The Brady Tarot: Review and Highlights
I stock a lot of gorgeous tarot decks in my shop, and I curate this collection with a great deal of love and care. However, I don’t personally use every deck. In fact, it may surprise you that my personal collection – as in, the decks I use for personal and client readings – is actually rather small.
Why? Because I prefer to develop a slow and deep relationship with each deck I use. It is incredibly hard not to grab a myself a working copy of every new deck I stock – but I resist, so that rather than spreading myself thinly across a range of decks, I can continue going deeper with the decks that speak to me the most.
The Brady Tarot is the latest addition to my personal collection.
Two years, in the making, I have been attentively following creator Emi Brady’s journey with this deck since I first came across it 18 months ago.
With images created by meticulously hand-cut and coloured lino prints, this deck is populated by the plants, animals and geology of North America. It is deeply rooted in natural symbology, holding both the beauty of the natural world and its brutal, bloody elements at the same time. These are images that will make you gasp, or flinch, or sigh with delight or longing.
These Little Red Tarot interviews with Emi explore the process of creating this deck:
- The Brady Tarot: Natural history meets the esoteric
- The Brady Tarot: Emi Brady on deep creative process & working with Rachel Pollack
All tarot decks are works of art, but this one really stands out in its attention to artistic perfection, in the labour that has gone into it, in the way no detail has been overlooked in the creation and manifestation of this work. From the choice of Rachel Pollack as author for the book to Emi’s visiting the Chinese factory that would print the deck, this labour of love has been an inspiration to follow.
Let’s dive in!
First, the basics…
This is a 78-card tarot, with the standard four suits and 22 major arcarna cards. All 22 major arcana cards carry the traditional names (Strength is 8, and Justice is 11.)
Suits have been renamed as follows:
Pentacles – Roots
Cups – Horns
Wands – Feathers
Swords – Arrows
And the face cards:
Page – Daughter
Knight – Son
King – Father
Queen – Mother
The cards are of thick, sturdy card, finished with a silky matte laminate that makes them a joy to hold – they are neither sticky nor slippery but shuffle beautifully. The deck is finished with a lovely ‘antique gold’ edging.
The card backs bear a reversible rectangle design based on the patterns used for the card image borders.
There is a chunky 185-page guidebook authored by none other than Rachel Pollack, offering detailed explorations of each card, it’s overall meanings and the specific themes Emi’s illustrations bring out. This is an invaluable route into the world Emi has created with this deck.
The cards and book are packaged in a lovely, sturdy bamboo box, fabric lined and padded to keep your cards safe, and with a neat magnetic closure on the sliding lid. In all, the set is just a real delight – a sumptuous treat (and a perfect gift for the nature-loving tarot reader in your life!)
Is the Brady Tarot suitable for beginners? I haven’t given this deck my ‘great for beginners’ tag, but I maintain that any deck may be good for a beginner – it simply depends on what that person is drawn to!
In this case, the included guidebook means that any person may pick up this deck and use it for their very first reading – however, it does not include much in the way of guidance into the system and usage of tarot itself, and the re-named suit and face card names may cause a little confusion if using the deck with a standard ‘learn tarot’ book. So I’d recommend a beginner wanting this deck also purchase a ‘learn tarot’ book (I’d recommend Rachel Pollack’s classic, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom.)
The Brady Tarot: Highlights from the deck
It’s so hard to choose favourite cards when every single one is such a microcosm of detail and ecological symbolism. But here are a few that really sung out to me today:
I’m always happy to see a Strength card that doesn’t feature a ‘maiden fair’, and this rendition is just.. everything. I love this mama bear’s uninhibited fierceness, and how this is permitted to co-exist within its eco-system – the snake winding around her ankles, the hawks unafraid to fly close. May my own inner bear experience such permission!
And the Lovers, wow, the passionate mating dance of two cranes, a choice live in the making, and that puritanical angel transformed into a snow-white eagle – just stunning.
I often interpret the Four of Pentacles (roots, in this deck) as a self-care card, rather than the more traditional ‘greed’ interpretation – this hibernating armadillo just captures it for me. And on the flip-side, I love this generous, fun-filled Six, with its huge, looming full moon and merry dance. It raises questions about the relationship between the hare and the snake and asks me to reflect on my own relationship with give and take.
Owls feature heavily in this deck – along with other awesome birds of prey. In close-up, the feather details in the Hermit card really show us how much work went into creating this deck. Meanwhile the owl in the Moon card swoops in as though she has been summoned by a howling wolf, or a too-vivid dream.
The simplicity of the High Priestess’s veil, her burning herbs, her white winter feathers – this image reminds me that ritual and mysticism need not be complex endeavours, and that we all have access to what lies beneath our conscious – a witch’s best tools are those she finds close to her, in nature.
And in contrast, the vivid colours of the Magician card are inspiring and enlivening. I love the unwritten banner, quill and ink ready and waiting to be used, insisting that I am ready to spell out my message.
As I say, it was so hard to choose just a few cards to share here – every single one contains a world of detail. But I hope this review has given a flavour of this deck’s spirit. I’ll be sharing more here on the blog in coming months as I get to know the Brady Tarot through my own readings.