Minoan Tarot by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince

Review by Fern Mercier

Ellen Lorenzi-Prince has created a precious gem of a tarot deck that adds yet another shining facet to the glorious kaleidoscope of the jewel box that is tarot. It is always refreshing to find a deck that expresses new ideas and innovative art that has the capacity to jolt our tarot practice out of complacency.

So much tarot art produced in the English-speaking world over the last three decades has been work that is based on the 1909 Waite-Smith template. Pamela Coleman Smith illustrated a marvelous tarot, but it is one among many tarots in a long and venerable 600 year history of tarot. So often new tarots have lovely or quirky art but the decks themselves are clones that don’t really enhance our depth of understanding of the never-ending symbology that Tarot is capable of.

Tarot is a living art form. For it to remain a dynamic, ever-changing part of our lives, it must thrive and grow on cultural interplay, historical layering and ethnic difference. Otherwise it will become just some artifact that is regurgitated over and over again, stuck in some groove from the English-speaking past.

I have high expectations from a new tarot deck. First, I demand art that I resonate with, for our tarot is deeply personal. Tarot art must create crucial subjective and emotional connections within. This art must then carry and channel images and ideas that will both challenge and deepen my older interpretations, while remaining true to the original archetype the first historical tarots set up for us.

I want a tarot artist to play with tarot; to stretch the medium and test my pre-conceptions. Tarot for me is both the art of fortune-telling and a spiritual practice. As a professional tarot reader and educator, I value different creative approaches that will keep my tarot practice alive in my heart and dynamic in interpretation. I’ve been reading tarot for a long time and if I’m not constantly learning from tarot, then its language I am dealing in daily as a professional reader could become quickly cliché. I need layer upon layer of visual stimulation and symbolic ideas to draw down when reading - that will spark new synapses and open new floodgates of meaning to communicate.

So bravo to Ellen’s new Minoan Tarot which celebrates an ancient lost civilisation. Ellen’s tarot gifts us the opportunity to “Come enter an old world, dream a new world and see what is to be”.

Yes it is challenging to enter a new deck that changes some of the traditional tarot titles, suit names and treats the familiar numbered suit sequence differently.
So?! Expectations unfilled - how else do we learn – and re-learn meaning? Tarot is a playing deck – so play. And that is what Ellen has done – she has played with an old culture’s art, allowing it to speak across time.

Ellen's deep knowledge for and love of the Minoan culture opens a channel, a visual voice across the 1000s of years that separates us from the ancient Cretans (8000 BCE – 1100BCE.) Here is their art “kept close to their original colours” created in stone, gold or clay, once frescoes, jewelry or pots – lovingly translated into a new medium – tarot cards.

After receiving the deck (it travelled thousands of miles across the mighty Pacific Ocean to its new home downunder) I enjoyed the sturdy but beautiful box and gorgeous cards within. Despite being perfectly tuned into the artwork, that feels familiar and beloved, nonetheless the cards were ruffling my expectations. So before drawing any more conclusions, I figured I would read the wonderfully written and informative little enclosed booklet.

Only then, did I shuffle the cards (nice feel) in time-honoured tradition, to talk with the cards.
I asked what this deck would give me and the second card drawn would represent our relationship to each other.

The first card I pulled was Number 13 entitled Ancestor. Post-Palace period art – a clay model from the village of Kamilari – shows an ancestor sitting on a chair facing her/his living descendant. There is an altar between these two figures and the smaller alive figure is offering a libation bowl to the larger, seated, faceless being. Ellen writes ….. “seeking to bridge the gap of silence and of breath, and the gap between glory and grief, for the love, the beauty and the life that has been lost.”
Beautiful words, primitive image that stirs in me something profound.

So yes these summer holidays I have been reading history, peering at very old photos of lost relatives and my Dad’s baby photos (1923), contemplating mortality. But this is a card answering what I asked specifically about this tarot deck. And of course! It is myself the living Reader, gazing at my Cretan ancestors. Furthermore my ancestors who ‘did not exalt kingship or war’, but ‘celebrated the presence of the Goddess, the beauty of the natural world, their sexuality and creativity.’

O how unlike the culture I live in now! So yes I pay homage to that civilisation – “lively, peaceful, sacred and technologically advanced”. How I grieve for that time and for that beauty. How unutterably sad that their wisdom, grace and harmony is gone, gone, gone.

But the card has given more than I asked – what would this deck give me? It shows me what I can give to the deck itself – an open cup, and a deep knowing that my ancestors live within my own soul.

The second card I drew was Number 9, Visionary. Well I so wish I had a waist like this beautiful woman resting on a big boulder; bare-breasted, elegant, with her head turned back, she watches a flying butterfly. The image once was engraved on a clay seal from Agia Triada and shows “ a goddess or priestess… retreating from action and involvement for a time of restoration, introspection or mourning.”
The question asked was about relationship and there are two relationships in the picture. One is between woman and butterfly, and also perhaps between woman and rock. Maybe this tarot deck itself is a rock – from the earth itself.

The mother of us all,
the oldest of all, hard,
Splendid as rock
Whatever there is that is of the land
It is she who nourished it,
It is the Earth that I sing’
Homer – Hymn to the Earth

I’m resting casually on this large rock, while it supports and grounds me.
I translate this to mean that the more familiar I become with these cards and images, maybe the more inspiration will flow through me and strengthen me.
The other dynamic is between me and the flying butterfly - symbol of the soul for the Greeks. If I can be like the resting priestess listening for the links between me and the inner nature of things, then I too, can have ‘an aptitude for flight’

There are two original spreads in the back of the booklet that I recommend. Reflecting the Minoan culture yet easily attuned to us now, they cast light for me on that old perennial question “What do I need to know now?” The answers still emerging as insights keep bubbling to the surface.

Thank you Ellen Lorenzi-Prince for this treasure, this bountiful tarot that allows us all to travel ‘back to the future’.
And thank you Arnell Ando for publishing this tarot deck.
The creatrix and the midwife – what a joy you have bequeathed the world.
Fern Mercier
Auckland, New Zealand

Minoan Tarot is copyright protected. Card images may be used on blogs/websites as 'Card of the Day' endeavors or for review purposes but must contain the website along with Minoan Tarot by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince. The images are not to form part of written teaching materials or otherwise be used without prior consent from the artist.  

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