Review by guest poster, Valerie Sylvester.
When I was in college I took several art history classes. These involved sitting in a darkened lecture hall as a clicking, whirring projector beamed representations of masterpieces of (mostly) American and European art onto a large screen. Image after lovely image drifted by on the walls. I found it incredibly relaxing, and a respite from the other classes I was taking at the time, which generally involved listening to a professor lecture while I sat in a plastic chair, furiously scribbling in large notebooks. (Note to the youngsters:: Yes, it was a grim and primitive time indeed, Ye Olde Pre-Computer Era) .
What I took away from my experience with those college classes (aside from a tendency towards carpal tunnel syndrome) is that visual images have great and compelling power. Few words are really necessary to convey meaning; each work transmits its message as you absorb the essence of the image. To this day I enjoy looking at beautiful images. It’s why I won’t buy a tarot deck if I don’t like the artwork and why I am always seeking decks with powerful imagery.
Old Masters With a New Twist
I’m happy to report that Gloria Jean’s handmade Infinite Visions Tarot is one of those decks. Each card is a collage of elements taken from a variety of paintings, generally works by Old Master-type landscape artists, romantic painters, Pre-Raphaelites, and many from the “crowns and gowns” style of painting (featuring historical vignettes and images from mythology and of kings, queens and the nobility). Most seem to date from about 1810 through 1920. The images are in the public domain, and most of the artists are French, British, Russian or American painters who are not immediately familiar or whose popularity has waxed and waned throughout the years (Bouguereau, whose works are featured in this deck, comes to mind). Many of the images feel vaguely familiar, as though once seen in a history book—or a dream. Even though all of the artists don’t fit in the same genre, the cards seem quite consistent in style and feel like they belong together; there’s nothing jarring or anachronistic to wreck the mood, which is one of vague opulence and Victorian/Edwardian splendor with an overlay of medievalism.
There are many things I like about this deck, aside from the fact that it’s a labor of love by the artist and that the artwork is gorgeous: one of them is the way the Kings and Queens in each suit are presented. They’re designed in a way that takes me back to the times I’ve visited museums and seen “official portraits” of royalty. They’re always framed beautifully and the portraits are hung side-by-side. You know this pair is a united front, even if they’re painted separately, as the color, style, and all those fancy signifiers such as crowns, shields and sceptres are the same in both portraits. And as if in homage to this tradition, in the Infinite Visions Tarot, each King and Queen really is a matched set.
The King and Queen of Pentacles
Each are framed by a massive doorway with a large pentacle at the apex. In the background can be seen a vista that includes the farms, fields and castles of their kingdom. Both cards feature a shield in the right foreground.
From the Infinite Visions Tarot website:
The King and Queen both “know how to create abundance and order in their daily life.”
The King and Queen of Swords
The King and Queen of Swords each sport elegant ermine cloaks, gold-embroidered garments and pose on red rugs in front of heraldic wall hangings.
For the Queen of Swords from the Infinite Visions Tarot website:
“Here, the Queen is holding two swords which represents that her attitude is more about following her mind rather than her heart.”
And for the King, from the same source:
“The King’s swords are on the wall behind him as his power lies in his office or in his knowledge and wisdom base as he often holds issues of life and death in his hands. He is a wise counselor who also places his mind the driver’s seat rather than his heart.“
The King and Queen of Cups
Seen wearing sea-green garments and stand in front of a wall, with the ocean pounding behind them under cloudy skies. (Very dramatic, a very “Wuthering Heights with less moors and more ocean” vibe!) Each holds a cup and has a musical instrument ready to play.
From the website:
“Both the Queen and the King hold the cup in their left hand while another cup sits on the table in front of them, waiting for someone else to drink with them. This symbolizes their need for others, for family and for love. A musical instrument symbolizes their love for music and for the music in their souls.”
The King and Queen of Wands
My favorite royal pair, the King and Queen of Wands, wear orange-red garments and stand in a dramatic field of fire as they each hold a flame-tipped wand. A volcano ( Mt. Aetna, from a painting by Thomas Cole), erupts in the background. This dynamic interpretation of the King and Queen of Wands helps to illustrate the power of the creative force of fire, as the volcano shows the wellspring of this powerful energy.
Again, from the website:
“The Queen reaches for the creative spark; the King wields it in his hands with confidence. Each holds the secret energy and magic wand of creativity.”
Another thing I particularly like about the Infinite Visions Tarot is the way the backgrounds add dimensionality to the cards. There’s always something interesting going on behind the main figures of each card. Behind the central figure on the Page of Cups there’s a forest and a small waterfall; behind the Hermit there’s a lake, trees, and a glowing sunset; in the Ace of Pentacles, a path in the foreground leads to a shaded bower, and behind that, flowing water and a castle on a hill. The clouds and water seem alive, and some of the Major Arcana cards such as the Fool, the Wheel of Fortune, the Magician, Justice and the World seem to be set in outer space, with planets, suns, moons, stars and even far-away galaxies shining in the darkness.
Dark New Cards
The Infinite Visions Tarot is an 80 card deck (most tarot decks include 78 cards, 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana). The 2 additional cards found in the Infinite Visions Tarot are doppelgangers for the Magician and the High Priestess cards, and are meant to serve as warning cards that let us know “something wicked this way comes”. The malicious Magician is titled the “Dark Magician” and the perfidious High Priestess answers to the “Dark Priestess”. (I’ve taken to referring to these two as “the Terror Twins”.)
The Dark Priestess
The Dark Priestess sports a sheer black veil over her face and grips a wand–she’s relaxed but wary, and ready to spring into action if necessary. She’s quite exotic looking, but not outwardly frightening, and lounges on a rather attractive chair (which features attractive kilim upholstery, for those of you who, like me, are interested in home decor). Behind her lurks a boiled-lobster-red flying demon who sports a killer grin. This same demon wings his way around the Devil card, so we know who this guy is! The Dark Priestess is meant to be the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, and can be male or female. Gloria Jean’s description characterizes the Dark Priestess as a “double agent” that you can’t trust, one who is “sleeping with or married to the enemy.” She adds, “You will know the Dark Priestess because with her there is a sense that she is holding back something. She chooses her words with care, she does not tell all. If she shows up at your door all friendly, it’s because she wants something. Don’t feed her. Tell her only what you would want your enemy to know.” The Dark Priestess sounds like she should be at the helm of her own reality TV show–but you wouldn’t want to be part of her entourage!
The Dark Magician
The Dark Magician looks like the Invisible Man (a big ugly cloak wrapped around a black hole where a person should be), and he clutches a rust-hued sword. There’s a full moon, a formidable wolf, and some very craggy-looking cliffs behind him. The website description says that this card “personifies anger, bad intentions, hateful thoughts, black magic or other psychic attacks. It can also represent repressed anger that has degenerated into a deep depression that may be hidden and destructive.” There’s also a warning that the Dark Magician is like a wounded animal, and “a wounded animal is a dangerous one”. This card also tells us to protect ourselves on the psychic level and to be careful of those psychic vampires (yes, I know vampires are all the rage now, but they aren’t necessarily good for your psyche!)
I find these two extra cards intriguing and plan to experiment with them when I read with this deck. So far, they do seem to be useful as warning cards, to give the reader a ‘heads-up’ that something’s just not right. There are times when things are so confusing you wonder, “Is it me, or is there really something ‘off’ about this person?” The Dark Magician has already popped up once when I did a 3-card spread concerning an acquaintance who was behaving strangely, and it did seem to confirm my general feeling about this person’s behavior.
But back to the “regular” cards. There are so many beautiful cards in this deck, it’s hard to choose only a few to highlight, but here’s a short rundown on several of my favorites:
Wheel of Fortune
This card is set in deep space with a galaxy whirling at the top, as the “Lady of Fate”, per the website explanation, spins a geometric figure known as the Flower of Life. Stars glitter as another blue-wrapped fate figure ascends from the bottom of the wheel, ready for another round.
Wild weather surrounds the Magician, but you can tell he’s the cause of it all, and he stands stalwart throughout the storm, transmitting the electricity from thunderbolts in the sky to his wand and from his fingers as his cauldron boils and birds flutter around him. Also included is a “nebula of star dust, of which we are all made”, a nice description from the website. I especially like the dynamic aspect of this card, the way the elements combine as the Magician wills everything into creation.
This card echoes the Magician card, above. Lightning bolts strike a falling castle. The bolts are wielded by Poseidon, the sea god, as a storm rages in the ocean below. The cards are very similar in hue and style. Gloria Jean now has a blog, “Tarot Tower” http://tarottower.com, where she presents her thoughts on some of her cards, with emphasis on the Tower card paired with others. She points out that she discovered that Poseidon on the Tower card looks very much like her Magician, and is shown with lightning (again, like the Magician), as a manifestation of the power to change things and to take the initial action that sets all in motion.
Two of Swords
This card features a painting titled “Orestes Pursued by the Furies” by William Adolphe Bouguereau. It’s a good choice for the Two of Swords. One of the things I see most often when this card comes up is a desire not to listen, to not hear what we are terrified of hearing, that a choice or some sort of decision must be made. The hovering Furies and the tormented figure of Orestes, trying to cover his ears against the howling of Fate, perfectly illustrate some of these key meanings of the Two of Swords.
Four of Wands
This is a beautiful card, which the website refers to as “The support of the Court”, and it depicts a celebration, with a young woman surrounded by friends and family. The people in the background stand massed behind her, a visual image that conveys the iron-clad (literally, some are soldiers in armor!) support that she enjoys.
I’ve tried to show the Court cards, the Dark Magician and Dark Priestess, plus a few other cards to give an idea of just how attractive this deck is. The colors are dark and rich, but you can see details quite well, and the images are striking and evocative. I’ve been using the Infinite Visions Tarot for my not-quite-daily 3 card readings, and have found it very easy to use–I leaped from my “usual” deck to the Infinite Visions Tarot without any problem at all. I recommend this deck highly; my only qualm with this deck is that I found myself wishing that it was a bit larger. While writing this review I discovered that this deck is now (as of mid July 2010) offered in a larger size. The paintings ‘show’ very well at the current size and details aren’t lost, but I imagine the new larger size deck will be even more stunning.
I would also like to see a list of artist attributions for each card. There’s no comprehensive list at the moment, but I checked with Gloria Jean and this is planned for the future.
Quick Reference Guide
- Deck Style
- The Infinite Visions Tarot is based on the Rider-Waite deck. There’s no accompanying book, but Gloria Jean recommends the book Learning the Tarot by Joan Bunning as a companion to her deck.
A 48 -page Little White Book (LWB) is packed into the box with the deck. It contains brief descriptions of all 80 cards and states that it’s designed for doing one-card readings.
Gloria Jean’s website, , features photos of all the cards plus interpretations of all the Major Arcana cards and the Wands suit (it’s a work in progress), with special pages relating to the Dark Priestess and Dark Magician cards. This information is a bit more detailed than that contained in the LWB. Another website associated with the deck, and the Tower card in particular, is Tarot Tower.
- Since it’s based on the Rider-Waite, the deck used by many beginners, and as most of the images chosen mirror those of the Rider-Waite, with a fully-illustrated Minor Arcana, tarot novices shouldn’t find this deck daunting.
- 2.5″ wide x 4.0″ high, (for comparison, a Bicycle-style playing card deck is 2.5″ x 3.5″). It’s not a huge deck but it’s not too small, either. It’s good for smaller hands, and it’s easy to carry around, if you’re the “have deck, will travel” type.
A larger size, 2.75″ X 4.5″ has just been made available. It is borderless, like the smaller size, and will include a LWB (the LWB will be the same size in each deck).
An uncut deck, 10 printed sheets totaling 80 cards, plus a printed and laminated box design, can also be ordered. If you’re handy (unlike me), you can cut and round the corners on this deck yourself. This version costs about half of the ready-made version.
- This deck is handmade and self-published by Gloria Jean, all corners are also hand-cut (1/8″ diameter corner rounded, to get technical!)
The card stock is 100 lb. book cover stock with a satiny matte finish. Gloria Jean told me that the book cover stock used for these cards is heavier than the regular card stock normally used for decks. The finish is water-resistant, which means, Gloria Jean says, that it won’t smear if drops of water hit it. I’ve been reading with these cards, and they feel very smooth and silky to the touch, (yet flexible) and seem quite sturdy.
The box containing the cards is, like the deck, handmade by Gloria Jean. It’s laminated, with the Fool card featured on the front of the box. Each deck arrives with an enclosed Certificate of Authenticity, signed by Gloria Jean, in the form of an extra laminated card. (Mine is # 10-107, which means it was made in 2010 and is the 107th deck made that year.)
- Burnt-orange/gold pattern with irregular black-outlined shapes in an interlocking design, with bands of color applied vertically. (It looks a bit like cork with a pattern drawn on it.) It’s an all-over pattern that’s fine for reversals.
- Strength is #8, Justice is #11. Names and numbers are in either black or white to contrast with the artwork and thus stand out nicely for easy reading; arabic numbers (1-2-3) are used.
The Infinite Visions Tarot is an 80 card deck. The 2 “extra” Major Arcana cards, the Dark Priestess and the Dark Magician, are not numbered (the name of the card appears at the top) and don’t interfere with the order of the other Majors.
- Borderless; the image extends to the edge of the card, which beautifully showcases the art.
- Ordering Information
- The Infinite Visions Tarot can be ordered the Infinite Visions website, or you can email Gloria Jean directly for your copy.
Visit Valerie’s excellent astrology blog, Neptune’s Fire.