Victoria Regina Deck & Tarot Companion Deck created by Sarah Ovenall,
book by Sarah Ovenall and George Patterson
a review by Solaris, CPTR
Sarah Ovenall has pieced together important events and royalty of the Victorian era in a new collage tarot deck full of the history of Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s reign.
The black and white images appear to be drawn in pen and ink but are actually seamlessly collaged clipart depicting the themes and technology of the deck’s era. The cards are a bit oversized to accommodate the artwork, but shuffle easily. Llewellyn packages the deck and book set in a way that the box liner turns into a box to hold the cards. A lovely bonus with this deck is velvet, satin-lined, tasseled drawstring bag to store the deck. The backs of the cards show a non-reversible coin of Queen Victoria
Court cards feature well-known Victorian figures Oscar Wilde as the Prince of Wands, Benjamin Disraeli as the King of Wands, members of the royal family, and Queen Victoria in different stages of her life as the Queens. The four suits are changed to represent products of industrialization and of the changing times: Wands-Pens, Cups-Mason jars, Swords-guns, and Pentacles-pocket watches.
The Major Arcana cards show the lasting changes in history such as the beginning of Women’s rights and the lingering effects of the Industrial Revolution. Justice holds a handgun and a postage scale. Death, instead of dead people and body parts strewn around, shows a defunct piece of machinery behind a skeleton on horseback. Judgment is a boy playing a clarinet with female figures, hair flowing and partially clad, rising around him. The Devil is a clown laughing at destruction and reveling in chaos to which the man and woman, who are not chained, seem oblivious. A pair of binoculars replaces the towers in the Moon card. The Chariot is a woman riding a tricycle in the busy London streets when the men would rather she be at home attending to domestic duties. My favorite illustration is Temperance. A woman alchemist commands the combining of opposites shown as an explosion coming out of a wave of water. A fish leaps out of the flames and a salamander emerges from the wave.
In the Minor Arcana, most of the cards have machinery in the backgrounds to show the technological progress of the era. Five of Wands shows four men in battle attire in the four corners attacking a single pen in the center without a man. Other cultures that were influenced by the Victorians are pictured in the minor arcana. Three of Cups features Javanese girls dancing in full ceremonial costume. Six of Cups shows two Afghan children and reminds us of the days of child labor and the children of aristocracy barely saw their parents and were raised by servants and then sent away to boarding school. Two of Swords pictures two rifles crossed over an Indian prince sitting in a chair that is too large for him, indicating the British air of superiority and presence in India. In the Four of Coins, a Japanese man holding a sword crouches on four coins. Literary fantasy of the era’s writers Mary Shelley, Lewis Carroll and Coleridge, Oscar Wilde and Jules Verne is expressed in the Seven of Cups as seven winged monkey heads. Eight of Swords captured perfectly the woman’s feeling of “being trapped” in a marriage. A woman lost all rights to property she owned prior to marriage and the rights to her own person as shown by a blindfolded woman surrounded by eight rifles stabbed into the ground with a wall and gate behind her. I find it amazing how the artist fit an entire particular era into the framework of the Rider Waite system of tarot.
The 270-page book, co-authored by George Patterson, illustrates each card. In the spreads chapter are two new spreads created specially for the deck, Victoria's Scepter by the author, and Victoria's Chalice by Valerie Sim. The scepter examines a project before beginning or if stuck, the best way to approach the work. The chalice is nostalgic in that it identifies emotional baggage and offers two paths to integrate into an emotional whole. A section about collage lists sources for materials, the best type of paper to use, a bit of advice to “see the images out of their original context”, tells what makes a collage successful, and reminds the artist not worry about rules-to just experiment with techniques.
Slip back into history and throw away your goose quill pens in favor of fountain pens. Store food for out of season meals in Mason jars. Lay down your swords for dueling guns and rifles, and show off your wealth and station wearing pocket watches as you experience new insights from the culture of the nineteenth century. This deck is truly an inspiration of what the art of collage can produce. The cards’ meanings relate to the Rider Waite system so that the deck is suitable for any level of reader to use. The Victoria Regina deck and book set is a labor of love and a real gem of an addition to the tarot community. When you hold the cards you won’t want to put them down except to read the fascinating Victoria Regina Companion book.