Deck Interview: Shadowscapes Tarot

When I first saw this deck for sale, I was transported back to high school when I first stumbled upon Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s art on, if I recall correctly, a fantasy art version of DeviantArt called Elfwood. I was awe-struck by the fantastical whimsy of the figures and landscapes with stark lines and soft coloring, like art deco lithographs tailored to elf-loving, Sinophile nerds. I’ve moved away from some of the high fantasy of my teens and into more modern, recognizable worlds with fantasy in them. (Although I don’t love dragons, it had more to do with the length of high fantasy novels than any disinterest in their amazing worlds and creatures.) I wasn’t sure how I would feel about a whole deck of potential nostalgia, but I found that the vast majority of the art felt new to me, even though some of its themes were certainly familiar from my memories of the artist’s work in the late 10+ years earlier. I ended up buying the deck anyway, and I’ve slowly become attached to it. It’s not designed to be read in reverse, at least in the sense that the little white book offers no thoughts on reversals; you certainly can read reversals in the deck, as you can in any deck, and the card backs are designed to be symmetrical so that you don’t know which way is “up” before flipping the card over.

Even with that in mind, the deck seems very positive to me, perhaps too optimistic for a deck named Shadowscapes. That’s not to say that every card is sugar-coated, but there’s a definite emphasis on some ambiguous cards for finding the good in them. There’s value in that, but it means that I use it for specific purposes. When doing this deck interview, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t designed for reversals, but I did follow its recommendation that you draw a card at random and really get to know it and see all of its details before worrying about its little white book meaning. It’s a useful exercise in any deck, to be sure, but it’s especially useful with a deck with such intricate illustrations.

The tarot deck interview spread was borrowed from a Tumblr page that no longer exists (@matchatofu), but you can find reposts of it on Google.



Tell me about yourself. Nine of Cups.

What are your strengths? Eight of Swords. And your limitations? Strength (reversed).

What are you here to help me learn? King of Swords (reversed).

How can I work with you most effectively?Queen of Swords (reversed).

Where is our partnership headed? Three of Pentacles.

As so often happens, the first card sets the tone for the cards to follow. I don’t usually find that in my own readings for clients, but it seems to be the case for these deck interviews, and it’s fitting since it’s the card that tells me about the deck overall. Here, that major influence comes from the “wish card” of the Nine of Cups, and it helps reinforce that sense of optimism that I get from the deck and its little white book. The next card is what gave me the clearest indication of this perhaps-overly optimistic sense of the cards. I like to think of the Eight of Swords as a wake-the-hell-up slap to the face to take some responsibility for your situation, so I enjoy the imagery of the card: the light at the end of the tunnel, the very real threat of the barbs, and the free bird, but I don’t love the seeming fragility of the bird—I feel quite bad for it, to be honest—and the little white book emphasized the way out without the wake-up, so that left me a little flat. But as a strengths card, the Eight is certainly a good example of what the deck does well: it finds the light and offers a beautiful and evocative image that is probably far and away more important than the booklet that comes with the deck. For limitations, the reversed Strength puzzled me. It actually still puzzles me. Strength is one of those cards (like Judgment) that can mean such different things in different decks. Here there’s a sense of harmony and peace, which is definitely something I expect as a result of Strength, but not something I necessarily see during the enactment of Strength. As previously mentioned, it seems as though there’s not enough of a dark side to this card; there’s no struggle between woman and lion. As a limitations card, I think it signals the lack of unleashed emotions.

The next three cards offers nice trifecta of lovely images in reverse. I love the visual of the King of Swords, but I’m not sure I get everything out of it that I should. He seems to be in the position of Rodin’s Thinker and his thoughts seem to storm out of him like the weeks on his back. But I’m so focused on those wings and the dark cloud of ideation pouring from him that I didn’t notice the Vitruvian Man in the lower corner. He’s a thinker, for sure, but there’s an important element of genius within that thinking, and the overemphasis on the dark dreamy cloud can be misleading. Reversed, the card is reminding me that you don’t have to overthink everything and you can just go with the feeling of the deck (a common refrain, though never said the same way twice). And the follow-up card is the (poorly shuffled, I’m guessing) reversed Queen of Swords. I’m not sure what this could mean in the reversed position other than to remind me that we’ll be taking these situations as is and the dreaminess of the deck shouldn’t necessarily represent how you want to tackle the readings of those cards. And the last card is a bit of a bizarre one since it suggests that we aren’t going to work together toward a beautiful union of minds. I actually thought about not using this deck with clients because of the reversed Three of Pentacles here, but I decided not to worry about that. If someone wants to use it, I can help them get relevant messages out of it; you just have to understand its strengths and limitations, which is the whole point of these interviews.

The cards pictured here are from the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore © 2010 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved, used by permission.