Spirituality Today

Challenging Paradigms and Expanding Consciousness

Sacred Circle Tarot by Anna Franklin and Paul Mason

From its very earliest appearance as a 16th century game of divination, the Tarot has drawn its symbolism from a well of universal themes and archetypes.

So it is by no means heretical to place an additional, or contemporary, theme around the cards.

This is exactly the approach that Anne Franklin and Paul Mason have taken with the Sacred Circle Tarot Deck.

It draws upon the Celtic system of European Pagan magick as its core theme.

'Sacred Circle Tarot Deck' is comprised of a sturdy box, containing a small booklet of card meanings, 78 standard Tarot cards and two extra cards depicting the layout of the Circle Spread and the Planteray Spread.

The cards themselves are full color reproductions on fairly heavy card and have the dimension of 8.5cm (W) by 13cm (H).

Let us take a closer look at the cards themselves.

Major Arcana

Upon removing this deck from its box for the very first time, you are exposed to the striking image of the first major arcana card. THE FOOL.

In this deck, the designers have renamed it 'The Green Man'. It displays a solitary figure reflecting the attributes of the Mediterranean god Dionysus.

It also firmly sets the Pagan themes upon which this Tarot deck is based.

This initial card, still given the orthodox value of zero to represent the concept of initiating spirit, portrays a green-leaf clad figure surrounded by woodland containing pine cones and blackberries in fruit.

It is a powerful reminder that the Green Man as a representative of the heart of the Pagan movement in the British Isles and Ireland exemplifies the principle of growth and vitality.

Traditionally, THE MAGICIAN follows THE FOOL but this also has been renamed in the Sacred Circle Tarot. It is now called The High Priest. This is followed by the more traditionally titled The High Priestess.

THE EMPRESS is, however, now The Lady—a solitary female figure holding an overflowing horn of cornucopia and standing in a green field with a vibrant sun overhead.

The Lord, otherwise referred to as THE EMPEROR, is a green male figure, also outdoors and in woodland.

Arcana Five is next. The figure holds a staff and has a pair of antler horns that are likened to those of the Celtic deity Cernunnos.

THE HIEROPHANT is always associated in Tarot doctrine as the wielder of supreme spiritual power, so it is not too surprising that this card has been renamed 'The Druid'.

The next card to not only be renamed but also re-evaluated pictorally is STRENGTH. Now 'The Warrior', this figure cuts a more aggressive stance than most traditional decks with the main figure holding a raised sword as if prepared for battle.

THE HERMIT is also more dramatic in appearance than its traditional counterpart. Renamed 'The Shaman', the card depicts a figure engaged in a Shamanic drumming ritual.

'The Web' is a rather interesting substitution for JUSTICE—though its theme of justice remains unchanged.

THE HANGED MAN has been changed to reflect one of the cards core traditional meanings by being now called 'Sacrifice'.

For the following card, 'The Underworld', the designer of this deck has integrated the image of a pair of dragons, or salamanders, to replicate the core traditional ideas of fire and alchemical transformation—a theme generally reflected in the card TEMPERANCE

Strangely enough, the card that generally follows the sequence in most Tarot decks, THE DEVIL, has been removed completely. In its place is The Tower—a card which, as all Tarot students know, generally follows in the number 16 rather than number 15 spot.

Instead, a new card, 'Initiation', has been assigned to the 16th arcana. The deck returns to standard convention for 'The Star', 'The Moon' and 'The Sun'.

The major arcana closes with the cards Rebirth (traditionally JUDGMENT) and The World Tree for the final card in the major arcana sequence: THE WORLD.

Minor Arcana

From its very earliest appearance as a 16th century game of divination, the Tarot has drawn its symbolism from a well of universal themes and archetypes.

So, it is by no means heretical to place an additional, or contemporary, theme around the cards.

This is exactly the approach that Anne Franklin and Paul Mason have taken with the 'Sacred Circle Tarot Deck'.

It draws upon the Celtic system of European Pagan magick as its core theme.

About the Deck

Sacred Circle Tarot Deck comes in a sturdy box; one containing a small booklet of card meanings, 78 standard Tarot cards and two extra cards depicting the layout of the Circle Spread and the Planteray Spread.

The cards themselves are full color reproductions on fairly heavy card and have the dimension of 8.5cm (W) by 13cm (H).

Let us take a closer look at the cards themselves.

1) Major Arcana

Upon removing this deck from its box for the very first time, you are exposed to the striking image of the first major arcana card. THE FOOL.

In this deck, the designers have renamed it 'The Green Man'. It displays a solitary figure reflecting the attributes of the Mediterranean god Dionysus.

It also firmly sets the Pagan themes upon which this Tarot deck is based.

This initial card, still given the orthodox value of zero to represent the concept of initiating spirit, portrays a green-leaf clad figure surrounded by woodland containing pine cones and blackberries in fruit.

It is a powerful reminder that the Green Man as a representative of the heart of the Pagan movement in the British Isles and Ireland exemplifies the principle of growth and vitality.

Traditionally, THE MAGICIAN follows THE FOOL but this also has been renamed in the Sacred Circle Tarot. It is now called The High Priest. This is followed by the more traditionally titled The High Priestess.

THE EMPRESS is, however, now The Lady—a solitary female figure holding an overflowing horn of cornucopia and standing in a green field with a vibrant sun overhead.

The Lord, otherwise referred to as THE EMPEROR, is a green male figure, also outdoors and in woodland.

Arcana Five is next. The figure holds a staff and has a pair of antler horns that are likened to those of the Celtic diety Cernunnos.

THE HIEROPHANT is always associated in Tarot doctrine as the wielder of supreme spiritual power, so it is not too surprising that this card has been renamed 'The Druid'.

The next card to not only be renamed but also re-evaluated pictorally is STRENGTH. Now 'The Warrior', this figure cuts a more aggressive stance than most traditional decks with the main figure holding a raised sword as if prepared for battle.

THE HERMIT is also more dramatic in appearance than its traditional counterpart. Renamed 'The Shaman', the card depicts a figure engaged in a Shamanic drumming ritual.

'The Web' is a rather interesting substitution for JUSTICE—though its theme of justice remains unchanged.

THE HANGED MAN has been changed to reflect one of the cards core traditional meanings by being now called 'Sacrifice'.

For the following card, 'The Underworld', the designer of this deck has integrated the image of a pair of dragons, or salamanders, to replicate the core traditional ideas of fire and alchemical transformation—a theme generally reflected in the card TEMPERANCE

Strangely enough, the card that generally follows the sequence in most Tarot decks, THE DEVIL, has been removed completely. In its place is The Tower—a card which, as all Tarot students know, generally follows in the number 16 rather than number 15 spot.

Instead, a new card, 'Initiation', has been assigned to the 16th arcana. The deck returns to standard convention for 'The Star', 'The Moon' and 'The Sun'.

The major arcana closes with the cards Rebirth (traditionally JUDGMENT) and The World Tree for the final card in the major arcana sequence: THE WORLD.

2) Minor Arcana

The minor arcana cards are modeled along traditional lines of Tarot teaching.

The suit names of the Sacred Circle Tarot remain as the traditional Wands, Cups, Swords and Disks.

Each minor arcana card has its suit name and value displayed at the bottom of the card. And, at the top, a keyword to cover the card's main divinational meaning.

As with all the cards in this deck, the Minor Acrana cards feature a wide border around the edge of each card.

3) Court Cards

No changes have been made either to the titles of the court cards. They remain as Page, Knight, Queen and King.

In this Tarot deck, the imagery for each card is unique to each and quite striking with the elemental color associated with each suit being picked out in the corners of the borders and in the colors of the figures in the cards.

As per usual tarot convention, the King and Queen are portrayed in an inert state with the Knight and Page taking more active stances. The same use of keywords are applied, once again appearing at the top of each card.

Booklet

The deck includes a small booklet which includes a few lines describing the basic core meaning of each card as well as its meaning when it appears in a reversed or ill-dignified position in a Tarot spread.

Our Review of The Sacred Circle Tarot

What We Liked About This Deck:

Overall, this is an attractive deck of Tarot cards that integrates Celtic themes quite well.

We found the card divinational meanings to be very insightful but it is worth mentioning in passing that the explanations of the cards featured in the booklet that accompanies this deck do relate strongly to spiritual themes and concepts rather than to practical everyday concerns. This is not, therefore, a deck for beginners but for those who are more deeply engrained in the world of spirituality and the Pagan traditions.

This is to be expected from a themed deck such as this one and we appreciated the insights that this approach brought in dealing with more arcane principles.

What We Didn't Like About This Deck:

Sadly, our major areas of concern regarding this otherwise attractive deck are sufficient to cause us to drop its star rating.

Some issues, such as the lack of real guidance and insight into how the Celtic tradition is reflected in the deck and the fact that we found the cards just 1cm too large to shuffle comfortably (even for my large hands) as well as the somewhat annoyingly prominent borders around each card to be largely forgivable.

However, one major issue presents itself with this deck. We referred to it momentarily earlier on. It relates to the removal of Arcana 15 THE DEVIL and its replacement with The Tower—a card that all Tarot students will have learnt from their very earliest stages in study, refers to Arcana 16.

We felt that there should have been an explanation for this major deviation from core Tarot philosophy by the authors of the Sacred Circle Tarot given that it is such a dramatic departure from 99.9% of all other decks in the marketplace today.

It might be argued that the Celtic Tradition had no Devil in its spiritual philosophy but this is no excuse for completely iradicating a card that is central to magickal and spiritual philosophy.

All spiritual traditions, religious concepts and gnostic teachings contain their own shadow-side and this is no different for the Celtic Tradition. By removing the DEVIL card and changing the position of 'The Tower' to substitute it, it means that the average Tarot student will be left both confused and somewhat deprived of an important facet to Tarot philosophy.

To sum up, Sacred Circle Tarot Deck contains all of the hallmarks of being a powerful and effective cross-over between Tarot philosophy and the Celtic tradition but both fails at the final hurdle to deliver real insights into the Celtic Tradition and confuses by making changes that few people trained in orthodox Tarot philosophy will feel comfortable with.

The Sacred Circle Tarot contains many pleasing visual elements but sadly also ultimately lacks real authenticity.

Our Rating

4/5