Labyrinth Tarot Deck and Guidebook by Minerva Seigel and Tomas Hijo

The holidays are here and with them comes a whole lot of new Tarot decks suitable for giving…to myself, BWAH HA HA! I’ve been waiting on The Labyrinth Tarot for several months and now that it’s finally here, it’s…well, it’s OK. Some of the art is lovely, and the suggested layouts are clever, but the creators seem to have run out of ideas before they ran out of cards.

For a little Tarot 101 that explains the structure of a typical deck, look here:

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Tarot Deck and Guidebook is based on the movie we shamelessly adore over here at the Bitchery, starring David Bowie and his inappropriate pants. The art is by Tomas Hijo, an amazing artist who uses woodcuts and printing to create images that feel mysterious and ancient. In the context of this deck, they look like the illustrations Sarah might find in one of her books.

The art on each card is very similar to the art in the sublime Tarot del Toro which is by the same artist and author. Personally, I would have liked a more colorful and whimsical approach to the Labyrinth deck, whereas the dark, moody art style of Hijo’s prints was perfect for the Del Toro deck, which also benefited from having multiple movies to get inspiration from instead of only one. However, this is subjective and I think a lot of readers will enjoy the old-fashioned feel of the art.

The lovers in the Del Toro deck, represented by the merman and Eliza
The lovers in the Del Toro deck, represented by the merman and Eliza
The Lovers from the Rider Waite Smith Deck
The Lovers from the Rider Waite Smith Deck
The Lovers in the Labyrinth Tarot are replaced by The Dancers
The Lovers in the Labyrinth Tarot are replaced by The Dancers

The first twenty-two cards of a tarot deck are called the Major Arcana. They represent iconic thoughts, ideas, and experiences. In this deck, the Major Arcana is made of all the major characters in the movie as well as some other symbols (for instance, Sarah’s stuffed teddy bear, Sir Lancelot, appears as “The Star”). The Major Arcana in this deck are well thought out, with interesting meanings and associations. I was especially happy that the guidebook included meanings for reversals (cards that are pulled from the deck in an upside down position).

I ran into real problems once I got through the Major Arcana and into the court and pip cards. In a traditional deck of tarot cards, these would consist of Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages, followed by number cards (also called pip cards) in the suits Wands, Swords, Clubs, and Coins (or, in many decks, Pentacles). In this deck, we have Poles filling in for Wands, Junk instead of Coins, Pots instead of Cups, and Feathers instead of Swords. The Court cards are illustrated with goblins from the movie that, while they are adorable, seem a bit random. The pip cards are only lightly illustrated, with plain, stark images of pots and feathers and so forth instead of cards that tell a story. I’d have loved to see the Pip cards illustrated with more storytelling images even if that involved including the same characters in multiple scenes.

the two of swords in the Rider Waite Smith deck shows a blindfolded woman on the shore of an ocean holding two swords. The Labyrinth version of the two of swords shows two feathers against a plain backgound with a ribbon.
Comparison between the Rider-Waite-Smith Two of Swords and the Labyrinth Tarot Two of Swords

The trick with a good tarot deck is to find images that are true to their source material and that evoke a reaction from the querent. The power of tarot is, in my opinion, psychological, not supernatural. The images in the deck have to help the querent think about a problem in a new way. They help the unconscious mind and the conscious mind talk to each other, and might lead us to consider angles of a problem that we didn’t before.

In the Major Arcana, I thought this deck did a sound, if not perfect, job. I especially appreciated surprises, like the peach Jareth gives to Sarah representing The Moon, a card that involves illusion, anxiety, and intuition. Even if I quibbled about a card or two, I could see how much thought went into their design and description. I didn’t have any of that sense with the pip cards or with most of the court cards, which was disappointing.

This deck is reasonably priced and can make a good gift for a devoted Labyrinth fan. I thought the layout ideas were very clever and perceptive. I tried a few readings on myself and found the layout formats to be very helpful.

Alas, for most tarot readers, I think this deck’s negatives will outweigh its positives. After the intricacy of the Major Arcana cards featuring significant main and supporting characters from the movie, what’s left is mostly unfulfilling. While I was happy to visit this deck, I will probably not be adding it to my keeper shelf.

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