Disclaimer: I received this deck from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When I was in middle school I was obsessed with the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. In fact, Poe’s poetry played a big part in my own inspiration to one day become a poet, too.
So when I found out that an Edgar Allan Poe tarot deck was being released, I was intrigued. If you’re familiar with Poe’s work – dark, brooding, Gothic poetry and mysterious fiction – then it’s easy to imagine how Poe’s influence can cross over into tarot.
But does the deck work? Does it read well? Let’s dive in to find out:
I don’t typically pay too much attention to the boxes tarot decks come in, but I do want to touch on this briefly because a) I know it’s an important detail to others, and b) The packaging of this deck is worthy of a mention.
This deck comes as a full package with a 288-page companion book inside a beautiful fold-out box. It’s sturdy and feels like it’s meant to last. I was really impressed when I first opened up this package: It makes the deck feel special.
The Edgar Allan Poe Tarot stands on its own in comparison to modern classics like the Rider Waite Smith. And that’s the intention of the deck’s author, Rose Wright, who builds connections to Poe’s writing through each card.
This is not a RWS clone dressed up in gothic imagery: The Edgar Allan Poe Tarot brings a new alternative to your tarot practice.
The Major Arcana is keyed to the RWS structure – Strength in the eighth position, Justice in the eleventh – and the names and titles of the cards are familiar to what we typically see in tarot: the Magician, High Priestess, Hierophant, and so on.
But it’s Eugene Smith’s illustrations that set this deck apart. Taking inspiration from Poe’s writings, the artwork on this tarot pack pays homage to tarot’s traditional symbols and archetypes while drawing heavily from Poe’s symbolism and storytelling, too.
For example, the Fool card doesn’t give us a figure standing on the edge of a cliff like we’re used to seeing. Instead, we are given a scene from Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” where two characters are heading into the catacombs.
To move deeper underground on a secret mission, foolishly stabbing around in the dark, gives us a different perspective on the Fool card, holding within it reminders that life can be full of adventure, but we have to be careful not to find ourselves on a fool’s errand.
Poe himself is depicted as the Emperor. In the guidebook, Wright explains that, “His authority in writing and his empathy for the human condition made him a true leader of his craft.” This is another example of the detail, thought and construction that’s gone into this deck. It offers a new take on the Emperor card, drawing parallels to common themes we associate with this archetype but keeping in true to Poe’s legacy, presence and merit.
Overall, the colour and tone of the deck is dramatic, detailed, and moody – just what one would expect given Poe’s writings. I’m always a fan of decks that feature people, rather than abstract images, and strong stories within each card, because those are types of decks that give their readers a lot to talk about.
Smith’s illustrations don’t disappoint. I wish I could show you every card of the deck but you’ll have to discover those for yourself: Each one is a window into a new layer of your question, giving ample opportunity to put your own language, interpretations, and ideas around your reading.
The risks and departures this deck takes from more familiar tarot images pays off. The artwork is thought-provoking and clear. Beginner tarot readers will find plenty of interesting details to work with that will help them go beyond standard keywords and get into the heart of their readings.
More experienced readers will find that they have a new tarot deck on their hands that challenges their tried-and-true approaches to the cards and perks up their imagination – something I would expect from a deck like this.
Okay, the guidebook is awesome. It feels like it was written with both beginners and advanced readers in mind, as it covers some standard card meanings but also gets more specific into the artistic choices made in this deck.
Wright’s writing is clear and easy to follow, and interpretations are provided for upright and reversed meanings. The card meanings feel like they are aimed more at beginner readers.
What advanced readers will appreciate is that there is also a backstory for each card that explains the image choices and how they relate to Poe’s writings. For tarot readers who want new, fresh perspectives on their cards and are ready to move away from the usual LWB meanings, the parallels that are drawn between Poe’s work and tarot’s symbolism brings a fresh perspective – and helps you to create a unique relationship with this deck that you can’t find in other tarot packs.
The guidebook also includes spreads, reading tips, and an overview of tarot’s structure – again making it accessible to newer readers.
How does it read?
Overall, this deck could work really well for a variety of questions and tarot-reading styles.
Its intention seems to be to work as any other tarot deck does. In the guidebook, Wright explains, “For those who haven’t read much of Poe’s work outside of his most famous poems and stories, you can use this book for the divinatory meanings found [in the book].”
Because the colour palette of the deck is often dark and moody – like Poe himself – it may feel a bit more serious in tone overall, but a discerning reader will be able to make these cards speak quite clearly, and quickly, if you put the time in to really study these images.
But this deck feels like it deserves a special role in a tarot reader’s collection. You could really stretch your imagination with this one and use it for writing prompts, creative visioning, or even to channel Poe as a tutelary ghost companion if you’re feeling so inclined.
Overall, this deck could work well for readers of various levels, either for personal or professional use.
It’s available at llewellyn.com.
Until next time,