This past Christmas, the love of my life got me a wonderful gift. As I opened the packaging, I was greeted by an amazing set of cards adorned with beautiful celtic knot designs on the back. What she had given me was the Deirdre of the Sorrows Tarot deck and book set by Deirdre O’Donoghue. This gift was very personal for her and for me as the namesake of this deck is also the namesake of my fiancee. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Ms. O’Donoghue had signed and personalized the inside cover of the book.
The cards themselves though are what really struck me. The imagery on them is subtle yet inspiring. The artwork is done in pencil with each card having varying amounts of color on them. The color that is used, is done so in a way that helps to accentuate the meaning of the card and draw out particular emotion based on how the color is brought into the scene. The scene may be primarily grey in a card, but a well placed shaft of golden light or brightly colored flowers brings the balance and hope to what seems to be a dismal situation.
The symbolism is based in Irish heritage and lore. While I am fascinated with all things Irish, I must confess that I do not know much about the history and folk lore of Ireland. This deck has been inspiring me to look deeper into the meanings of the pictures and the symbology behind thm. In the mean time, the general feeling each card evokes is a very universal energy that is easy to grasp and relate to. Each suit in the pip cards follows a particular theme that fits alongside the traditional energies associated with the suits and goes a bit further. The cups follow a line of relationships and how we interact with others on an emotional level. This suit covers family, friends and romatic relationships including times of loss and lonliness. The swords are about competition and challenge. They explore how we use our minds, bodies and words to jostle within social hierarchy and status. In the wands, we see the expression of work and labor. This is depicted in farming scenes and being able to build a successful life thorugh hard work. Finally, the coins represent education. The constant stream of information that we must process in order to understand the world around us.
The Major Arcana is steeped in Celtic symbolism and this is primarily where I am seeking to increase my understanding of the lore behind it. The artwork is very inviting and does well to inspire emotion and an intuitive understanding even without a full knowledge of the symbols throguhout the cards. As an intutive reader, the pictures mean so much more to me than the interpretaions in the book. One of the strongest things that jumped out at me wiht this deck is the somber feeling associated with it. While the cards do not necessarily follow or depict the story of Deirdre of the Sorrows, her energy is still with them. The characters are most often depicted with very sullen faces and dejected expressions. In addition, the use of such sparing color lends to a very sobering feel to these cards. They are not depressing, but they are not a bright cheery set either. I find that I have been drawn to use these more when dealing with issues of depression or deep sadness. The interjected colors seem to help point out the bright spots in an otherwise dull scenario.
While it may seem odd, the thing that I love most about this deck is the way it feels and shuffles in my hands. The card stock and finish that was chosen is amazing. The finish has a subtle linen like feel to it and these cards glide perfectly amongst each other while shuffling. They are cut well for the size of my hands (not too big and not too little) and I have to say that this is my favorite deck to shuffle.
Overall, I am very happy with this deck and I look forward to using it regularly. It is very approachable and yet has a lot of aspects that entice further exploration into the history behind it. The artwork is smooth and somber with a delicate balance of the bright and mundane aspects of life. If you get a chance, I recommend checking this deck out.