Sunday, December 03, 2006


by Stone Riley


The Magic Mirror Tarot is a double deck set that would make a wonderful gift for the upcoming holidays -- for experienced and beginner readers, and especially for collectors. Each laminated deck comes in its own really nice hard box (not one of those pre-fab thin cardboard cartons most decks come in) and both are contained in a larger carton. For new readers, Riley’s accompanying booklet has a suggested approach to reading for one’s self, how to read for someone else, and the ethics of reading for others, among other things. Riley’s website (link above) addresses the differences in art style between the decks, along with additional information on each deck, the history of this art project, and all the images for each deck.

The two decks, THE SIMPLE TAROT and THE SPIRIT HILL TAROT, allow for personal taste in which deck to use, and maybe (IMHO) for differences in the type of question being asked of The Tarot. I will go a little into my experience of these two decks in the readings below. The distinction Riley makes between the art work on these two decks reminds me of what the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said exists between “window pane” writing and (I believe he called it) artistic writing. In the first instance one does not even notice the writing; in the second one is aware of the writing itself as art as well as what it is communicating. The Simple Tarot might be compared to window pane style, and the Spirit Hill Tarot to artistic.


THE SIMPLE TAROT is a black and white deck with very basic, uncomplicated line drawings. On viewing it I thought it might be well-suited to less complex questions.(Footnote 1) So I asked: Is it at all likely I will move out of New York City? I got what is a “yes” answer in my system of yes/no = The Moon card:

However, when and where I might move is still very unclear – the Moon card often indicates unclarity so it is far from certain that I will. If it does happen it will ultimately feel comfortable – though not necessarily be an easy process. It may be an indicator of the right place to move if it feels familiar in some way when I first visit it.

How did having used THE SIMPLE TAROT influence my experience of this reading? I cannot be absolutely sure but I believe it was the words on the card that precipitated my inner and immediate responses – beyond my general understandings of The Moon card. The words are direct and plain, as the drawing is, and left little room for my being distracted or tempted off path into other associations and possibilities. This is what the drawings and words on this deck as a whole do for me.

THE SPIRIT HILL TAROT is a full color, modern art deck (see my review here). In a more “scientific” comparison of these two decks one might ask the same question of both decks. However, it is no longer the same question as I have already had a very satisfactory answer. Even had the answer not been satisfactory it would still not be the same question any more. (One cannot step into the same river twice.) I also feel that the Spirit Hill Tarot may be, at least for me, better suited to a more obviously multi-leveled inquiry and to the more complex kind of answer that inquiry might result in. So I asked the Spirit Hill Tarot: What attitude and/or understanding might be most helpful for me to cultivate in myself as I continue to address my health issues? I got the Two of Water (Two of Cups):

Oh, my! The name of the painting on this card is “Persephone.” This myth happens to be a defining one in my life, as I am a survivor of childhood abuse. My associations to the painting itself also speak to me: rooted green surrounded in flame. Both the Persephone myth and the painting say to me to continue to work at befriending the opposites within me, those contradictions that seem nigh on to impossible to embrace – the darkness, the underworld, that which threatens to bury or consume. That this painting looks fiery and is on a water card, further supports this befriending of opposites (fire and water are said to often “fight”). And it is in that befriending, that accepting and receiving – as the card’s words put it – that I will more fully approach the health I have been struggling toward for so long. There was quite a bit more to this card reading but it would be going far afield of the purpose of this post to share it all. Suffice it to say the Spirit Hill design offered a much more complex answer than the one I saw in the Simple Tarot.


I’d say the Spirit Hill Tarot lends itself to intensity and complexity of response. Whereas the Simple Tarot sort of said to me very quickly: “asked and answered,” and I felt no need to look any further. I do want to figure out a way of working with both decks on the same issue.(Footnote 2) At any rate, although these readings have given me a sense of the difference in reading with each deck, I hesitate to suggest this will be the same for any other reader. I will stress, however, that I really liked reading with both decks and that Riley’s art work unerringly hooks into something important for me every time I’ve used his cards.

So check out his website (link at top of this post) with holiday shopping in mind, or just enjoy it for yourself. But check it out!

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Footnote 1: It’s true it is not always apparent which questions are complex when it comes to The Tarot. What may appear to be a simple question for The Tarot can turn out to be a doorway onto a maze of issues and influences. So I am speaking rather generally here.

Footnote 2: One idea: pull one card from each deck and keep them face down until both are pulled, then read and compare them. Or maybe a two column fun project for the future that I'll post here if it seems worthwhile.

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Please see the top of the sidebar for my background with the Tarot and a recommendation to beginners.

‘til next time, keep enjoying The Tarot,


[aka: Patricia Kelly]

****If you wish to copy or use any of my writing, please email me for permission (under “View my complete profile”)**** SEE ALSO: Roswila’s Dream & Poetry Realm for some articles about Tarot.****


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