Originally published by Thorsons in 1995, when the Alchemical Tarot went out of print, many clamored to buy both the deck and companion book—often at a steep price. In fact, the original edition still fetches hundreds of dollars with the companion book by Rosemary Ellen Guiley going for $75 or more online.
Fortunately for Tarot enthusiasts, Hermes Publications/Robert M. Place have issued an updated version of this deck called The Alchemical Tarot Renewed. The two main differences between the original and the renewed version is that the cards no longer have the pillars flanking the imagery, making more room for the art to shine. Also, the Alchemical Tarot Renewed contains TWO versions of the Lovers card: the original, which was deemed too sexy for publication, and the cleaned up version which was included in the original deck. When I first bought this deck, the cards were quite flexible, causing me some concern as to their durability. I’m happy to report that I’ve been using the Alchemical Tarot Renewed exclusively for my client readings and the card are holding up admirably—even better than decks from large publishers, in fact.
Although I found the austere images intriguing, I admit to being flummoxed with some of the alchemical symbolism in this deck. So I thought I’d put it on the shelf until a companion book became available to unlock its secrets.
In the short interim, tt just so happened that I stumbled upon a series of teleclasses given by Robert Place; although I was disappointed at the time to discover I had missed the live classes on the Alchemical Tarot itself, I was thrilled that he was offering a teleclass called the Hieroglyphs of the Soul. That class was about Robert’s innovative 3-card divination style and interpreting readings following his method (which is similar to dream interpretation). Although Robert didn’t talk much about the actual symbolism of his deck, something inexplicable happened in that teleclass that virtually unlocked the Alchemical Tarot Renewed for me.
And I’ve used no other deck for my clients since.
This deck, and Robert’s method, are “scary accurate”. Of course, I test drove it on myself before using it on my clients! I’m happy to report that they have found my readings with it quite accurate (so it’s not just my impression), as well.
Although Robert discusses the 3-card divination method (and the Relationship Reading) in his book The Tarot: History, Symbolism and Divination, the teleclass brought it to life for me—and my readings have never been the same. The Little White Book is only 14 pages and Robert’s card meanings (and imagery) deviate from common RWS depiction, which is refreshing. So if you’re open to seeing the Tarot in a brand new light, the Alchemical Tarot Renewed will certainly give you a new prism through which to see the cards. However, because there is no background information on the symbolism, I feel this may be a difficult deck for some to use—especially absolute beginners. The four suits in the Alchemical Tarot Renewed are Vessels (Water), Staffs (Fire), Swords (Air) and Coins (Earth). The Court cards are designated Lady, Knight, Queen and King.
Measuring approximately 4 ¾ x 2 ¾ inches, the card backing featuring a simple rose design in muted reds and greens. Because Robert doesn’t read cards upside down, the backs are understandably non-reversible.
Here are a few of the card depictions and meanings that I’ve found especially intriguing and useful:
• Ten of Coins – A man with curly gray hair and beard has coins all over his face, two covering his eyes. Each is embossed with a different symbol. Robert calls this card The Materialist, indicating “selfishness” and “only seeing the physical”.
• Five of Vessels – Called The Quake, five vessels were placed upon two shelves. The topmost two remain upright, but the middle has spilled golden liquid, the fourth is on its way down to the ground and the fifth has broken open—and two flying birds emerge from the cracked vessel. Robert says this card indicates “breaking of position, “a sudden breakthrough” and “new possibilities”.
• Five of Wands – An open hand shows five fingers ablaze, as if they’ve turned into tree trunks towards the tips. Called The Burning Hand, this card means “creative energy”.
• King of Swords – A majestic eagle wearing a crown and bearing a large sword in his left talon faces left on this card. The interpretation offered for this card is “clear thinking” and “confidence”.
I’ve recently acquired the audio and class notes of the Symbolism of Alchemy teleclass (the one that I missed live but is now available here), but haven’t yet read the 50-page mini-book or listened to the audio because I felt it was only fair to review the Alchemical Tarot Renewed by itself. After all, it’s only the deck and LWB that’s available on its own at Amazon.com and other retailers. However, you may purchase additional teleclasses and Alchemical Tarot Renewed related products at TarotConnection.net if you’d like elucidation into this handsome deck. I, for one, am excited to begin delving deeper into its mysteries!
Below are 13 images from this deck:
Alchemical Tarot Renewed © 1994-2007 Robert M. Place. All rights reserved.
Content copyright © by Janet Boyer. All rights reserved. This review was written by Janet Boyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission.