Medieval Enchantment - The Nigel Jackson Tarot
“Meditation upon the Tarot engages the practitioner in deepening levels of magical enlinkment, each of which has especial value and potency for the seeker of the Mysteries of the Cards, and which are accompanied by unfolding efficacy and power.” – Nigel Jackson

According to the back of the Medieval Enchantment box, the Nigel Jackson Tarot deck reflects “the artist’s research into the classical, medieval, and Roman occult symbolism” and that the enclosed mini-book features detailed interpretations of each card. However, when I read the mini-book and worked with the cards, I didn’t find this to be the case from my perspective.

I had seen the Medieval Enchantment deck, also known as the Nigel Jackson Tarot, in several books about the Tarot. From the lovely illustrations I had seen both in books and online, I knew it was a deck I would buy at some point. Well, I bought it several weeks ago, and after spending time exploring the deck, I admit that I’m disappointed.

There are some decks that are beautiful to look at, but they just don’t seem to “speak” to the reader. Unfortunately, the Nigel Jackson Tarot was one of those decks. The gentle watercolor illustrations are quite breathtaking, especially the cards depicting sunsets (6 of Staves) and twilight (4 of Swords), as well as fluid rainbow colorings (such as the banner on The World).

I found the 143-page mini-book a chore to read, especially as the author references many esoteric philosophers, Gnostic notions, Pythagorean numerology, Orphic/Mithraic mystical traditions that were entirely unknown to me. I felt that I was reading a mini-history of medieval occultism, without the benefit of an introduction or frame of reference correlating to the Tarot itself.

In fact, the author rarely connects his esoteric associations with the actual imagery of the Medieval Enchantment deck. For example, who is the nude woman with a hairy, owl-like head, red eyes, and fiery aura in the 9 of Swords—and why is she about to touch the reclining figure on the bed? Why does the man in the 10 of Staves hold a whip made out of chains in one hand and a burning book in the other—and who is the crowd in front of him with their backs to him?

Granted, Jackson explains the Major Arcana imagery, such as the horrific fanged face etched in a lunar disk on the Moon card (a bizarre depiction that, in my opinion, was the deal-breaker with me. I showed my husband and he asked me “Does he hate women?” Interesting…since The Moon has a definite correlation with feminine cycles.) The author does provide upright and reversed meanings, but these are entirely based on established traditional meanings adapted from Italian and French cartomancy.

The Swords are associated with Fire and Staves with Air, but this isn’t that problematic considering the Medieval Enchantment Tarot follows RWS imagery for the most part. However, it was startling to see the Queen of Swords decked out in a red gown with a red background and a bowl of fire to the side! (I’m used to the Swords=Air and Staves/Wands=Fire association.)

Tarot beginners could certainly use the Nigel Jackson Tarot, although the companion booklet would likely prove quite confusing—not to mention irrelevant the imagery on most of the cards. The mini-book lacks continuity, and is more about Gnostic esotericism rather than medieval culture or sensibilities. A few interesting factoids and points of reflection *are* presented, but most of it reads like detail-laden, disconnected ramblings.

This box set comes with a black organdy bag and the standard Llewellyn white cardboard box with navy edging. However, the Nigel Jackson Tarot also comes with its OWN illustrated box--which is a nice touch.

I did several short spreads, including a few card-of-the-day draws, and none of them seemed relevant in the least. (I had to ponder the images of the Universal Waite to get a message! That’s all well and good, but shouldn’t a Tarot deck speak for itself?) The Moon card—usually one of the most ethereal and compelling in the Tarot—is grotesquely rendered, resembling a blood-thirsty Hindu deity more than a Gorgon/Medusa figure. It’s rare that one card truly ruins a deck, but The Moon from the Nigel Jackson Tarot did just that for me.

There is no question that the Medieval Enchantment deck is well crafted and lovingly illustrated. The images are compelling (such as the “eye” of God striking The Tower ala Babel and the archer, Nimrod), the Aces absolutely stunning, and the watercolor technique is first-rate. However, it’s just not a deck I can relate to beyond an aesthetic level and that leaves me truly disappointed.

Even after reviewing dozens of Tarot decks, I still get surprised when one deck seduces me visually and leaves me cold—as well as when another appears to have mediocre or less-than-stunning artistry, but reads like a dream. Such is the fascinating world of finding a Tarot deck that resonates!

Below are 10 images from this deck:

Medieval Enchantment by Nigel Jackson © 2004. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the publisher.

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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.