The Son Tarot
Mysticism, Meditation, and Divination for Gay Men
Author: Chris Butler
Artist: Chris Butler
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.
Before I begin this review I need to make the disclaimer that Schiffer is also my publishing house. I am doing this because I am very impressed with this deck, and there are people out there who will think that the review reflects the fact that both this deck and my book are published by Schiffer. If that bothers you, then you will need to stop right here, and go on to read someone else’s review.
The “Son Tarot” is designed specifically to be used by and for gay men. It is a deck they will relate well to, and one that gives readers a tool to reach this audience with at a very deep level. It is empowering for both the reader and the Seeker. It combines the divinatory power of the Tarot with guidance for both personal and spiritual development. It is a traditionally based deck, along the lines of the Rider-Waite and Golden Dawn traditions.
The deck and accompanying 208 page guidebook come in a beautiful sturdy cardboard box, with the magnetic close top (and ribbon pull) that Schiffer is famous for. (I have cats – I appreciate that they can knock this box over, and the cards will not be disturbed!) The box is light blue, with an image of the Knight of Cups on the cover. The back carries images of Strength, the Lovers, the Sun, the Fool, and the Emperor. The message above them is: “Created by a gay man, for gay men, The Sun Tarot celebrates who we are and all the richness that entails.” Further notes on the back of the box talk about the wisdom needed to celebrate life as a gay man. Each image in the deck represents an aspect of gay male living. Butler (“The Butler Tarot”, “The Inner Landscape Tarot”, and “The Alchemical Elements Deck”) notes that the spirituality found here is free of the prejudices of established or formal religion. The cards also reference the traditions of Astrology, Runes, the Elements, and the I Ching.
The LWB (Little White Book) begins with wonderful acknowledgments to Patric Stillman (Brotherhood Tarot) and Lee Bursten (the Gay Tarot), the first individuals to put decks out there that addressed the gay male community. Butler credits Bursten with influencing the direction of both the “Son Tarot” deck and book, and with impressing upon him the necessity for gay men to “come out” to their community, and “come in” to themselves. In his author’s note, Butler talks about the “Son Tarot” opening a door where gay men can explore their friendships, relationships, sexuality, and spirituality.
Note to Schiffer: The black background and gray type on the author’s note page is nicely presented, but it was difficult for these older eyes to read!
In his introduction, Butler talks about the rites of passage that we all go through our entire lives. He notes that for gay men, coming out is the most potent rite of passage. The first version of the “Son Tarot” took ten months to complete, and effected a great change with Butler himself that he had not expected. This is a deck where gay men can be seen living the truths of the Tarot in each and every card.
There is a nicely done introduction to what Tarot is, and what Butler views as two of the most important Tarot decks to date – the “Waite Tarot” and the “Thoth Tarot”.
The structure of the “Son Tarot” is a traditional one – it is a 78 card deck, with traditional meaning for the Major Arcana, with the following exceptions: the High Priestess becomes the Mystic, the Empress becomes the Bountiful, and the Tower becomes Tower of Destruction. Strength is VIII, Justice is XI. The four suits are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. The Court cards are Herald (Page), Knight, Prince (Queen), and King.
Each card is presented with a half-page black and white image of the card, a description of what the card represents, what is means when it appears in a reading, and how it challenges us. Each card is presented over two pages, with the keywords for the card running across the bottom of both pages, in alternating black and gray print.
The Court cards are presented in a section of their own. Where the Major Arcana show the higher realities of life, and the Minor Arcana show snapshots of our everyday experiences, the Court cards represent real people – ourselves, and the people that populate our lives. In the deck, by the nature of the deck, all of the Court cards are represented as being male. Butler notes that each Court card in essence carries both male and female energy. In the Son Tarot, the King and the Prince are bound in same sex marriage. He goes on to say that the Knight and Herald represent modes of growth and learning, while the Prince and King are states of wisdom and experience.
Each Court card is presented with a half-page black and white image, and the different ways the cars works (as an elemental force, as a role model, as a lover, as ourselves, and as a shadow character).
At the end of the book is a section on working with the cards, including exercises on visualization (stepping into the images, having the images step into your room, and becoming the individual in the card), telling your story with the cards, and sharing (“How do we see each other?”, “Tell people how you see yourself.”, “Spiritual and life mapping in groups”). In the section on doing readings, Butler presents the traditional Celtic Cross spread, a Six-Card Challenge Spread, and a Three Card Spread.
The cards themselves are 3 ½” by 5”, of sturdy, glossy card stock. The backs are black, with a black background, and two images of male figures floating. (The backs are reversible.) the card face shows the image going to the edge (there is no border). There is a section across the bottom with the card information. The Major Arcana show the card number in Roman numerals, along with the card title. In the Minor Arcana, the Aces show the title and suit, the numbered cards show numbers only, in Roman numerals, while the Court cards show the card title and suit.
The imagery in this deck is rich, complex, and subtle. You will see what you need to see each time you look at a card. The art is digital, with many layers to it, and the color is, for the most part, muted. Some of the cards that attracted me the most were the Mystic, the Herald of Swords, the Ace of Pentacles, the World, the Hermit, the Magician, the Six of Wands, and the Two of Swords.
This is a well thought out, nicely rendered deck. It is beneficial to both the reader and the Seeker, and it a wonderful addition for any Tarot collection.
© November 2012 Bonnie Cehovet