Cassandra Snow

Magickal. Practical. Radical.

Cassandra Snow is a tarot card reader, writer, and theater artist professionally. This website is focused on her life in tarot, with substantial references to witchcraft, LGBTQ+ community, and chronic illness.

Filtering by Category: Tarot Reviews

The Decks I Use Most Often & Why (Plus my current deck wish list!)

Hello all,

As the holiday season approaches people are putting together their wish lists and reading holiday round-ups and I am living for it. I love those lists and eat them up with vigor. I’m not quite doing that but I am doing a post about the plethora of decks I use regularly and why you should grab them for your loved one or yourself this holiday season.

I’m picky about tarot decks: if you’re not queer friendly and throwing some fierce images at me, if there’s not a progressive slant, if you’re just rehashing the same classic tarot decks we all love but have been done to death I just can’t throw my money in to support you. I’m also exceedingly picky about the Death card, the Moon card, and having illustrated pips. I read and teach largely through art analysis so you’ve obviously gotta give me some kind of art to analyze.

With that being said, here are my absolute favorite tarot decks:

 One of many very good images from the Next World Tarot

One of many very good images from the Next World Tarot

  • Unfortunately a couple of my favorites are out of print and a couple are in between printings. So while you maybe can’t buy The Numinous Tarot or Next World Tarot THIS holiday season you should bookmark those sites and check back.

    The Numinous Tarot is a delightful trip down a colorful genderqueer paradise and the art even features disabled people, chubby people, and lots of BIPOC. It’s shiny and pretty and I absolutely love it.

    The Next World Tarot is a powerful and exciting deck. In the creator’s own words “Featuring body outlaws, endangered cultures, and anti-colonial belief systems, THE NEXT WORLD TAROT envisions a world where justice relies on respect and revolutionary love “. It also gives crystal clear readings with practical steps.

    The Slow Holler is, unfortunately, totally out of print and potentially not coming back. The Collective Tarot is for sure not coming back which is a shame because I don’t even have one. I’m just obsessed. If you manage to find a copy of either floating around a Facebook marketplace or e-bay though grab it stat. Both decks are collective decks that reimagine the suits and the majors to be explicitly queer and reference queer community instead of heteronormative family units. Good luck and happy deck hunting!

  • There’s a deck I love so much I decided to use it to illustrate my upcoming Queering the Tarot book: The Urban Tarot by Robin Scott. I’m careful with this one because some of the images can be jarring to people who’ve had rough experiences. The deck updates the Thoth tarot beautifully though, giving it an urban magic makeover. It’s getting repackaged and sold through a bigger publisher soon but you can still grab a copy at the link.

  • My personal favorite decks are actually The Book of Shadows tarot by Barbara Moore. I honestly don’t know why I connect with this sister deck so much. The As Above & So Below decks are so different and not altogether cohesive. Yet I turn to the As Above over and over again for advice on spiritual matters, and the So Below is absolutely my standard deck for events and busy days at my steady gig as it’s packed with modern images, soft but bright colors, and practical guidance.

  • The Linestrider Tarot looks like a light, fluffy, whimsical deck. It is that, but it is also anything but. It is actually my “straight talk” deck that I turn too when I can sense someone needs some blatant honesty from the tarot. It just happens to have really cute splashes of watercolor throughout it.

  • The Prisma Visions is stunningly beautiful and at times starkly evocative but that’s just one of the reasons I love it. Each suit spreads out to make one big picture, and the card’s interpretation is just what happens when you lift that piece out. It’s an amazing learning tool for my tarot students and it’s a breathtaking deck to use with clients. Honestly if what you’re hearing is “I like it because it’s easy to learn and pretty”…well, that basically is what I’m saying.

  • I have often thought that a good way to subvert cis and heteronormativity in the tarot is to just not feature humans. The Wooden Tarot has proven that to be a solid viewpoint. This one somewhat breaks my rule about illustrated pips but there is enough difference in each card and intentional design of the pips that I am still able to teach and read with it easily.

  • The Cosmos Tarot & Oracle. I don’t even know what to say about this deck. It’s definitely not for beginners and even as someone who is just an astrology hobbyist I struggle with it sometimes as it combines the two forms of divination into something really unique and special, albeit a little complicated. It’s a collective deck too, and right out of Minneapolis. It’s stunning, artistically. It’s fun. It’s very deep and nuanced and you can read with it for years like I have and still learn new things at every use.

  • Surprisingly, the deck that has been and has felt like mine the longest is actually a very battered Spiral Tarot. This one fits in with my spiritual beliefs that life is a cycle and we sometimes just need guidance for where we are. My Celtic based paganism is largely why I fell so hard for this deck, but I also listed it on here not to push you to buy it but to show that the deck that calls out to you is the one for you. You can queer it later. You can add your radical beliefs and subvert every single card if that’s what you want to do. The magick is in the connection between you and the deck, and you never really know where that’s going to land.

 From the  Book of Shadows, So Below

From the Book of Shadows, So Below

There’s one HUGE exception to that last statement though; when a deck isn’t rooted in our history and culture, we probably should not use it to make money. I have a Santa Muerte deck that I think most Latinx readers would absolutely adore. I use it for myself or my partners sometimes. I never, ever use it to make money or for promotional pics because it is so steeped in Latinx culture that it feels ludicrously appropriative for me to profit off of. Another deck I love and strongly recommend but do not use is the Dust II Onyx deck. It is so full of love for black women and black spirituality and so deeply imbued with fat and body positive messages. This deck is so important and I can not recommend it enough to black clients and students. I in no way use it to make money but honestly it’s phenomenal and you should own it.

As I look at how my practice has changed and evolved, I’m super into a few decks that I think would round out my collection amazingly. So here’s what I want Santa to bring me for secular Christmas this year (or what I want my Pagan friends to snag for me for Yule). My top wish list decks are:

  • The Visionary Tarot. I’ve been looking for a black and white deck that calls to me for a long time and I’m really smitten with this one and it’s silver edges. There’s very little info about the deck or it’s process out there. I saw it on one of my favorite instagram accounts and have been stalking the Etsy page ever since.

  • The Brady Tarot. This one is a lot of birds and again, I just really love the art of it. Emi has spoken a lot about her visions and ideas for the deck though and I’m always delighted at those interviews and Emi’s vision for using the tarot to shape conversation and connect to deeper purpose. For some of the same reasons I’m also really smitten with the Anima Mundi Tarot. They both go back to that whole “less humans = more queer, more liberation from patriarchal ideas, etc” idea and are so lovely in such different ways.

  • Of course I’m constantly dying to get my mitts on the aforementioned Collective Tarot as well as Thea’s Tarot, which is a queer, feminist deck. Thea’s IS coming back though and you can read more about it here.

Please share your favorite decks (or wish list items!) in the comments below! I love to hear about your experiences with tarot and what’s moving you these days!

Blessed be y’all!

A Linestrider Tarot Review!

My tastes can run pretty exclusively queer, feminist, and indie so when I noticed a new deck at the metaphysical store where I have a (wonderful) steady gig that didn't fit into that at all, I was extra enchanted by it for the sheer fact that I normally pass a lot of decks like that by. I kept coming back and playing with the demo, even doing a couple of personal readings with it. Finally I broke down, bought it, and brought it home. I'm officially grounded from buying decks, having also bought the new version of the Wild Unknown this month, but I feel genuinely blessed to have this deck in my life.

The deck is Siolo Thompson's Linestrider Tarot, and Thompson's mission was to add her own touch to a classic divination system. The deck's most important feature and why I think it called out so loudly to me was because the accompanying box and book confirm that part of the artist's "own touch" is adding whimsy to a divination system that goes deep to bring you to a place of healing and intuition. Tarot can get very heavy and very real, so adding a whimsical touch to remind us that whimsy exists is really inspired. I talk a lot about my PTSD and the fact that fun, lightness (as opposed to heaviness), and humor are crucial to my day to day existence. I'm a huge stand-up fan, and bubbles are on my "basic needs" tier when I'm stocking up my house, but I also work hard towards my goals and my own healing and recovery. This deck almost seems tailor-made for me--but I ran a discount using my new decks for private clients throughout July and it quickly became a favorite of my clients' as well.

I've already talked about overall inspiration and connection to this deck, so I'll dive right into how that manifests in the Artwork.Thompson created a deck that is deeply inspired by more traditional decks, but very successfully reinvents those images. The pictures seem simple--animals and people alike have firmer, darker lines creating their shape and watercolor to fill it out. Many of the images include a basic splash of watercolor for interest and mood. It's absolutely beautiful, and pictures never do it justice. It's definitely one I recommend getting in your hands. It is truly lovely, and the promise to stay true to tarot's depth while also bringing in some silliness and joy comes through in nearly every spread I've laid out. The card quality is not my favorite, and that does bring me down slightly. This is certainly not Thompson's fault and even though it's gotten pretty heavy use since I got it, nothing has cracked or worn down, and it's become more pleasant to touch as it's gotten shuffled more. They are a little stiff and just not as smooth or seamless as I had hoped.

The Queerness Quotient is really interesting in this deck. I want to be clear that I in no way think decks have to be queer, though I do think in 2016 they should be inclusive overall and a little more progressive in terms of gender roles. In the negative, the Linestrider does stick pretty rigidly to men as knights and kings, women as queens and pages as well as the presumptions that can accompany the Majors. However, Thompson (very likely not accidentally) uses a lot of animals in the deck, including in cards of romantic love or where a lot of gendered assumptions about relationships would normally be. Additionally, there are a few human characters that don't have a clear gender for us to make assumptions about, and that's done really well and in completely appropriate positions. Most of my Queering the Tarot work is using decks like this that someone might love or be really drawn to for personal reasons but that some cards may be hard to relate to on first glance. If you're good at thinking outside of the box or familiar with any of Queering the Tarot, this deck is relatively easy to work with.

Overally inclusivity however is slightly lacking. It's easy for me to believe that not all of the humans are intended to default to being white (it's a lot of lines and shadows that intentionally don't seem detailed or finished), but many going into a deck will assume that characters not explicitly POC are not. Decks shouldn't fall into the #tarotsowhite gap in 2016, but I do think that this blow is softened by the fact that many of the humans are just suggestions of humans and many of the cards are just animals. I definitely think that is this deck's weak spot.

Guidebook and Ease of Learning is stellar. This is probably the best deck for total beginner's that I've picked up in awhile, and definitely the best deck for intermediate to advanced readers who don't want to put a ton of effort into learning a new deck that I've picked up in a really long time. The animal symbolism is fun to read into, but knowing a ton isn't necessary as Thompson doesn't necessarily stick to that. The accompanying book is really easy to read, and Thompson doesn't unnecessarily throw you for a loop, though it is really fun to see her spin and interpretation of the cards she did get more creative with. While the cards seem really simple they do each of a few other details thrown in for symbolism and that's really fun to play with and add layers to your current understanding.

I am still very taken with this deck. I absolutely love it, and next month it is getting added to my general repertoire for sure. If you're looking for something different but not difficult to learn, this is a really solid option. The use of color and simple symbols is so smart and often so fun. I can't say enough good things about it, so I'll cut off here. It's produced by Llewellyn, so it should be really easy to find. They even have it on Amazon, but I can't suggest going to your local metaphysical shop or a private bookstore instead enough.

Until next time, Blessed Be.

 

Tangled Roots Oracle Review

A little while ago a wonderful witch friend gifted me an Oracle deck she wrote and made the art for. It's a first run of a locally made deck, with the added bonus of Leora gifting it to me out of love, and so I was inclined to like it anyway--but as soon as the deck hit my hand I was surprised by how right it felt that I owned this deck. I rarely connect with oracle decks that aren't slightly creepy or fairy-laden (and even those I'm picky about), so I was really excited to see what transpired as I went through it.

This gift, the Tangled Roots Oracle, was created by local artist Leora Effinger-Weintraub, and her website as well as more about the deck is here. I wasn't officially asked to do a review, which makes me feel even warmer and fuzzier about the gift, but decided to do one anyone because I truly love this deck.

Overall inspiration and connection I've already touched on this quite a bit. Originally I sat down with Leora and asked a million questions about the how and why of the deck, and it originally started as just a way for her to have a deck she truly connected to. Her spirituality comes from a certain line, and she's a woman who's soul runs very deep, and so it was hard for her to find THE one. I think it's fascinating, and confirms the adage I hear about art and story-telling, that the more personal something is, the more universal it is. Leora may have created this for herself and those like her, but something about this deck runs really deep and digs right into your own soul.

The Artwork on the Tangled Roots Oracle is so simple and beautiful. That's very true to the artist's style--she does a lot of work with lettering and simple things that make a big statement. I'd seen some of the early illustrations and knew they gave a lot of ideas in a very concise manner, with the reader's knowledge and ability to suss out symbols being pretty key. The finals in the deck added a lot of color for what seems like interest but is incredibly mood-focused. Her use of symbols is great, and since this is a deck meant to be incredibly personal, I love that the picture is of just, say, a raccoon, for example. If a raccoon means something drastically different to you than it does to Leora, it doesn't matter--there's not anything to contrast your vision on the card, so it gets to speak to you as it needs to without being confused. Simple decks are one of my greatest joys in life, don't let my Prisma Visions and Tarot of the Silicon Dawn addictions confuse you, and this is one of the best I've seen in this vein.

Card Quality: If you've been keeping up with my blog or even just hear me talk about tarot a lot, you know this can be a touchy subject for me. I don't let poor card quality ruin a deck for me, but I do find it incredibly disappointing on otherwise flawless decks. So I am very happy to report that these simple but powerful images are seated comfortably on durable but flexible cards. One of the first things I said out loud about the deck was "Oooh, good cards!" by which I meant the quality.

Overall Inclusivity is a non-issue with this deck. Leora designed this with herself and immediate inner circle in mind, but she is a proud social justice warrior like myself (I know that term is supposed to be derogatory. I just don't find it to be.) This deck relies so heavily on suggestion, symbols, and shrouded figures that I don't think anyone would feel left out by this deck, and if anything, I think the way she uses her artwork does include and pull pretty much everyone into the fold.

The Queerness Quotient then is also stellar. Leora is a queer woman, so much like the Fountain Tarot, while not an explicitly queer deck, that piece of her identity runs through it in a way that those of us looking for a deck with queerness will be satisfied. That being said, the ambiguity of this deck makes it even more welcoming of those marginalized even within our community. While the deck was designed through a certain lens, she does a really lovely job of making sure that's not the only lens it can be seen through.
 

Guide Book and Ease of Learning also hit a home run in this case. Because this is a low cost self-published deck (a rare thing in and of itself), the guide book is a simple folded pamphlet with brief interpretations of the cards. It's very straightforward, and makes it doubly clear that this deck is very Pagan and very personal. The book offers very short interpretations which further allows for the reader to build from the building block she's laid out for us. My one sort of complaint or criticism is actually that I wanted more of Leora's voice in the book. Not necessarily in the interpretations of the cards, but she had such beautiful things to say about the deck's conception and creation that I thought a thicker pamphlet with more info about the deck would've been so valuable, esp to those who might just pick it up at an event or online. This Oracle deck is very easy to learn in comparison with others. I know tarot so well that I sometimes struggle with oracle decks, but the Tangled Roots Oracle goes in a logical order, and allows for free-thinking in a way that makes it easy for anyone to at least read for themselves with.

Leora Effinger-Weintraub's Tangled Roots Oracle sounds like a vague concept, but the information if gives can be as ethereal or concise if you need it to be. I've used it for everything from a "Mind, body, spirit" check-in to a question about a practical business issue I was facing and it gave me the information I needed in all cases. There's one or two cards that did take me aback--I expressed my concern about the deck's use of wedding bands to stand-in for commitment in a day and age where that particular symbol is often still seen as one of super traditional nuclear family lifestyles as opposed to how I, and many, queer people feel about romantic and other commitment. I have the deck's first run, and the artist is taking my feedback as well as that of a few other people into account. Ultimately though, even if nothing changes on the second run, Leora has created a really sweet, beautiful deck that is deeply rooted in Pagan beliefs but still offers incredibly valuable insight regardless of your identity and faith. I can't wait to get fully "off book," and this may be one of the first oracle decks I ever use for clients. It's that good.

Again, the website is here, and I am sure those that follow it will be among the first to know when sales go live again.

Blessed be, and thank you so much to Leora, her wife Eli, and all of the amazing queer Pagans doing amazing things in their communities.

 

A Very Tarot Christmas for Me!

My tarot wish list is almost always completely out of control, and I do buy decks pretty frequently. I like to have two-three that I'm learning and a plethora of faves to pick from for clients or myself. This Christmas I definitely got my "learning" shelf stocked up but some of them won't take me long, and the ones I'm most excited about are the harder ones, so I'm diving right in. Here's my snapshot reviews of the ones I've received this holiday season.

Cosmos Tarot and Oracle Deck
Overall inspiration and connection: Excellent. The queerplatonic partner and I went to the art exhibit here in Minneapolis and we were overwhelmed by the care put into every single art piece that comprises this deck. I was also fascinated by the concept of combining astrology, myth, and tarot to this extent. Most decks include all of these elements, but this is a totally different, beautiful beast that focuses more on the myth and cosmos. I have a deep abiding love for collaborative decks on top of that, and while some people won't like the lack of cohesion, my queer, art-loving brain loves it. The diversity of the different cards means my brain doesn't lull while I'm reading or try to make connections between cards where there aren't any.
Artwork: Stunning. It's 100 different brilliant artists and the variety of styles means there's something for everyone--with the exception, as aforementioned, of people who need their decks to be flawlessly cohesive.
Card Quality: Fine, so far; It's not a deck I held in my hands and thought "YES, BEST CARD QUALITY EVER," but it's better than even some of my decks that I use all the time. Nice and glossy, and though thin (which my arthritis loves because it shuffles better), they seem durable enough.
Queering Potential: Like the possibilities of the cosmos, the queering potential is endless. There's a few things in this deck that are gendered and the super traditional Empress isn't my favorite, but most of the cards are vague enough concepts or ideas or easy enough to alter genders and identities. Fascinatingly, there's called "Binary System" that could actually be wildly helpful in navigating through some of my client's identity questions, and more than enough cards that navigate outside of this binary to guide me the other way if they don't fall within the binary. The creators of this deck did a great job making sure myths were well-rounded and include some LGBTQQIAP+ oriented stories.
Guide Book and Ease of Learning: Ease of learning is a no-go on this one. I don't hold this against decks and prefer my decks to step outside the norm, so this isn't a slam, but if someone came to me and said "I really want to start learning tarot. What's a great starter deck?" I can't recommend this one. However, the guidebook is GREAT. It tells you about the astrological or cosmic entity being represented, the myth behind that entity, and how it ties into a reading. It is a totally different, made-up-for-this-deck school of tarot, and sometimes I hate that, but I really love what this deck does. If someone came to me and said "I want to learn tarot. I just want one deck I can connect to and bond with," this deck would be on that list.
Other Kudos or Complaints: The biggest problem I'm having with this one is a conflict between the way I learn and how this deck should be learned. I have several tips and tricks for learning, none of which work here. My preference is to combine what the deck says about the card with my understanding of it, but some of these are so drastically different. The cards do have keywords on them, which will be helpful for some, but hinders my learning style. This is more of a note than a complaint, but I know a lot of people learn similarly, and wanted to be honest about this. Even so, this is one of my very favorite decks, and is absolutely worth the challenge.

The Vertigo Tarot
Overall inspiration and connection: Great. This is definitely a "not for everybody: deck, but I'm a huge geek and Vertigo comics fan, so this has been on my list for a long while. It keeps going in and out of print, so I was so stoked and grateful the queerplatonic partner nabbed it for me when we saw a used copy. I connect with it really well, because most of the artists or writers involved are personal inspirations for me, but this isn't a deck for those not as into them or who just don't know much about the source material.
Artwork: For comic fans this is a beautiful interpretation of scenes and characters you love. For everyone else, it's a delightfully twisted and dark deck.
Card Quality: Not great, unfortunately. Someone who also collects decks to use told me at one point she couldn't use this one a lot, and I have to concur. Will absolutely use it for myself and geeky clients, but there's already some cracks and bends in it. They do shuffle well though!
Queering Potential: Adequate. There are some already queer or implied queer characters in the deck, and a lot of the stories and interpretations work well for how I already queer decks. Vertigo does have many more really great queer characters I would've liked to see show up, but I can definitely still work with this.
Guide Book and Ease of Learning: Ease of learning is great! It fits very well into most common schools of tarot. If you learn super image based, this one gets a little tricky. The guidebook is a little weird. They formatted it needlessly artistically but it basically does it's job and you can look up interpretations you can't figure out super easily.

(Anticipated) The Next World Tarot
I obviously don't have this yet. The Kickstarter just ended. I am so, ridiculously beyond excited for it though. For those who don't know, this is a Michelle Tea, Cristy C. Road team up that is described as a "queer punk" deck, and at first glance is full of nothing but WTFs. I could not be more ready for my kickstarted copy to show up. Obviously this review will likely change drastically, but hopefully by then I'll be writing regular reviews and get super in depth.
Overall inspiration and connection: I'm so desperate to get this deck in my hands. I want to cry with wanting it right meow, if that tells you anything.
Artwork: "Queer punk", full of femmes. I'm drooling over every single picture they've released already.
Card Quality: This is the one thing I'm nervous about. Kickstarted or indie decks in the past have been really hit or miss. I don't expect them all to be The Fountain Tarot (SO smooth! So good!), but I also don't want another Prisma Visions card stock--so thick, doesn't shuffle well, some of the gloss started peeling, etc. (The PV is a super phenomenal deck though otherwise!)
Queering Potential: My job is done here.
Guide Book and Ease of Learning: It looks pretty straightforward for a queer deck, but we'll see! I'm pumped about it regardless, whether it's easy breezy or a challenge.
Other Kudos or Complaints:

The Hobbit Tarot (Not Pictured)
Overall inspiration and connection: I mostly wanted this deck for geek cred and as a deck collector, but was pleasantly surprised by the connection I felt once it was in my hands. Not my strongest or most in tune deck, but definitely a pleasant surprise.
Artwork: Adorable in a way I don't hate. I don't do a lot of novelty decks unless I'm super into the thing, which I am in this case. This is a very sweet deck based on original artwork and concepts from Tolkien's book The Hobbit.
Card Quality: Good--if you've bought a mass market deck in the past 20 years, you know what to expect.
Queering Potential: It's tricky, but not impossible. In some ways a deck featuring mostly male characters lends itself to this easier, but it's a lot of twisting Tolkien's original character concepts. However, this deck is much more "epic quest" based and much less other people based, so it can be applied to any major quest or search.
Guide Book and Ease of Learning: By far the easiest deck I got this season to learn, and the deck is one of the small paper-only ones with really straightforward interpretations. It's not necessary to know about the tarot or The Hobbit to pick this up, and if you know about one or both it's really easy to combine what you know about each in your brain.
Other Kudos or Complaints: Any problems I have with this deck are problems I have with either Tolkien or original school of tarot concepts, so.

So Those were the decks other people got me this season (so far), and they are pretty great overall. In 2016 I should be receiving my Slow Holler tarot deck (!!!!!), and reviews moving forward will be one at a time and more in depth. I'm so excited to have this blog and have you all reading.

Share your favorite decks you got this year and how you feel about them, and until next time,

Blessed Be.