From Lo Scarabeo and well-known metaphysical author Corrine Kenner comes this insightful deck and its companion book. Drawing from the Rider Tarot and its illustrations by Pamela Colman Smith, the artwork in Before Tarot dials back the clock a minute or two, sometimes just a moment, before those original, familiar scenes took place.
The guidebook, titled “Foresight: a guide to the Before Tarot,” is 160 pages long. The print is a bit small, but that could be just my age peeking through. The book is of nice quality, and the pages are durable and glossy. It will survive years of thumbing through, I’m sure. The contents are presented in a fairly standard format and in three sections. The first section, “Tarot Basics,” includes a short history of tarot, a section on how to use this particular deck, and summaries of overall themes for the arcana major and minor, the four suits, and the court cards, as well as how numerology and astrology can fit into their interpretations. There are only two spreads offered specifically for this deck, and suggested ways to include Kenner’s followup deck, the After Tarot, along with the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) in these spreads with the Before deck for past, present, future type readings.1
In the second section, Kenner focuses on the individual cards. Each page (or pages, as Kenner covers each card thoroughly) shows three images of each card: one from Before Tarot, the corresponding card from the RWS, and a third card from the After Tarot. The three cards are not discussed separately; instead, Kenner provides a comprehensive discussion of each card, including small sections discussing the history, keywords, artwork, and symbolism, as well as elemental and astrological correspondences. Even with all of this supporting information, there is plenty of room for the reader to incorporate their own impressions. I think the images for the After Tarot are included as a teaser. In my case, this was successful, and I now own that deck too!
The final section, “Additional Resources,” includes more in-depth coverage of symbols for numerology and astrology, but my favourite part is the “Tarot Datebook,” which uses that information to show how the cards can correspond to specific dates within the calendar year. This is not something I’ve mastered, so to have it charted with pictures a real help.
Now let’s talk about the cards. They are standard tarot size cards and measure 4-3/4” x 2-1/2”. While they have the sturdiness of good quality playing cards and make for a rather thick deck, they did limber up after a few shuffles. The cards are not too shiny or toothy — they shuffle, handle, and draw quite nicely. Each card has a thin black outline and narrow white border, and the backs feature that same border, with complementary floral artwork. Trump cards feature a Roman numeral at the top, and a yellow band across the bottom with the card title. Courts and aces have the same yellow band and card title across the bottom. Pips are identified by roman numerals only, and the suit is represented only within the scene on each card.
The artwork, done by Eon and Simona Rossi, is amazingly close to the original, with similar colouring as well as elements of each scene, so that even though there are alterations in character positions or other elemental changes, you’d almost swear it’s the original card and you just suddenly have more understanding of it.
For example, a relaxed Queen of Wands sinks comfortably into her throne, eyes closed and a slight smile on her face, while her cat plays at her feet. We know that later they will take on upright, regal positions. This suggests to me that the queen does not neglect her inner, grounded life, even as she prepares to tend to her royal duties. Or maybe she does so as part of her preparations.
In another card, the “moment before” we find 10 swords pinning a body to the ground, we see an armed man, up and walking, unaware that nine armed men lie in wait for him behind some shrubbery. While the original interpretation of the 10 of swords is preserved, the Before Tarot adds the suggestion that perhaps a little more caution or awareness would be in order, or even that something is coming that one is not prepared for.
As mentioned, I did also purchase the After Tarot Kit (deck and book) to use in conjunction with this deck. I have only done that a few times and am not comfortable with it yet, but I did want to mention a couple of things about it. Its card backs have similar colouring but a clearly different floral pattern so that if used together they’d be easy enough to separate when you’re ready to put them away. Both the Before Tarot and After Tarot kits come in nice sturdy boxes with magnetic closure, so they store nicely on the shelf. The companion book for After Tarot is presented in a completely different format, giving yet more layers of interpretive possibilities.
I really like the Before Tarot. Sometimes I am in a kitschy mood when it comes to tarot, especially around holidays or special occasions. But by and large, I find myself returning to the traditional when I’m looking for meaningful answers in my readings. I’m not a rookie, nor am I well-versed in the tarot world. In the Before Tarot, I find just enough extra information added to already familiar imagery and themes to push me a little further along. I highly recommend it to any lover of tarot.