Born in 1882, in Jonkoping, Sweden, John Bauer began studying art in Stockholm at age 16. Within two years he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art. There he met his wife, Esther, who was the model for the Fairy Princess used in this deck, and many of his later illustrations. The fine details in Bauer’s artwork are realistic, such as his depictions of medieval ironwork. The costumes in the illustrations that accompany his fairy tales are taken from books housed in the Royal Library.
The John Bauer Tarot celebrates the Swedish illustrator’s artwork. Bauer’s art lends itself perfectly to the world of the tarot due to its creative mythology and fantastic landscapes. Each piece of Bauer’s art began as a small sketch that he gradually expanded to fill a canvas. During his lifetime, he created more than 1,000 pieces of art. This deck is made up from his images and parts of his paintings, which are intended to enhance the experience of a tarot reading.
Like any standard tarot deck, John Bauer Tarot is a deck of 78 cards. The minor arcana is comprised of the suits chalices, pentacles, wands, and swords. Each card measures 11.8 x 6.5 cm. They are printed on quality stock with a glossy finish. Each card has a border at the top and the bottom in which the top shows the number of the cards and the bottom shows the suit. The backs of the cards are red and green, and depict a young girl with long braids.
The book comes in a standard box and is accompanied by an interpretive booklet, which is printed in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. For each card the booklet offers a description of the image and few sentences on its meaning. The descriptions are listed in order with the minor arcana following the major arcana.
The images on the cards are exquisite and enchanting. For example, the King of Swords depicts a tall king with long, curled blond hair and a golden crown. He is draped in a long cloak and carries a long sword in a bronze scabbard. He is looking down as the small figure of a troll standing beside him who seems to be telling him something. In the background are trees and the night sky. Snow is falling all around them. The interpretation of the card is to gain wisdom from others, and that understanding others can provide great insight.
The High Priestess depicts a naked girl sitting at the edge of a pool gazing into the water. Her long, golden hair trails around her, adding a startling contrast to the drab hues of the forest behind her. She seems to shimmer and light up the water and the bank. The interpretation of this card is a reflection on the current moment and communion with the divine.
I found these cards soothing, and also inspirational. The booklet does not offer any specific ways to read the cards, so the reader has free reign to use a traditional spread or create their own. I have found that these cards work well with the Celtic Cross and the Circle of Creativity Spread. I also like to use these cards for storytelling, and many of the characters depicted resonate with the characters in my current series of novels.