I occasionally watch Doreen’s weekly videos on YouTube, so am aware that she has an amazingly large following. Doreen travels all over the world, delivering her angel-card-reading classes to thousands of eager and excited apprentices. However, regardless of the praise received through these communities, she also receives an extremely large dosage of negative feedback from those who critique her work. A lot of this has come from people in the tarot community who find her work to be unbalanced and too positive; but with the release of this new deck, it seems that some of her most ardent followers are still alarmed by her use of tarot cards.
This is not Doreen and Radleigh Valentine’s first move into the world of tarot: this is, in fact, their third deck together. Both of their previous tarot outings were bashed for dismissing the darker side of life, but it would seem that some of Doreen’s hard-core followers found even those packs to be scary and too intimidating.
This third set, the Guardian Angel Tarot Cards, is advertised as “the world’s gentlest and sweetest tarot cards”. The advertising is not wrong. Not only has those aspects of tarot which might upset the most sensitive of her fans been removed, the entire project is dripping in a saccharine palette of pastel pinks and blues, edged in a rich gold gilding, and sprinkled with glitter. Many tarot readers will recoil in horror, like vampires who have been met with the rising sun. As someone who likes a little balance in his tarot decks, you may wonder how I have received this tarot?
Actually, I like it a lot.
I have not bought or felt drawn to everything which Doreen Virtue has released. Her oracle decks have never really fitted with my personal reading style and I have read only one of her books. However, I was very pleased to praise her first tarot deck with Radleigh (The Angel Tarot) in my review of the set, but found their second (The Archangel Power Tarot) to be a big, fat disappointment: I wasn’t the only one. Because of the latter, I had pretty much written this third tarot publication off, until I began to see images of it floating around the internet.
Before we get down to the details of the Guardian Angel Tarot, I can tell you that this is a tarot deck, since I have read comments to the contrary elsewhere. This set has 78 cards, four tarot suits, sixteen courts, and imagery relating to the Waite tradition. The card names have all been changed (as have the suits), but they will be recognisable to anyone who knows their way around a Rider Waite Smith. This is not an oracle.
The suits in this deck have been changed to Thought (Swords, Air), Emotion (Cups, Water), Action (Wands, Fire) and Abundance (Pentacles, Earth). Of course, some might argue that there is more to the Swords suit of traditional tarot than just ‘thought’, but generally, the new titling does its job and doesn’t stray too far from a tarot path most readers understand. Each card in every suit shows a small picture (as does every card in the Major Arcana) with a written interpretation beneath.
The four suits each have a distinct background. For example, the Thought suit is backed with a floral and striped wallpaper. This obvious distinction between the four suits would help a newbie recognise their difference. As an example, the Emotion suit has a white and green polka dot backing. This part of the design takes up just over half of each card. A possible interpretation sits below, accompanied by a uniform colour. The Thought cards are cream and the Emotion cards are pink.
The Guardian Angel Tarot has an over all vintage feel. Not only does the deck have a shabby-chic style to it (even worn in places to look antique), the pictures (which are not credited to any one artist) have an immediately recognisable Victorian character. They remind me of holy cards.
Holy (or Prayer) cards are small, devotional mass-produced pictures for the use of the faithful (see left). They typically depict a religious scene or a saint in an image and are about the size of a playing card. Many look similar to the cards in this deck. The visual setup also reminds me of antique Lenormand cards, where a small image and interpretation was printed straight onto the card front. It might have been nice if this deck’s printed meanings had taken form as a verse, as they used to in Lenormand decks, adding to the deck’s quaint and quirky flavour.
In most places, this deck follows the Rider Waite system closely. The 3 of Emotion (Cups) shows three cherubs and it’s interpretation concerns celebrations, emotional announcements and the community. The 9 of Abundance (Pentacles) shows a single woman on a swing and speaks of security and financial independence. Not all cards are as obvious to begin with though. The 9 of Action (Wands) does not show the familiar wounded-soldier; instead, we’re presented with a woman and her three lambs. The interpretation beneath the image reads “You’ve worked hard to create the things you cherish in your life, such as beloved relationships, amazing accomplishments, and hearth and home. Rest assured that all these treasures – and you – are being constantly protected by your angels. In return, Mother Earth, the animals, and the environment need your protection”.
The Major Arcana in this deck is recognisable by a number at the top of each of its cards and a lime-green base. Like the Minor Arcana, they also contain a small image, a title, and a meaning for reference. All of the titles have been changed to protect the sensitive readers amongst us. In places, this is actually quite refreshing: The Hermit becomes The Spiritual Teacher, The Emperor is Organisation, and The High Priestess has been changed to Go Within. In others, the omitting of anything vaguely negative can leave a seasoned tarot-reader scratching their head to begin with. Card #15 has been remodelled from The Devil to Choose Freedom and shows a girl in thought. She sits behind a fence (which we might assume relate to the chains of the traditional card) and the script below the illustration reads “Sometimes you may feel as though your way is blocked, but often that’s just an illusion. You could free yourself from the obstacles that you’re so focused on by choosing a different path. Turn your thoughts away from negativity, and instead envision endless other possibilities you might act upon”.
There are further instances where troublesome subjects are concealed by lace and Victoriana (The Moon shakes off any hint of deception in its imagery and becomes Intuition and Insight), but on the whole, the changes made in the majority of these cards do not detract from traditional tarot meanings; they simply aid the reader to alter their perspective around difficult cards and situations. I agree that a tarot deck should encompass both the good and bad aspects of life, but there are times when a real stinger doesn’t aid a reading or help a client. This deck reminds me that there are ways in which we can acknowledge pain and discomfort without walloping someone around the head with it.
The courts in this deck are renamed but traditional. The Page becomes The Messenger, the Knight becomes The Helper, the Queen is transformed into The Healer and the King is The Guardian. Each bears a strong resemblance to the traditional Waite court and features a short interpretation of their basic characteristics. The Helper of Abundance (Knight of Pentacles) is one of my favourites. Dressed in green and stood amongst some clover, he is concerned with organisation, rolling up our sleeves for work, and loyalty.
Like many, I am often surprised by how many decks are born via Doreen Virtue. However, we must remember that she is not the only creator or author who publishes many titles or decks around similar subjects. I never imagined that she’d create anything which would rival her first Angel Tarot deck, but interestingly, I think I actually prefer the Guardian Angel Tarot to its oldest sibling. This has a lot to do with the design of the cards. The set reminds me of antique fortune-telling decks, a look which is actually enhanced by the wording on each card. Aesthetically, the deck is charming and a pleasure to read with. Some may complain that the images are too small, but I think their scale compliments the layout of the cards, giving each a storybook feel to it.
I think it is difficult to remove one of Doreen’s pieces from the entire body of her work. But if you can for just a second, you’ll see something which is visually charming, elegant, and well thought out. Of course, this deck will not please tarot-purists or anyone interested in the darker (or possibly more fashionable) side of tarot, but for anyone who is looking for a positive slant on traditional tarot symbolism, the Guardian Angel Tarot would work well as a reading deck. It is good for three card spreads and the cards work well as springboards in larger readings, but for the moment, I am enjoying using it for one-card daily draws. I absorb the image when I pull the card with my coffee and ponder the words below it. I have found that there is something comforting in doing this.
Not everyone wants a deck as complicated as The Thoth. Not everyone requires a deck which is loaded with esoteric symbolism like the Rider Waite. As a tarot reader, I find that the cards are at best when they can empower people and give them a reason to get up in the morning. This deck does not entirely shy away from the shadows of life; it suggests ways of dealing with them. For that reason in itself, I give it the thumbs-up.
To finish, here are a few samples from the Guardian Angel Tarot.
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014
All images from The Guardian Angel Tarot by Doreen Virtue and Radleigh Valentine, published by Hay House Inc.