Monday, March 6, 2017

Deck Review: Chrysalis Tarot by Toney Brooks and Holly Sierra

A little while back, I was given the Chrysalis Tarot as a gift.  It was on my wish list after I found myself drawn to the illustrations over and over.  To be honest, the intensely vibrant, minutely-detailed art is not normally my style, but my imagination was continually captured by the artistic and spiritual choices in this deck.  The authors specifically designed this deck to have a more feminine energy than the classic Waite-Smith. They showcase feminine spirituality in various facets, from gentle and loving in the Sorceress (the High Priestess) to powerful and destructive in Kali (the Tower).

The feminine energy of this deck isn't done at the expense of some masculine balance; for example, the authors include Papa Legba as Strength. This brings me to another highlight in this deck: Brooks and Sierra conscientiously drew from a variety of global spiritual traditions while creating this deck, and the result is a wildly rich deck featuring more people of color than we often see, at least from major publishers. I would be very interested to hear feedback from folks whose cultures and spiritual traditions are represented.

Structurally, the Chrysalis Tarot replaces the four traditional suits, calling them instead mirrors (cups), stones (pentacles), spirals (wands), and scrolls (swords).  These suits seemed pretty drastically different to me at first, but the illustrations are so good at presenting an accessible meaning that they are not hard to read.  I struggled a little bit with the court cards; instead of assigning a consistent "page-knight-queen-king" schema, the court cards are organized as "The Troupe."  Each of the sixteen court cards has its own unique title; for example, what would be the page of scrolls is The Pilgrim, while the page of spirals is The Mime. If this sounds like a lot of new meanings to memorize, don't worry: The traditional ranks of the court are also listed on each card.

I think the Chrysalis Tarot would be a great deck for somebody familiar with Waite-Smith imagery who is looking for something to stretch them. It's consistent and accessible enough to be easy to read, but diverges from traditional imagery enough to provide a challenge and fresh interpretations.  If I had one complaint about the deck, it's that the cardstock is a bit stiff for me!  I use this deck less than I would if it were just a tad easier to shuffle.

Below, I'm showing you a Get To Know You spread for this deck. Originally taken from TABI, this spread gives some insight into how to be successful with this deck.


What is your most important characteristic?

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out if "Bella Rosa" is a reference.  I've looked it up and can't find much, so I'm going by the the "beautiful rose" in her hand and the lush, Venetian carnival-type outfit (y'all, I want that jacket).  The Devil can be a card about acknowledging the parts of us that we'd rather keep hidden, which is consistent with Bella's mask and elaborate costume.  This card tells me that the Chrysalis Tarot will be useful for examining aspects of myself that I'm reluctant to face.

What are your strengths?

The glassy, watery droplets that form the nine of mirrors convey the atmospheric touches of this deck really well; there are so many illustrations that you feel like you could reach out and grab. A celebratory card, the nine of mirrors suggests that this deck's strength lies in connecting with joy, and reframing issues in a positive light.

What are your limits?

As you can see, Brooks and Sierra have renamed the High Priestess, designating her as the Sorceress.  As far as limitations go, this deck isn't one for connecting to my hidden, inner femininity. While this is a bit ironic, given the authors' goal to center the feminine, I think the feminine energy in this deck will serve me in other ways.

What are you here to teach me?

The bird on this card would be a great representation for the Chrysalis Tarot; its rainbow coloring and intricate, stylized detailing can be found throughout this deck. The ten of mirrors tells me that this deck is here to teach me to find some contentment and happiness with my life in the moment.

How can I best learn and collaborate with you?

The Illusionist takes the role of knight of stones, or knight of pentacles.  The Chrysalis Tarot LWB includes suggested interpretations for court cards, and I've decided that the Illusionist is telling me not to overthink things too much if I want to be successful with the Chrysalis Tarot. Note the arched border around the Illusionist; all the court cards have this additional embellishment, setting them off from the rest of the major and minor arcana.

What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

The art here is an example of the global perspective the authors tried to bring; we see a desert landscape sprawling out before a goddess-like woman, who gazes above at scrolls unfolding into shapes evocative of Arabic script. Correlating to the eight of swords, the eight of scrolls is a card that encourages us to find some good in a situation that may otherwise seem hopeless; this deck has the potential to help me reframe issues in a more positive way and reduce worry.


The Chrysalis Tarot, with its art evocative of a fabulous children's book, is a deck with great potential to help me look at uncomfortable aspects of myself, and reframe them in a more positive, hopeful way.

What do you think of the Chrysalis Tarot?  Do the vivid illustrations catch your eye?  What do you think of the alternate suits?  Could you imagine yourself using this deck?  Share your thoughts in comments!

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