Tarot and Oracle Decks have exploded into the common experience since the 1990s. Today there are literally thousands of decks to choose from, including out-of-print decks and published ones. Reviewing anything involves subjective judgment based on various criteria. I will be looking at the quality and size of the cards, visual accessibility of the art, quality of the companion text of the deck, and potential usefulness in professional practice. This month I have chosen to review the Ethereal Visions Illuminated Tarot by Matt Hughes.
The Ethereal Visions Illuminated Tarot
The Ethereal Visions Illuminated Tarot was published in 2018 by US Game Systems. This deck only comes with a pamphlet book; the deck sells for $14.68 on Amazon at the time this article was written.
From the Amazon review:
In creating Ethereal Visions Tarot Matt Hughes has drawn inspiration from the Art Nouveau movement, adopting its distinctive style and meticulous approach to craftsmanship. The artist has also created two additional cards to supplement the traditional Major Arcana. Every detailed image in the 80-card deck is hand-drawn and colored. Matt Hughes is a self-taught artist who focuses on the aesthetic approaches referred to today as “The Golden Age of Illustration.”
Hughes’s artwork is certainly amazing and a style that does suit the tarot cards perfectly. If there should ever be a deck used in a TV show or movie going forward, this should be one of the decks selected.
The card stock is excellent quality, so the cards will hold up with regular to high use. The cards are much larger than a playing cards, stiff due to the quality of the card stock, and thus, not as easy to shuffle as other decks.
I have rather average to small hands (I cannot palm a basketball), so the size of a deck of cards matters when it comes to shuffling them, especially in front of clients. The deck is barely inside my grip, so it is not as easy to shuffle as many of my other decks. This deck is more rectangular than square, with rounded edges, and an exquisite print quality, making the beautiful artwork really pop!
The Ethereal Visions Illuminated Tarot is an exceptional deck for professional readings and one that has gone into my top three decks for regular rotation when reading in public. The imagery honors some of the first, older and classic decks, but brilliantly blends the feel of another era with a sense of timelessness that works today.
I immediately started using this deck in public after I purchased it. The imagery is beautifully rendered, and the size of the cards makes it easy for a client to see the images and appreciate the artwork. Clients have positively commented on the visual impact the cards impart in their readings and they are eager to take photos of the cards in the spread used for their reading.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
This deck is definitely visually accessible, which makes it easier for the reader and client to get the message quickly and accurately. In the cards above, the 7 of Wands clearly shows the effort one must make to defend one’s position.
The 6 of Pentacles shows someone of wealth trying to determine if people asking for help are worthy of the charity she has to offer. And the 7 of Cups show the layers behind and dangers associated with profound emotional choices, reminding us that we must take care in our decision making.
Finally, the High Priestess is drawn with regal stature befitting her important role as an advisor to others based on her own efforts successfully navigating life’s difficult choices. She has passed through her own struggles in order to be the best resource she can for people in need who are going through what she has been through herself.
Explanation of the Cards
This deck comes with a pamphlet guide, which provides the simplest and minimalist explanations; this deck certainly deserves a more comprehensive text. Hopefully, the creator or a tarot scholar will find the time and opportunity to create a companion book worthy of the deck.
Since the deck pulls from traditional designs, you can see how the Rider-Waite art compares. Also, you can easily go online and find more detailed explanations of the cards, especially through Wikipedia, which uses the Rider-Waite cards as their image for each card:
As a professional reader who started reading cards for pay in 1992, I can say that this deck among the best for personal and professional readings. It does have the usual difficult cards, like Death and the Tower, but the imagery is so stunning that there is an elegant beauty to even the most difficult of the cards. This deck also would make an excellent gift, both for someone who loves tarot and someone not familiar with the tarot, but who would certainly love the deck for its art.
I will give this deck my highest rating and easily put it among the top five decks I own (out of 100 or so). Clients who have worked with this deck have found it immensely powerful, actually opening the door for them to consider looking more deeply into tarot. The deck has a superior artistic design, which would explain its success as a Kickstarter campaign, which was subsequently published by one of the largest tarot deck publishers in the world (US Game Systems).
If you are a tarot and oracle card collector, then this is certainly a deck you need to have in your collection.