The Wheel of Change Tarot
a review of Alexandra Genetti's new deck by M.A. Bovis
featured in Reclaiming Quarterly #70 -- spring 1998
The first time that I saw the Wheel of Change Tarot was as slides at the Bay Area Tarot Symposium in 1995. A couple of the images stayed in my mind for a long time - the 3 of disks and the 2 of wands.
I waited for 2 or 3 years for this deck to come out, and had the privilege of being able to correspond with the creator (Alexandra Genetti is very open, as are most Tarotists) while it was being worked on. While I was waiting for her to find a publisher, I ordered several of the cards which were available as color copies on greeting cards.
It is a great pleasure to finally have this deck. It is not an inexpensive set, as it costs almost $40. But compared to other sets at the same price, it is a good value. [2016 Note - the deck and book if both purchased now total $40 -- Ken Genetti]
I have a large tarot collection (60 - 70 decks) and I admit that several of them are collectors' items only and not for practical use. The majority I've tried to use, though, and to understand their "message." Tarot decks often have a message: either of the esoteric school that the deck creators came from (Rider-Waite/ Smith, Crowley, Golden Dawn, Servants of Light, BOTA) or social/political (Motherpeace, Daughters of the Moon, Inner Child). There are some decks that don't have a message at all, but they are unusual.
The message can affect my use of the deck. It can be quite tedious to be belabored by a message when I just want to know if some sweetie will call me again. Other times the message is supportive of me no matter what I'm using the cards for: meditation or divination.
My experience with the Wheel of Change Tarot deck is still limited at this point, so I can honestly only review the practical aspects of it: some of the things that make or break a deck for me in daily use. These practical aspects include:
1. How the deck is to hold and physically use - size, back, design, paper quality, etc.
2. How much do the card pictures speak to me? Do the minor arcana have pictures or only symbols? How elaborate are they? I am not an artist or art critic, but some of the most beautiful, critically-acclaimed designs don't take me anywhere, and are done after I see them once.
3. How well does the book go with the deck: do I have to use it to interpret the deck, or can I go right into using the cards? Does the message support me? Or does it try to change me, convince or belabor me? Is this deck only going to work for readings within the framework of the message?
The cards themselves are approximately 5" by 3" and the back is dark blue with a whirling galaxy on it. I really like the back because it doesn't show me whether a card is reversed or not when I first lay them out. The cards are a decent thickness, so they won't tear when shuffled. There are 78 tarot cards and a 79th card that has a Color Wheel on it (this deck was originally named the Color Wheel Tarot). There are different colored borders for each suit: Wands are yellow, Cups are rose, Swords are blue and Disks are green. [2016 note: the Color Wheel card is now on the back of each card, rather than the swirling galaxy - K.G.]
The Wheel of Change Tarot deck and book set comes in a cardboard holder that is effectively useless after you open it, as the cards will slide around. So I keep the cards in an old evening purse. [2016 note: the deck now comes in its own small box, separately from the printed book, or eBook - K.G.]
Pictures & Symbols
The artwork on this deck really appeals to me on an intuitive level. This is the first tarot deck that I ever put on my altar: the four Aces, the Magician, and a few others.
The two cards that first captured me were the 3 of Disks, which is three spiral anthills and ants, and the 2 of Wands, shown as two salamanders on a background of fall leaves. The 9 of Swords depicts windmills used for power generation, and the 2 of Cups shows a pair of crystal champagne flutes at a wedding.
I am just getting acquainted with a lot of the cards, but I am enamored of the minor arcana cards, which are pictures rather than symbols. The Court Cards are ordered by Prince, Princess, Knight and Queen, and are multicultural. The Knight of Cups is a saxophone player for the Salvation Army on a snowy corner, the Prince of Wands a Native American man on a vision quest, and the Queen of Swords is a Japanese Shinto worshiper.
Interpreting The Deck
Weighing in a hefty 383 pages, the book includes explanations and interpretations for all the cards, general information on reading the cards, suggested layouts, a symbolism guide, a bibliography and an index. [2016 note: index has been removed - K.G.]
The book is not urgent and necessary for me, because the cards speak to me so clearly. But it took me about 7-8 years working with tarot before I felt empowered enough to use any deck without some other authority in text, either a book or pamphlet. The literature that comes with a deck is where the explanation of the message is most often found. The Wheel of Change Tarot is no exception.
In the introduction Alexandra explains:
"I wanted to create a new Tarot that was intellectually rigorous, yet consistent and straightforward. I wanted this new Tarot to express elements of the modern world of science and of our contemporary life, but also to relate to our history and evolution. I also knew that it should be traditional; it should keep to the ancient form as much as possible without renaming cards or suits and also without the overuse of the human figure, so prevalent in today's decks. I wanted the Major Arcana to be immediately distinguishable... so I knew that there would be no human figures in the numbered cards. Overall, however, the most important thing I wanted to express in these cards was a deep reverence for nature and, in addition, the condition of humanity embedded within it."
Comparing my interpretations with this book, I find the description of the cards to be useful as well as the interpretation. Some things make me nervous: some of the quotes come from folks that I don't feel should be quoted. But I enjoy Alexandra's wisdom and experience that she shares in both her descriptions and interpretations. Her message reflects my world in my use of the deck. I am finding it well worth the wait.
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