The Tarot Illuminati Kit, at first glance, seems to be an updated version the classic Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck, but upon use and closer inspection, Erik C. Dunne and Kim Huggens have combined elements of both Thoth and the RWS to form a deck that is accessible and easy to read.
This is Dunne and Huggens first deck, before the Tarot Apokalypsis,1 and as such it is a much simpler deck and kit. It does come with a full book, but it is not the 300 page tome of their sophomore outing. The Illuminati book is much thinner and to the point.
It opens with a few spreads, which I thought were unique. One was a take on the three card spread, but there were also a number of multi-card options. I used a seven card spread from the text to test out the deck.
Beyond the spreads, the book provides some general information on how to read the cards and a little background on the tarot before diving into the cards themselves. The book wastes no time discussing philosophy or history, instead choosing to focus on practical use and the cards themselves. It does include a some information on numerology, which has been very popular in combination with tarot recently.
The sections dealing with the cards themselves are a bit lacking. The major arcana chapter does feature larger reproductions of the cards themselves, so that you can see all of the details on them. The minors had only small pictures, which is a shame because these are also densely illustrated cards and it would have been nice to be able to see a larger version.
The descriptions of the cards are little more than what one would find in a generic little white book. Each description contained a little bit of a narrative and then some key words and phrases that related to the card. I found the narratives a waste of space. That said, there is another book that was released after this kit that goes into more detail about each card. However, having not read it, I cannot recommend it.
One very interesting thing I learned from the text, and that I may not have noticed right away on my own (as it is not a noticeable feature on every card) is that light is very important to this deck. In every card there is a light source, such as a candle or window, and Dunne has illustrated these very intentionally. These lights help to add further meaning to the cards themselves and is an interesting touch.
The cards are of a very nice quality. I especially enjoyed their gold border, which gives them a very rich feeling. The art — for me — was hit or miss. The cards do feature some diversity, especially in the minor arcana, but that is simply due to the settings used in suit. So all pentacle cards feature Asian people, for instance. It doesn’t really feel like a diverse deck that features different races, and there was no diversity in body type or relationships. There were some cards that I absolutely loved and thought were gorgeous. Other cards looked almost unfinished to me, as if they hadn’t had the final touches included to make a polished piece.
Even so, all of the images were recognizable. Dunne uses the imagery made popular by RWS for these cards, but they feature Princes and Princesses in the courts instead of Knights and Pages. However, it keeps the major arcana in the order of the RWS decks. It’s very strange but it does not appear to affect the reading in any way.
I did do a larger reading with this deck. Since the cards were so close to a RWS deck, I didn’t feel the need to start small and my feelings were correct. This is an incredibly simple deck to begin working with. As soon as I laid the cards out, I could see connections in the familiar imagery. The reading I did with this deck was very clear and simple.
The deck didn’t speak to me as strongly as some others, but the addition of the light imagery throughout made the readings interesting and added new elements to the cards that can be viewed and considered outside of their assigned meanings.
Despite that, this deck feels like beginner deck to me. It is the type of deck that I would recommend to someone looking for their first or second tarot deck. The art can be very evocative at times, but it is also very easy. There’s nothing here that one can’t find in the classic RWS deck. What this deck lacked, for me, is the layers that would make it more interesting and suited for deeply intuitive reading. It is not a difficult deck to work with, but it lacks any real substance to build on for an in depth understanding of the energy and issues at hand.
Even so, I don’t think that this is a bad deck by any stretch of the imagination. I think that it’s a great deck for people who are new to tarot, and it will probably do well for people who read at parties, as it can give you quick and clear guidance. The rich finish of the cards makes it perfect for something like that because they appear very mystical.
I did a reading for a client with the Tarot Illuminati, and as expected, the cards gave a very solid reading. The answers it provided were very much surface readings and there wasn’t much there that pulled me, as a reader, any deeper. But as I was shuffling the client mentioned how cool the cards looked with their gold borders, furthering my opinion that these are good for client readings.
The Tarot Illuminati is a good deck. It is accessible and well made, although I feel that it could have been taken further in combining the two schools of tarot. I would recommend this deck to people who are getting comfortable with the cards or to those that are looking for an update on the RWS imagery.