Do you like deciphering hidden symbols and decoding ancient alphabets? If so, put your Indiana Jones hat on because it’s time to get to work. The English Magic Tarot is not for the faint of heart and you're going to need to use the full extent of your brainpower to uncover its secrets. That’s because each card (including the minor arcana!) has a hidden message for you to translate. This is the reason why I purchased this deck. While the artwork is nice and the theme is certainly interesting, it was the hidden symbols peaking from the images that made me stop in my tracks and purchase this deck immediately.
The title of the deck brings us our first clue. The English Magic Tarot weaves a tale of “high” and “low” magic throughout English history. Kings and Queens make an appearance of course, but so do astrologers, druids, and characters from English folklore. England has a deep and expansive magical history and this deck attempts to take us through that journey card by card.
With a deck like this the guidebook becomes an essential component of your understanding. It helps us comprehend who is depicted in each card and their historical significance. The history featured within this deck starts with the end of the Renaissance and goes to the beginning of the Early Modern Period. I always had a bit of trouble remembering the succession of the countless Kings and Queens throughout English history. By studying this deck and guidebook I now feel that I have a deeper understanding of English royal history. In addition, I learned a good deal about the magical traditions of the “common folk” and how those beliefs and rituals have lasted through time.
The artwork of this deck is in a storyboard-style with sharp lines and bold colors. It is dramatic and the characters appear in dynamic action poses. This style works well when the cards are all laid out in a large spread where you can easily see how they can form a storyline. However, when looked at individually they loose a bit of their luster. While I’m personally not as much a fan of the comic-book style, I know that many others will absolutely love this bold and unique artistic interpretation.
One of the first things you’ll notice while attempting to translate the hidden riddles is that there are 4 distinctive ‘alphabets.’ The Enochian alphabet, created by court astrologer John Dee, was easy enough to decipher by looking up various translations of it online. The backwards writing was also fairly easy to translate by holding the cards up to a mirror. The Futhark runes I found a bit tricker, as they didn’t match up exactly with examples of alphabets I found online. The hardest to translate was the Ogham writing. This writing consists of a series of notches in a straight line, which made it tricky to determine where one word ends and the next begins. In addition, it did not fully match up with examples of this alphabet I found on the internet.
Once you’ve fully translated the major and minor arcana, you’ll then need to figure out how it all fits together to create a coherent passage. Shall I give you the final translation? No. That would be too easy I think. It’s up to you, brave explorer, to venture off and solve these riddles alone. For it is the act of translating these cards that forces you to spend considerable time with each image and thus develop a personal connection with this unique deck.