While in Nottingham this weekend, I happened upon Oceanic Tarot – a deck and book set by Jayne Wallace, published by Cico Books. I had recently viewed this online but hadn’t been sure if it was for me. I’d not seen an awful lot about it, but since it was a reasonable price, I decided to give it a go.
I own a handful of Cico sets – Crystal Tarot, Fallen Angels Oracle, and The Art of Tarot. If you’re aware of any of these publications, then you’ll have a good idea of what this one is like. It comes in a sturdy lift-off box; the cards are large and glossy and they are accompanied by a 64 page full-colour book. It’s notable that the standard packaging for these sets are of good quality, are attractive, and are easy to store.
Jayne Wallace is the founder of Psychic Sisters, a team of 15 clairvoyants working from her concession at London’s Selfridges. I’ve not heard of her before this deck but she writes columns for Soul & Spirit, Spirit & Destiny, and Fate & Fortune magazines. The box also mentions her celebrity clients and says that she lives over here in the UK.
As a qualified PADI scuba diver, Jayne mentions her love of the ocean. In the introduction to the book, she likens the landscape of the ocean to the alternative universe of her clairvoyance.
For what might appear to be a slim volume, the book for Oceanic Tarot is packed with useful and interesting information. While it is beginner friendly, there are valuable tidbits for the advanced reader too. There are tips throughout and each section is clear and concise.
In some books, you’ll be lucky if you get a spread specially designed for the deck you are using, but in this one, you get six. One of these is the traditional Celtic Cross. There are a few others standard spreads, but Jayne gives them the Oceanic twist by setting their titles into the framework of this theme beautifully – the well-known 3-card Past, Present, Future draw becomes ‘Three Pearls in the Oyster’ and we are also provided with original spreads – ‘Star of the Sea’ focuses on the elements.
The Major Arcana section of the book provides a full-colour copy of each card, one to a page. As well as keywords, we have a small introduction (noting the symbolism within the image), the meaning of the card, and a snippet of advice connected to it. For the Minor Arcana, there are two cards per page. Because the minor cards are pips, there is no need for a guided introduction, so only the meaning and advice remains.
The images for Oceanic Tarot are created by Jane Delaford-Taylor. Unless I have missed it, I couldn’t find any information about her in the accompanying book, so I went for a look online.
Jane is a competent and experienced illustrator. With experience in book illustration (Whoa Joe!) and cover design (Do You Know Your Guardian Angel by Jacky Newcomb), she has previously worked on other decks – The Life Navigator Deck and Little Angels.
Based in the West Country, Jane has supported herself through her work for over twenty years. She describes herself as being ‘out of the box’ since her art style changes from piece to piece, depending on commission. She says that galleries and directors have often had problems with pigeonholing her , due to her not having a set style within her body of work. I actually enjoy her stylistic changes and adaptability. She is a working artist, working in the real world.
Jayne Wallace has created a really interesting and attractive system for the Oceanic Tarot. It is heavily Waite-based, but she has included symbolism specific to the theme. These are not just a set of pretty pictures. There is meaning within these paintings. As an example, in Judgement, the traditional angel blows a conch shell (“the earliest horn trumpet, sounded to declare war and to herald royalty”). Rather than the laurel reef in The World, we have a circle of swimming fish (“this reef is alive, and the fish continually swim in their circle, signifying the cycle of life, death, and rebirth”). The Lovers shoes a mermaid and merman in an embrace and their colouring echoes the original choice associated with the Marseille version of the card.
One of the notable changes in this deck is the change of titles within the Major Arcana. This is another change I enjoy here. The Emperor and Empress become the King and Queen of the Ocean, The Devil becomes The Void, and Temperance is The Angel of the Ocean. Once again, there is reason for the changes. The wings of the angel in the latter regard the element of Air and her tail connects her with the watery ocean – the elemental mixture of the traditional card is instantly apparent. While I love these changes, my only peeve is with The Tower, which shows a boat being struck by lightening. I love this version of the card but do have a problem with the title. Although there is Tower symbolism in the battlements, it might have been nicer to give it a more theme-appropriate title. Despite this, it is still workable and really, this is just a minor and picky complaint on my part.
One thing worth mentioning is that a few of the cards are gentler here than in the Rider Waite. Death shows a sunken ship (quite possibly the one from The Tower). Surrounded by sharks, we are reminded of difficult endings, but the image also includes small fish, symbolising new beginnings. While we cannot see it, we’re also told that the shipwreck contains treasure. ‘What might be the upside of something which seems so dismal?’ might be a question to ask when this card is drawn.
The Minor cards, from Ace to 10, are not scenic. Even though the Aces are all original, the same illustration is used for each of the cards running from 2 through 10. As an example, the same shark (which is connected to the suit of Swords) is depicted on each of the nine Sword cards. There are bold pip designs laid over them and, as with every card in the deck, there is a keyword at the bottom. The Ace of Cups is ‘Love’ and the 2 of Cups is ‘Partnership’. Each suit is governed by it’s own animal – as well as the shark, we have the Sea Turtle (Pentacles), the Dolphin (Cups), and the Sea Horse (Wands). For some, this will be repreditive but personally, I like them – they provide space to breathe in a reading and you can see the difference between Major and Minor in a large spread.
The court cards are traditional, showing a Page, Knight, Queen and King. Displaying different ethnicities, they are all vibrant and consistent. The Pages show young females and the Knights provide slightly older males. Each has a keyword. Generally, these fit with my understanding, though I did feel that ‘Gossip’ for the Page of Swords sits on the slightly negative side of curiosity and communication. Throughout the deck, the keywords are all Rider Waite based and would be great jumping-off points for experienced readers and beginners.
This is one of those decks which could become overlooked. It could easily be passed off as a beginners set, as lacking in substance, or might be pushed aside because of its non-scenic minors. I’d really encourage you to look at these though because I think they are a beautiful set of cards, with a really interesting and informative companion book and background. If the backs of your cards are important, then you’ll also love those on the Oceanic Tarot.
Like the theme the deck portrays, these cards are watery and fluid. There is a lot of movement in Jane’s images and because they are borderless, the cards swim together effortlessly (just sit some court cards next to one another if you don’t believe me!). I would happily recommend this set to readers of all experience, since it is a joy to work with and is a steal at this price.
As usual, I like to finish off by asking the deck to describe itself in one card. For Oceanic Tarot, we have drawn The Hermit, which has the subtitle ‘Contemplation’.
This card shows the wise old man of the sea, reflecting in a quiet spot with the jellyfish behind (which symbolise his enlightened mind).
The Hermit says –
‘If you quieten your mind and listen, you will hear me.
Have you ever held a shell up to your ear and heard the sounds of the ocean? If you have, you’ll know that you have to shut out the chatter and really listen. You mightn’t have believed you’d hear a thing but eventually, you did witness the tide crashing and the screams of the birds overhead.
I am like like that. I represent another world, deep beneath what you believe you can see and hear. You can dip your toes in or you can dive right into my hidden depths. Just like that shell, I will wait until you lift me up and listen. And when you do, I’ll have many stories of the deep to share”.
Images from the Oceanic Tarot by Jayne Wallace, illustrated by Jane Delaford-Taylor. Published by Cico Books.
If you’d like to see my walk-through of the 78 card images, check them out here.