The William Blake Tarot of the Creative Imagination (Revised Edition) – Ed Buryn
Tools And Rites Of Transformation. 2010. 32 pp., 79 (+1) cards. 9780916804.
Ed Buryn takes the paintings, poetry, and philosophy of William Blake and distills it into 79 beautiful cards. The deck is divided as most tarot decks are, but with a 23rd Major Arcana or Triumph in Buryn’s revising, “00 Eternity 00” a beautiful conception of a card in Blake’s mythology.
The art of the deck is the artwork of William Blake carefully chosen, occasionally collaged, and interpreted to follow the theme of the tarot and bring Buryn and Blake’s vision into the cards. The images on the cards are a better quality than they were on the original, the colours stand out a bit more and there are more fine details. The original deck was wonderful but this deck takes it farther. Most cards are just evocative artwork but two of the suites contain a small fragment of Blake’s written wisdom embedded with the art.
Rather than the traditional four suits Buryn substitutes Blake’s “four eternal Arts” of Painting, Science, Music, and Poetry. From what I can tell, in that order they are roughly equated with Pentacles, Swords, Cups, and Wands. The Court cards have been transformed to Angel, Child, Woman, and Man, their connection to the classic Court cards is less clear, but the Courts and their meanings get shuffled around regularly between decks anyways. Angel and Child being contrasted with Woman and Man is also a nice inclusion of Blake’s world view of Divine Innocence and civilized humanity.
The deck explores Blake’s philosophy of the Soul and creativity; covering humanity’s potential, expression and divine nature. Buryn does an amazing job of sorting through Blake’s works to find the perfect fit for the cards. The challenge isn’t that Blake’s ideas may not be compatible but that Blake created so much that narrowing it down to 79 images is a task of epic proportions, but Buryn does it admirably. The deck is more than just an artistic variation on classic tarot imagery but a transformation of the art and philosophy of the cards.
The cards are great in my opinion. The images, the titles, and the text (if any) give a great source of information when using the cards. Included with the deck is the standard little white book, though this one is a little larger than most, and as the cards are taken from a different perspective than others so I actually found the book helpful. The booklet includes a few spreads, including the “Four-Fold Vision Spread” a simple five card spread meant to take the reader out of Blake’s notion of “single vision” (depicted on the Man of Science card with Blake’s painting “Newton”) and allowing the reader to see the issue from multiple perspectives.
Buryn did a fabulous job with original deck, and the revised edition looks even better. I came to this deck before Blake fascinated me, before I committed five years of my life to studying English and I loved the deck then. Now Blake is my second favourite poet, I’m far more familiar with his work (having read everything of his at least once), and the deck is even more relevant and insightful now.
The deck is published without the book that appeared with the original deck, but it will be available to download no charge from his website William BlakeTarot by Ed Buryn in the near future. Also in the near future you’ll be able to order the deck directly from that site. For now you have to order the deck direction from Ed Buryn using the contact information below.
This boxed set of 80 cards and 32-page booklet will not be sold in bookstores. To order your copy, please mail cash, check, or money order to TAROT, PO Box 720, Nevada City CA 95959; or pay online with your credit card at http://www.paypal.com payable to email@example.com.
The price is $32 plus $5 shipping, for a total cost of $37 each. For California orders, add $2.85 sales tax, for a total cost of $39.85 each. Orders to Canada and Mexico are $32 plus $7 shipping, for a total cost of $39 each. Orders to other overseas countries are $32 plus $10 shipping, for a total cost of $42 each.
All prices are US funds.
I was very excited when I found out that after 15 years The William Blake Tarot was being reprinted so I pre-ordered it within moments of finding out that I had that option. That was a few months ago and the release of the deck got pushed back and it slipped my mind. Then in my poetry lecture we covered Blake and I was quite happy, then when I arrived home there was a package for me and inside was the tarot deck I’ve been waiting five years for since I first encountered the deck at a friend’s house. Life is like that sometimes.
I went through the deck slowly, examining each card, taking in the art and the poetry. After a few test readings I was quite happy with the results and the cards. You don’t need to be a Blake fan to appreciate or use this deck, I wasn’t initially, though you will definitely get more from it the more of Blake you know and understand. It’s a deck of beautiful images and ideas, and highly recommended.