The World Spirit Tarot - Lauren O'Leary and Jessica Godino
“Tarot, as we see it, is a mirror for self-reflection, a way to stop and pay attention to what the world has to say to you.” – From the deck creators

What do you get when you mix a cartomantic tool with eye-popping colors, unusual detailing, and humans in all shapes and hues? Why, you get The World Spirit Tarot by Lauren O’Leary and Jessica Godino!

The intricate art process for each card in this unusual deck takes several weeks. Ms. O’Leary begins with a sketch of her idea onto a block, and then begins to carve with an array of chisels. Because each cut creates white space with the untouched parts eventually picking up black ink, each cut is irreversible and influences the next. Every card is a hand colored linoleum block print, resulting in stylized, exotic images. The World Spirit Tarot is reminiscent of the childhood art technique of coloring white paper with various bright shades then applying a layer of black crayon. By using a pencil or other instrument for drawing, the colorful layer emerges amidst the black background.

This 78-card deck employs the Air=Swords and Fire=Wands attribution, and Strength is card 8 while Justice is card 11. One striking feature is the non-hierarchal, gender inclusive “court” cards: Seer, Seeker, Sibyl and Sage. A 163-page mini-book comes with this box set, as does a black organdy bag and cardboard box for storage. The mini-book provides a description and interpretation for each card, favoring a continuum approach to meaning. The slick cards shuffle with ease, measuring approximately 3 ¼ X 4 ¾ inches. The attractive backings are non-reversible, depicting an hourglass in the center with the sun and blue sky on one-half of the diagonal backing and a starry sky with crescent moon on the other.

My first impression of The World Spirit Tarot included surprise and delight, and I immediately gleaned information when looking through the deck. It was an accessible deck right from the beginning, but as with all decks, I felt I needed to put it through its paces to test its mettle.

I rarely (if ever) use the Tarot for yes/no questions. I feel that if someone wants a yes/no answer, they’d be better off using the ol’ coin toss (which I sometimes do!). However, I was facing an unusual legal situation in which I received a subpoena to testify on behalf of a dog warden against a neighbor. To say I did not want to be involved (for a myriad of reasons) was an understatement! I kept leaving phone messages, asking them to drop my name from this situation. I hadn’t heard back for weeks and was feeling a bit anxious as the day was fast approaching. I decided to test out The World Spirit Tarot using a yes/no spread with 5 cards. With this spread, the majority of cards upright indicates “yes”, while the majority reversed is “no”. I asked this deck if I would have to appear at the hearing, if the warden had yet spoken with his supervisor,  if a warrant would be issued for my arrest (if I didn’t show up for the hearing—contempt of court and all that), and so on.

I received 4 out of 5 cards for every answer—indicating the overwhelming likelihood that I would not have to appear, and that this whole mess would be dropped. Because this is a new deck (and because I don’t use any divinatory method for “fortunetelling” purposes), I held an ambivalent “wait and see” approach. My husband, for some reason, was very comforted by these results. (He didn’t tell me until after the fact, though!). Fortunately, everything was dropped—indicating that The World Spirit Tarot was a darn accurate oracle!

I’ve used this deck with other spreads, too, and although it’s accessible, it doesn’t mean the answers are always neon-light clear. That is, The World Spirit Tarot seems to encourage readers to go within for answers, plumbing the depth of inner knowing. While regurgitated “by the book” meanings would certainly work with this Rider-Waite-Smith inspired deck, intriguing folks, unusual symbolism, and unexpected depictions invite an intuitive, story-telling approach to interpretation (in my opinion).

From the ambitious (but light on her toes) figure on the 3 of Wands to the competent artist (and undecided patron) of the 3 of Pentacles—to the multi-tasking shaman (Magician) and the “put upon” hippie of the 9 of Wands, The World Spirit Tarot captures a variety of human expression, situations, and feelings. From the gorgeous sunset (or is it sunrise?) of the 6 of Wands to the majestic, fiery Phoenix rising up from the body on the Death card, the coloration of this deck provokes as much thought as any other design element. The only card I don’t like is The Sun, which features a naked potbellied “baby” with the face (and receding hairline) of a grown man. This image has a creepy “ick” feel to it, but the rest of the deck shines.

Tarot enthusiasts who prefer multi-cultural and multi-ethnic decks will find a gem in The World Spirit Tarot. It does feature some full-frontal nudity, so the skittish may want to consider this before buying. An eye-catching deck, the black bordering highlights Ms. O’Leary’s extraordinary artistic talent while the mini-book offers additional insight into these distinctive cards.

Below are 10 images from this deck:

The World Spirit Tarot by Jessica Gordino and Lauren O’Leary. Illustrations by Lauren O’Leary © 2001. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the publisher.

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