Transformational Tarot - Arnell Ando
“Integrating abstract dream imagery with archetypal symbolism, Transformational Tarot draws upon a diverse collection of cultural images to present a universal mythology for our time.” – From the deck

Using the medium of collage, Expressive Arts Therapist Arnell Ando has created Transformational Tarot, a deck with abstract imagery, familiar symbols, and layered metaphors conveying the time-honored themes of Tarot.

In the Major Arcana, Justice is card 8, while Strength is 11. Ms. Ando has re-named several of the Majors thusly:

Sorceress (High Priestess)
The Sage (Hierophant)
Challenge (The Chariot)
Introspection (Hermit)
Karma (Wheel of Fortune)
Reflection (Hanged Man)
Kali (The Tower)
Liberation (Judgment)

The Minors are Swords, Cups, Wands and Coins in this deck, with Swords associated with Air and Wands associated with Fire. The cards measure approximately 4 ¾ x 2 ¾, inches and shuffle easily with their slick, glossy surface. Colored with mostly light brown hues, an attractive fractal-like mosaic graces the card backings, which are fully reversible.

As with most decks by U.S. Games, a 47-page booklet accompanies Transformational Tarot, providing a brief overview of each card, upright and reversed meanings, and one spread—The Celtic Cross.

Some of the images in Transformational Tarot are delightfully funky, such as The Magus. Of this card, Ms. Ando writes, “…The magus’s court jester hat suggests instruction through humor and playful trickery…Heart-shaped glasses compassionately hide what one is not yet ready to see.” Although Ms. Ando’s descriptions are necessarily brief, they provide readers with canny psychological “meat” to couple with their own intuitive insights.

I love the Van Gogh-esque Star card with its intricate web woven by the Spider Goddess and glowing stars representing a “guiding star to wish upon” and our unique “place on the universal map of existence.”  The Liberation (Judgment) card is likewise captivating with an endless corridor, a glimpse into cloud-filled sky, and the words “attaining spiritual and perceptual freedom”.  A remarkable element of both the Empress and Emperor is respective tree trunks fashioned in the shape of female and male anatomy, hearkening back to the Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I also like the 5 of Cups which shows a little girl crying over spilt milk, and the 8 of Coins showing a creative Spider Woman working on a silver strand at the spinning wheel.

However, despite enjoying some of the collages, the cartoonish green dragon of the Strength card, as well as several bland, washed-out images, was off-putting.

While some of the cards depict striking imagery, Transformational Tarot seems to lack a unifying artistic theme. Granted, the cartoon-like snake shadow appears in several cards, such as the 3 of Swords, Empress, Emperor, Introspection, and Death, but most of the images appear to fall into two categories: classical mythological montages with recognizable characters (Neptune, Psyche, Narcissus, Persephone, etc.) or potentially interesting modern images (such as a man riding a motorcycle for the Prince of Wands). I say “potential”, because some added elements are flat and monochromatic, lacking any defined borders (e.g., the blue hat on the Magus, the fuzzy hair on the Prince of Wands, orange paint on cards XII, XV, XVI, etc.) These noticeable elements are distracting, lessening the impact of the card.

At times, the cards portray disconcerting elements. This isn’t unusual in the Tarot, of course. Yet, Kali, with blood dripping from her mouth, makes for a macabre Tower. Although Ms. Ando acknowledges the “bloodthirsty goddess of destruction can burn away illusions”—which is often necessary for growth—the image itself doesn’t hint at the potential illumination of a Tower experience. Also, Ms. Ando employs a liberal use of skulls, with this motif showing up in such cards as 2 of Wands, 4 of Coins, 8 of Cups, and 10 of Coins.

I tried several spreads with the Transformational Tarot but didn’t glean any relevant insights from the cards. But this is how it goes with Tarot decks: some decks inexplicably (and surprisingly) click, while others do not. Unfortunately, this deck falls into the latter category. Still, I very much enjoyed Ms. Ando’s observations in the LWB, and would love to read a Tarot book authored by her, if she would ever decide to write one.

Below are 9 images from the Transformational Tarot:

Illustrations from the Transformational Tarot deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright © 2006 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited.

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