When immersing myself in the tarot and my collector’s eye, I’m always on the lookout for ‘my deck’ - a deck with an elusive balance of beauty and darkness, light and fine art that will perfectly reflect myself back to me. One that I can carry in my pocket, tinker with in long line-ups, read with friends into the depths of the night and build a significant relationship with.
I’ve come across a few candidates but haven’t been satisfied as of yet. The Star Tarot is one of these, oh-so-close! Let me tell you about it.
The Star Tarot was created by artist Cathy McClelland over the course of 15 years, each card represents a large painting. From her website:
The imagery depicted in the cards were inspired by meditation, long walks in the woods, nature, her study of the tarot and spiritual subjects, as well as the influence of different cultural symbols and myths. She draws upon nature, life and the allurement of the universe's mystery for inspiration, weaving the three together in her creations, hoping to inspire others to enjoy the beauty and the wonderment the world offers.
Depicting animals and nature scenes, cross cultural motifs, a little of the symbolism from the iconic Smith-Waite deck, lots of rainbows and stars and the deep dark of the cosmic consciousness, all in vibrant colours - the art in this deck is absolutely mesmerizing. I have spent many hours pouring over every detail in the cards (there’s lots there) drinking it all in.
You see, I’m pretty picky when it comes to my cards. I find a lot of decks are a little too much or not enough of this or that - too much pink angels, not enough nature, too much dark witchy, not enough meat, too fluffy, not enough grounding, too abstract, not enough detail, or too detailed or the art just isn’t good enough. But this deck has the perfect balance of all of it. It’s Earth-centric with spirits running through it - power animals abound - but it doesn’t try to be ‘shamanic’. It’s achingly, beautifully honest. The colours are super bright but balanced by this kind of creeping darkness that pervades the edges - reminding us of that precarious yin-yang thing that happens in nature. There’s just enough occult symbolism in there to appeal to that side of us that wants the real deal, while not going over completely to the dark side - as I said, rainbows! Lots of them. And I personally am a head-over-heals fan of rainbows. And her artwork is just gorgeous. Just check out these cards!
All of that being said, I bought these cards immediately - but I was so very disappointed with the deck when it got to me (sad face). Why? Well there were a few things: mainly, with artwork that is this delicious, I expected the cards to be full bleed - but unfortunately there’s a rather large dark blue border around the images, which really, really, really (can I say it again?) really distracts the eye and doesn’t allow for full immersion into the scenes, which is what you want with these scenes! The cards themselves are a bit large - sort of the standard size-up from your regular tarot deck - and this would be ok except that the finish chosen is laminate - super shiny and sticky - which makes handling and shuffling also distracting. I have another deck that is this large that has a mat finish. The cards slip easily over each other so the larger size isn’t really even noticeable. Also the mat finish really brings out colours and details in the artwork. This shiny stuff reflects light, once again pulling your eye away.
Now, there’s more to reading tarot than just the cards. If you read oracle style, the book is equally important, and her book is a nice read. I like that she includes the astrological sign, element, lunar cycle, season and some keywords for each card. Numbers are grouped together rather than suites, with a brief explanation of the numerology for each. And she adds a paragraph or so to each card reading, explaining the symbolism of the card, including her own additions and interpretations. She didn’t scrimp either - each card has a full page or more of interp, so there’s a lot to mull over. And just some FYIs - the Page has been replaced by Prince/Princess in this deck and she does not use reversals.
I’m not one to throw the baby out. I so loved the landscape in these cards that I tried working with them for a while. I thought maybe the oils on my hands would wear the finish off a bit. But in the end, I was surprised that I couldn’t actually get over the printing issues - they ended up sitting on my shelf. I do take them out here an there to admire, and they are great as pieces of art for your altar or inspiration cards for your dream-board or your favourite wallspace - but as a daily deck, they are just too cumbersome to work with.
Interestingly - I am not the only one who had these same impressions. I was searching online to see if there would be a reprinting of this deck in the future and I came across this super useful DIY video from Katey Flowers:
How to Trim and Edge Your Tarot Deck | Step By Step Walkthrough of Modifying The Star Tarot
I still do hope for a reprint and re-release of the Star Tarot, with a mat finish. But in the meantime, I am seriously considering this deck modification technique. It looks like a lot of work but for a serious collector it would be worth it to make it accessible. Consider the time and effort spent with the Spirit of the deck - after all of this care and attention, that deck would be yours through and through.