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The Victoria Regina Tarot Deck & Book Set

by Sarah Ovenall & Georg Patterson

The Victoria Regina Tarot Deck & Book Set
Price: $34.95
Number of cards in deck: 78

Measurements: 3.35 x 5.65 inches, or 84 x 143 mm. Large

Back of card: White, with a modest Victorian border. In the center, a bust of Queen set in a fancy circle, black ink on white. Can be inverted, if you're not fussy.

Book included: Yes, 269 pages, 6 x 9 inches, or 15.3 x 23 cm. Illustrated. Title: Victoria Regina Tarot Companion

Publisher: Llewellyn. Cards printed Belgium, box & book printed in the US.

Extra Added Attraction: Black velvet drawstring bag for the cards.

Comments: This is a deck of tarot card images drawn from late 19th century British & American illustrations. I searched the book for a general statement of purpose (always a good place to start a review), but there was none I could find. The back of the book says, "The unique collage art of the Victoria Regina Tarot captures both the industrious ingenuity & elegant opulence of Queen Victoria's reign." Notes on the source of the images for The Empress say this: "By Victorian standards, this woman [as shown on the card] was scandalously undressed. Science & conventional wisdom of the time held the feminine nature to be animalistic, passionate, irrational, and immature. In contrast, masculinity represented the intellect, reason, self-restraint, maturity, and civilization." (pg. 25). This is the Victorian age as typically misunderstood by moderns. The statement quoted actually refers to the Victorian concept of religion, which they understood better than we. If you were to tell the typical Victorian Cockney that women were animals & men were civilized, they'd laugh in your face. They still would today.

In the back of the book are the sources listed for the images. Almost all the images come from various Dover publications. Dover is a fabulous source for clip-art images. Check out their website.

Now to the deck itself. In organization, this is a fairly typical deck. There are the usual 22 Major Arcana cards and 4 suits of 14 cards each. Suits have the usual names printed on them, eg, Cups, Wands, Coins & Swords. But, as befits the "modern" late 19th century, the cards actually show:

Cups: Ball/Mason jars
Wands: Fountain pens
Coins: Pocket watches (The Queen is the only card not to show a watch.)
Swords: Guns

The result is a mixed bag. If guns & swords are the same thing, why not call the suit "guns"? Coins & pocket watches would seem to have nothing in common, other than, at the start of the age, pocket watches were expensive. Cups, as a suit, normally encompass all manner of small vessels, with an emphasis on chalices. Mason jars restrict the suit to the cheap & utilitarian (this is perhaps the most Cockney of the suits, don't you think?). Fountain pens as wands work, if we restrict combat to the realms of the intellect. But in tarot, intellect is normally shown by swords. Guns as wands, and, pens as swords, would work better, in my view.

As I've mentioned with other decks, the actual images on the cards change the interpretation of the cards themselves. Watches-as-coins imply that time is money. Which they are & always have been, but the two are not otherwise identical. Mason jars-as-cups is just as problematic. Cups are made to drink from. Cups provide immediate nourishment, good, bad & otherwise. Mason jars, like batteries & grain elevators, are storage devices. The ten of cups in the Rider deck show ten chalices brimming with immediate goodness. The ten of cups in the Victoria Regina Tarot show ten Mason jars. The happy family below them faces us, not the sky-borne jars. The wife has a parasol, it appears to be summer. This family is happy to have provisions to see them through the next winter. On the original Rider version, the family is happy to be set for life. See how much smaller mason jars made the card?

Court cards are Princess, Prince, Queen & King. All court cards show real people. The Prince of Wands is Oscar Wilde, for example. Queen Victoria herself turns up on 5 cards - all four queens, plus the Princess of Swords. In addition, the Prince of Swords is a female (Alice, Victoria's third child). Alice-as-a-man - a man with a gun - is a poor way of treating a woman who worked ceaselessly for social causes & better hospitals. Concerning gender, on page 7 is the usual apologetic note that we are not to interpret court cards by the gender they appear to have. The authors recite the customary (and rather sterile) notion that men are supposed to have, from time to time, female-type feelings, and women, men-type feelings. Gender-bending is, of course, not a Victorian idea at all.

Despite my carping, the deck is well-thought out & well-crafted. The book is well-written. That it does not aspire to anything greater than itself may be due to the authors being Americans, rather than Brits. This can be seen in choice of black & white for the deck itself. As mentioned, the illustrations came from Dover. Dover makes excellent copies, but until recently, published them in black & white only. Of course the vast majority of 19th century printed matter was, like the vast majority of 20th century printed matter, printed in black ink on white paper. But color printing processes are at least two centuries old. If this deck had been printed in Victorian England, it most likely would have been printed in color. The famous Rider deck, which this deck copies fairly closely, was originally published in 1910, in color, in London. Tarot decks printed in 19th century Italy were printed in color (see The Ancient Italian Tarots for an example.) Colored tints might have improved this deck.

In this deck are two copies of the Magician (who appears to be a merchant), and two copies of the Queen of Coins. On the back of the extra two cards are, not the standard back, but brief notes about the deck itself. Almost all tarot decks have these two extra cards, they normally contain advertising matter. Their presence is due to how tarot cards are printed: On a large sheet, 8 cards down, 10 across, for an actual total of 80 images on the sheet. This is then cut, stacked & boxed.

Puritanism note: There are very few nudes shown in this deck & what few there are (Devil & Judgment are the only ones I saw) are rather modest.

In sum: As far as the Victorian theme goes, it's mostly a modern fancy. As far as tarot, it's a fairly solid deck. PS: By the way, I like Cockneys. Some of the finest, most practical people I ever met.

The Astrology Center of America

2124 Nicole Way, Abingdon, MD 21009
Tel: 410-569-2670; Fax: 410-569-1386; Toll-free (orders only): 800-475-2272

Tarot Home Tarot Decks Tarot Books Join our tarot mailing list Astrology Home E-Mail: Dave

Established 1993, The Astrology Center of America is owned & operated by David Roell. Except where noted, this entire site (AstroAmerica.com) & its contents are Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by William R. Roell. All rights reserved. Tarot card images are Copyright © by the copyright holder (generally the publisher).