Ego (The Devil), The Sun, and The Dreamer (The Fool). The exact same image of the ‘dreamer’ is used in Ego, except that his face is covered with a mask and he holds a bag of coins or jewels. Behind him, Archangel Jophiel wears the exact same wings as Archangel Uriel in The Sun. The same background is also copied and pasted elsewhere.
The duplications do not end there. The children in the 6 of Water are exactly the same as those in the 10 of Water (except horizontally-flipped – as if that would stop us from noticing) and the guy in the 2 of Wands has the exact same face as the king from the same suit.
Irritating? Yes. But to be honest, Steve A.Roberts does a far better job of disguising these duplications (and there are many more) than Jeff Bedrick does in the Archangel Power Tarot. They are not immediately noticeable in the majority of cards, so to be honest, this niggle is not really a problem big enough to stop me from using the set. There are too many other interesting ideas and beautiful pieces of art floating around in the Angel Tarot to cancel that one problem out.
Despite that one issue, the artwork in this deck is truly magical. The colouring is almost iridescent, shimmering and sparkling throughout. It is warming, like lights on a tree at Christmas. The Water suit is that bit darker than the others, but it kind of fits, since all of the cards show scenes beneath the surface.
All of the major cards are ruled by different Archangels. Doreen explains why each has been chosen and from what I have read away from this deck, her selection makes sense. There is not a great deal of information about each angel in her accompanying book but part of the fun is being able to go away and compile your own research – better than being spoonfed, yes?
I never thought I’d like a deck with such big borders or the meanings printed right on to them, but surprisingly, these are two of the features which I particularly like about these cards. Aside from the different coloured borders being soothing (purple for the Majors, light blue forWater, navy for Air, a rustic red for Fire, and green for Earth), they make it easier to find a card if you need it and can give us an idea of what suit predominates in larger readings. The meanings of each card are condensed into a few little sentences or words at the bottom. As an example, for the Nine of Fire it says ‘Don’t give up. Protect that which you’ve created. Have courage, and believe in yourself ‘. For the Ace of Air, the card reads ‘Brilliant new ideas and inspirations. Seeing the truth of a situation. A challenging beginning’. You might think that these little snippets would be a distraction, but they read like words from a story next to the beautiful illustrations – especially in a past, present, future layout. Some days, I don’t notice them so much, but on others (especially when reading for myself) it is nice to let the cards take over when we can be easily subjective. In many cases, the words are almost poetic.
One of the other gripes I have read about the Angel Tarot is that the suits are broken up into different worlds – mermaids for the Water suit, unicorns for Air, faeries for Earth, and dragons for Fire. People have complained that there is too much going on, but in all honesty, I haven’t found any problems with the structure. As you read with this deck, each suit has a different feel, which is a good thing, and their difference provokes a more empathetic response to each element’s vibrations. The courts (Page, Knight, Queen, King) are also attractive, traditional, and multicultural. Aspects of their character are included on the face of the card, under the title, and wider interpretations are below, should the card be centred around a situation. The traits for the Page of Water are ‘Intuitive, Sensitive, Artistic, Friendly’. As a situation, this card says ‘A new person enters your life. A relationship begins a new phase. Heightened psychic abilities’. Since courts are difficult to read, this would help many a frustrated reader to get a grip on the characters in each suit when reading.
There are far too many attractive cards in this deck to mention them all and Doreen’s changing of titles in the majors seems appropriate. In fact, her retitling of The Devil card (to Ego) makes much more sense for me, suggesting that the real devil is not an external problem we can blame (like the Christian scapegoat) but a mask we choose to wear our self and must take responsibility for.
Although others may try to persuade otherwise, Doreen Virtue has not shied away from the darker side of tarot. All of the darker stuff is still here, but she has provided a proactive way of dealing with it. As an example, for the Death card (renamed Release), rather than a grim reaper, she has provided us with Archangel Azrael, a grief councillor, ready to help us deal with those things which must pass. What a beautiful concept.
I really think that this is an underrated set of tarot cards, which has a very worthy place on the table of beginners and more advanced readers alike. It is verging on arrogant to dismiss it as being little more than fluffy. A lot of thought has gone into it and it provides more than just a vehicle for an artist, which so many decks seem to be these days. I didn’t initially think it would be my cup of tea, but I can honestly say that it is one of my favourites and can whole-heartedly recommend it.
Illustrations from The Angel Tarot (by Doreen Virtue and Radleigh Valentine) by Steve A. Roberts
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014