I’ve long been a fan of Mary Elizabeth Evan’s strange, evocative tarot and oracle decks.
The original Spirit Speak Tarot, followed by the Vessel Oracle, Iris Oracle, and Divina Tarot and others – are all beautiful decks beloved by the indie tarot community. But it was only when the Apparition Tarot was revealed last month that I found a deck I wished to add to my (very small) personal collection and turn to for my own personal readings.
The Apparition Tarot is available in the Little Red Tarot Shop now (you can see all of Mary’s decks here) – and I’m excited to to introduce it to you now!
Mary’s style is distinctive, rooted in Southern folk art and occult symbolism. She describes her illustrations as “naive line work that dance and tumble on the paper”.
The scenes Mary depicts are sparse, often abstract – strange and intriguing. Disembodied hands (as Tango once wrote in her Spirit Speak review) as well as eyes, feature heavily – recurring symbols I adore. Plants, roses, fruits and many other everyday items also turn up time and time again, made sacred in the way Mary places them in the wider picture, and this sanctifying of simple, everyday objects is something I really appreciate in all of her work. Mary also incorporates abstract shapes, swirls and lines into her illustrations, creating pictures that are often not figurative or abstract, but instead somewhere in-between.
The Apparition Tarot is Mary’s sixth deck (seventh if you include the Spirit Speak Tarot Reversed), and for me, it represents a ‘maturation’ of sorts; a step forwards in her tarot work. These cards have an additional depth to them that seems to build on the ideas in earlier decks.
Mary agrees – in the Apparition Tarot guidebook’s brief introduction, she writes:
Over the last four years I have been dedicating my creative practice to exploring tarot and oracle decks. What I found is that I kept wanting to go deeper, I didn’t just want to know what the cards meant, I wanted to know what they could mean. I wanted to look into how these symbols can tell stories and how they can be interpreted and speak to our hearts.”
Let’s dive in!
First, the basics:
Apparition is a 78-card tarot following the standard structure, using all of the traditional names for the suits and the cards themselves. Strength is 8 and Justice is 11. The deck follows the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition.
The cards are oversized, measuring 125 x 87mm or just shy of 5 x 3 1/2 inches (a significant change from the other, very petite decks in the Spirit Speak series.) The card stock is thick and sturdy with a smooth matte laminate that will likely wear in beautifully over time. They shuffle beautifully – provided your hands are able to contain them (mine are…just!) The addition of bright, flashing gold edges to the deck makes shuffling and holding the deck feel special.
The cards illustrations vary wildly in style, with simple line drawings and block colours. Though most images do not have consistent ‘borders’ as such, it is not ‘full-bleed’ – those illustrations that have coloured backgrounds do have a narrow white border.
The back illustration is reversible – duck-egg blue with four little cherubs and a ring of eyes. Mary’s work often leaves me guessing, but I’m imagining this is a reference to the deck’s name, as she writes “An apparition is defined as the appearance of something remarkable and unexpected or, the act of becoming visible.”
(As for the illustrations inside the box – a cup and a bowl of fruit with an old-style magnet? Well – who knows?)
The deck comes with its own small 80-page guidebook (inside the box), which offers brief-ish yet insightful card meanings. Mary’s interpretations of tarot cards are very similar to my own, and I’ve enjoyed looking up her thoughts after first spending time reflecting on the symbols I see. I usually find the book offers a helpful turn of phrase or perspective that enhances my understanding of the card/s in the moment.
The cards and book are presented in a lovely, sturdy, illustrated two-piece box. The set was printed in Joshua Tree, California.
Highlights from the deck
As I’ve said, I love Mary’s illustrative style, and it was hard to pull out just a few ‘favourite’ cards to highlight. I’ve given it a go!
Of all of these, I think the one I love the most right now is the Six of Swords. Two hands make reverence at a small altar filled with simple, precious-feeling objects, as a huge sun sets over the horizon. It is the honouring of a era coming to a close, a letting go and a moving on, consciously, intentionally, with gratitude and willingness to feel all that this shift will bring. It feels poignant, a reminder of the importance of being present for life’s changes (even the hard times), and marking such transitions with love.
I adore the Magician and the High Priestess – both with their scattered symbols and hands engaged in magical practice. Both cards represent holiness and simplicity together, and both cards depict a bridge from one plan of being to another.
The Magician is two raised arms to command energy and make magic and ritual with the four suits, a plant growing tall, reaching to the spiral of universal power above, connecting earth to Universe. The High Priestess reaches one arm forwards and through the ‘veil’, a bridge between the light of day and the conscious world, and the the darkness of the subconscious on the other side where we find a fish, a mirror, a glass of water.
I also adore the Tower – a match reaching forward to set alight a house of cards, a pile of rubble portentiously framed on the wall above. And Death – a great, speckled body with the head of a moth, striding in and bringing change – it reminds me of the all-powerful nightwalking Forest Spirit in Princess Mononoke.
I love the simple scene in the Eight of Pentacles (my spring equinox card, no less!) – a person happily engrossed in their business, getting the job done. And the World – a colourful animal kingdom, a celebration of diversity and the space each of us may claim in our lives and in our universe. As any World card should, it says ‘you belong – you are home’.
Of course, there are many more. (It’s decks like these that make me want to re-join Instagram, for the joy of sharing daily images!)
A sample reading with the Apparition Tarot
I carried out a reading for myself using this deck yesterday. Recent blog readers will know I’ve been just a little stressed about a business matter lately, causing me sleepless nights. After the Apparition Tarot astutely handed me the Nine of Swords as my daily card yesterday morning, I turned to it for more specific advice concerning Little Red Tarot.
I asked: What are my tools of resilience right now? In what spirit should I approach this problem?
I received the Nine of Cups, supported by the Wheel of Fortune (ha!) and the Two of Wands.
The Nine of Cups encouraged me to return to the simple pleasures that already exist in my business – for me, that is the cards themselves, this new deck, the lovely goodies that I proudly sell. As a ‘wish’ card, the Nine of Cups asks me how I want my business to feel, what an ideal workday might look like, what I’m really doing here in this line of work.
The Wheel of Fortune is both a huge eye-roll and a sage nodding of the head. Life changes. Huge shocks come along. One minute everything is great, the next you’re facing a massive challenge. The only certainty is change. Mary writes: “we have best agency over our reactions to the events that happen, not the events themselves.” It is a reminder to stop dwelling in the ‘I’m doomed argh this is awful’ mentality that has been my brain for the past week, and instead focus on finding a positive response. As a major card, it reminds me that this is part of a much bigger journey, the wheel will continue to turn, and riding it is, for all the fear I have, part of the fun.
Lastly, the Two of Wands reminded me that I am full of ideas (this much is true!) and stressed the importance of intentionality. Since archiving the LRT community blog last autumn in order to make space for other things – not least this shop – I’ve had so many ideas for improvements I could make. At the same time, I am easily overwhelmed and stressed out. The Two of Wands is about sitting with ideas and letting them take shape, only putting things in motion when I am ready.
This reading is encouraging and gentle, witty and kind – in keeping with the spirit of the entire deck. These cards are happy to acknowledge the problems I’m facing (the turn of the Wheel), but the deck insists – not only in this reading but in others I have drawn over the past week – that I take responsibility for myself and set intentions that align with my wishes and desires.
And so, rather than jumping straight into stress first thing this morning, instead I remembered what I love most about my business – the cards themselves – and wrote this review.
And it was a joy :)