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Robin Wood's
The Robin Wood Tarot
A Deck Review

For a long time, I stayed away from the multitude of decks on the bookshelves which feature Pagan imagery, because of my strong Catholic background. Eventually, I was convinced to simply try out a slightly Pagan deck and see what I thought of it. I received the Robin Wood deck as a gift, and I am very glad that I did, because this deck has quickly become one of my favorites.

Despite the rather Pagan-looking Magician on the front of the box, the majority of the cards in the Robin Wood deck are not explicitly Pagan in apperance. Certainly, Pagan symbolism exists, but none of it is so blatant that it overpowers the remainder of a card's imagery. A surprising majority of the cards in the deck have no real religious imagery at all, following instead in the footsteps of the Rider-Waite deck and its derivatives.

The artwork is well done throughout the deck, and many of the cards feature detail and clarity that is nothing less than astonishing. Robin Wood's attention for detail is so great that, on the Magician's cup, you can see a reflection of the wand and sword on the table in front of him. It is the little details like this that bring the Robin Wood deck to life and make it perfect for meditation and contemplation exercises. Sometimes you can look at card for hours and still not see all the elements of it.

While many cards in the Robin Wood deck use traditional symbolism, some of the Major Arcana are distinctly different from those found in other decks. Death is dressed in red, and there are no dead bodies like in other versions of the card. The Wheel of Fortune shows a girl in various emotional states, from joyous at the top of the wheel, to destitute at the bottom. My favorite change comes in the Devil card, which features no Devil, but two people chained to a treasure chest.

Many of the cards have a storybook-like feel to them, which would seem to make this deck a good choice when reading for other people with sensitive tastes. There is, however, a considerable amount of nudity in the Major Arcana, which might offend some people. Some of this nudity is very graphic, such as on the Lovers and, to a lesser extent, on the remodeled Judgement card which features a naked woman emerging from a flaming cauldron.

If I had to assign a single descriptive term to the Robin Wood deck, I would call it a "transition" deck. For readers who are familiar with only the traditional Rider-Waite symbolism, it provides a stepping stone to more Pagan decks while still maintaining many of the elements that traditional decks employ. On the other hand, if someone who is used to working with strongly Pagan decks wishes to try some of the more "traditional" decks, the Robin Wood is a good intermediary for the same reasons.

Even if you were like me and never imagined you would have a Pagan deck in your collection, I urge you to give the Robin Wood deck a chance. If it can change my mind, it can change almost anybody's.

Copyright 2000 James Rioux