I know, I know, you’re waiting for your deck to arrive and it’s been delayed and oh god is it frustrating. I’ve been holding off sharing my review so as not to wind people up, though I did post this sneak peek a while back :)
But it’s time. This is a truly beautiful deck and I want to share it with the world.
Here’s my review.
The Fountain Tarot has been a labour of love well over a year in the making, a collaboration between artist Jonathan Saiz and his partner, writer Jason Gruhl, and their good friend, designer Andi Todaro. Read an interview with the team about the creative process here!
The project was born out of Jonathan’s desire to take his art to a new level, with a huge, experimental piece of work:
Jonathan and I were on vacation in Mexico last May and we were playing with a Tarot deck and Jonathan literally said, “I wish I could paint tons of miniature paintings and have them all be related. Let’s ask the Tarot what that might be.” We pulled it out and started laughing, and that was the beginning. – Jason
The result of over a year’s intensive work is a deck that explores sacred geomery, divinity, universal archetypes, psychology and the many facets of the human heart.
It’s not a ‘quick-hit’ deck, and it’s taken me a while to get completely comfortable with it. Whilst it’s visually stunning (which I’ll come on to later), it has an initial coolness which lasted through the first few readings, even though these were insightful and thought-provoking. If you’re someone who likes to click immediately with your tarot decks, just give this one time. It’s not a deck that can be rushed.
But it feels damn good in your hands, thick, study card and flashes of silver from the gilded edges as you shuffle. Each reading I’ve done with this deck has drawn me deeper into a colourful yet meditative world. I’m excited to be starting out on a journey with this deck, and right now, I’m not at all sure where it may take me.
Before I dive into the cards and the artwork, I want to talk about the extra card in this deck: The Fountain. When I first started using the deck, I appreciated the inclusion of this card, but now I’ve read with it a few times, I’m starting to see how it really represents an overarching theme here.
From the book:
Our interconnectedness on this planet has never been more clear. Technology has given us near-limitless access to knowledge – more than we could possibly comprehend. It has illuminated the interweaving and singular consciousness that sages, witches, and shamans have embodied for thousands of years. The Fountain card is this eternal context beyond human experience in which anything and everything can happen.
It’s a card about connection, wisdom and infinity. Yes, The High Priestess can represent a shared consciousness, as can The World, and many other cards. But the way this deck creates a unique card of its own to represent the unity of the indivudal with the universal whole is just magical. The key word shown on this card’s page in the book is simply ‘be’.
This is very much an artist’s deck. Every card features a finely-detailed oil painting in carefully-chosen and mixed colours, with impeccable focus on shape, line, symmetry and balance. If you are a collector of beautiful tarot decks, this one should be among your favourites.
Those shapes and lines are a key idea within The Fountain Tarot, creating an atmosphere that feels timeless and modern at the same time, as though the cards can truly tell the future, by calling upon some kind of evolutionary, dawns-of-time understanding that exists within all of us, and all around us – a little like The Fountain card.
I asked Jonathan to explain his relationship with sacred geometry and how it informs his artwork.
“My first tentative steps into the world of sacred geometry came from my love of crystals and minerals- how their geometric forms, down to a molecular level, were beautifully ordered and structured – How all of their countless variations, like individual humans or experiences, were the unique reflections of their atomic design AND their energetic forms that exist beyond the physical.
“Sacred geometry was the way to describe this for me- When I use them in my imagery, I generally only use references to the shapes themselves, not a graspable whole picture but a whisper. I love how in some cards, like Justice, it feels as though she is a focal point in a complex geometric environment that is so much bigger than anything we could describe or comprehend. Historically, sacred geometry has always been this- a nameable few forms that we can identify in everything but that we know don’t account for the whole story of everythingness (like having the ingredients but not the recipe!)
“When I started building the visual world of The Fountain Tarot I felt that I needed something to unify the characters- the bold angular (or spherical) lines of geometry became the timeless unifier in our “costumeless and themeless” tarot deck. A vast and geometric map of our inner landscape- some quantum level structures at the core of everything.”
Alongside the geometry, colour is used powerfully throughout the deck. The four suits are characterised with different hues – cups are bluey-green, pentacles tend towards green-yellow, wands are yellow-red with some furnace-like darks, and swords have a special darkness of their own, pierced by shards of light and rainbow flashes.
This is a people-focused deck – almost every card shows a figure in motion, thought, communication or meditation. The contrast between cards of motion and cards of stillness is really striking – those with movement really feel alive, whereas the stiller cards are almost hypnotic, drawing you into a trance. There are a few people of colour, though it is overall a ‘white-looking’ deck.
The physical deck
This is not a cheap tarot deck, and that shows in the quality, which is impeccable. I am a stickler for well-made tarot decks (don’t get me started on this) but The Fountain Tarot makes me very, very happy indeed. Just holding it my hands sends a deep wave of satisfaction through me.
Image via thefountaintarot.com
The thick, strong cards have a completely matt finish (no sticky laminate or nasty gloss!) and shuffle beautifully in your hands…though if you’re like me, you’ll feel protective of the perfect silver gilt edges! I’m sure they’ll scuff up nicely with use, though.
The card backs show a geometric design created by Andi, made up from every colour used in the deck. Again, this is stunning. If this was available as a poster, I would put it on my wall.
The box itself is something else. Strong, beautiful, iridescent, opening book-style from the side and held closed with a magnet, this is the kind of box you tend to keep. Even I, who pretty much always throws out my tarot boxes, will be keeping this one, it’s such a joy to use.
The deck comes with a small guidebook that fits inside the box (ah, satisfying). This means that it’s not as large or in-depth as some deck guidebooks (the Wildwood, Shadowscapes and Steampunk decks for example) but there’s still plenty in there. Like every tarot book ever, the language is gendered in terms of he/his for kings and she/hers for queens and other typically man/woman cards.
There’s a full page given to each card, and the descriptions are straightforward and really helpful – I’ve found many that develop my existing understanding of the card. I feel like this is a book that has just enough information that a total beginner could pick it up and start reading, without feeling intimidating (if anything was intimidating about this deck, it’s the sheer beauty of the cards. And the scary Nine of Swords ;)
This is a truly special deck that I think will appeal to philosophical readers as well as anyone who enjoys fine contemporary art. It has a way of drawing you in as you leaf through the cards, and in readings, its messages emerge slowly, coming out bit by bit as the images take their place in your consciousness.
Later, I shared an interview reading with this deck, asking the cards what they are here to teach me, and how I can best work with them, and going deeper into individual cards.
Check out more card images in my sneak-peek here.