Modern Spellcaster's Tarot, Detail of The HermitThe Modern Spellcasters' TarotModern Spellcaster’s Tarot, by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738741666, 264 pp., 2016

Tarot is used for all types of things, but it didn’t occur to me that the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot would be more than an attention grabbing name. This deck is not only packed full of diverse artwork, but it provides an interesting and unique approach to using the tarot for magick. It is perfect for someone who is looking start working their own magick, but is also more than suitable for those that just want to read tarot.

I didn’t do any previous reading on the deck before I handled it. I like to be surprised, and this deck was a pleasant one. It isn’t just for divination purposes, but is styled to be a tool in spellwork. The included book details many ways to use the cards for readings and  in magical practice.

At first glance, the book itself doesn’t look like much. It is paperback with black and white reproductions of the cards inside. It is heavy on the card descriptions; only about 50 of its 250 pages were devoted to the “how-to” side of things. However, its information is varied and fascinating.

I found the content in this section to be unique. It, of course, provides the basics on how to read cards and use spreads, but there was also a great deal of information on how to clean your cards. And not how to save them after a coffee spill! This book actually outlines how to spiritually cleanse and charge the cards using all four elements, the sun, and the moon. This mix of very practical advice and magical instruction makes the text an easy and engaging read.

Included in this section are notes on different occult symbols used on the cards, which can be used to further divine meaning in your readings. Some of these symbols are fairly easy to figure out in context, such as the use of animals, but others are more specialized and rely on some background in the occult, which makes this simple guide welcome. Both runes and astrological symbols play a large role in these cards, so if you are familiar with either of those, you may find deeper meaning with the deck right away.

Modern Spellcaster's Tarot, Detail of Strength

The major part of the how-to section, however, is the information on how to use these cards in spells. The book provides some very concrete spells, which is excellent for people who are new to using magick of any kind. It also offers easy to follow suggestions on how to utilize tarot cards in your own spells. One suggestion I found very practical was to substitute cards for missing ingredients. For example, if you need flowers, then place the Ace of Cups — which depicts flowers — as a stand in.

The book features black and white images of the cards which have been enlarged, so you can better see the details in the illustrations that adorn the deck. Although these are not in colour, they are extremely helpful to pick apart what is happening the cards themselves.

Descriptions of the cards were brief, but still quite thorough. They focused on keywords and impressions, rather than drawn out explanations. I also really appreciated that this deck is set up with the court cards at the end of their suit. That made navigating it very intuitive.

The cards are all fully illustrated and very closely modeled after the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS). Those familiar with the classic deck will have no issue identifying those themes here; however, what is different is the wonderful level of diversity in not just race, but also relationships.

This deck features people from all races. The Page of Cups is Asian and the World depicts a Black woman, for example. This diversity is carried throughout the cards, which depict people from all backgrounds together in a shared world. It was very refreshing to see people of colour as more than just token characters. I would have liked to see more body types represented here, as everyone is very fit, but that’s a small nitpick.

The cards associated with love, family and partnership feature all types of love. There are couples of the same gender as well as images that seem to depict poly lifestyles. Overall it is a very welcoming deck for representation.

The art is beautiful and although this deck has a serious tone, some cards are very whimsical. The art itself is clean and presented in a more realistic style. The colour palette is muted, but not boring, which I liked because it allowed my eye to find tiny details naturally during my readings. Some of the cards in the suits seem to lose a little of their cohesiveness with the other cards; however, this is very minor.

Modern Spellcaster's Tarot, Detail of Six of Pentacles

I did a few readings with the cards, and even without the added depth of the occult symbols, the cards were easy to follow and matched standard definitions. In the personal readings I did, I found the additional symbols did add another layer to my readings. In fact, I found myself just wanting to stare at these cards and dissect every last bit information from them.

These cards are very easy and fun to read with, but they are also very captivating, so I wouldn’t recommend them for live client readings or else you’ll spend an hour on just one card! I would suggest them for readings that you can really take your time with.

My biggest issue with the cards is that although they are very attractive art-wise, they are a bit on the thin side. I worry that they will not stand up to frequent use, which makes me question them as a good tool for spellwork. Still, the techniques outlined in the book can be used with other decks, in case you don’t want to you ruin or lose the cards in this one.

Overall, Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot is a truly great deck. Even if you aren’t planning to do any tarot magick, the diversity and clarity this deck offers makes it well worth it.