When I bought the Tarot Illuminati, I assumed two things: 1. It was about the Illuminati (or, at the very least, secret symbolism through the ages) 2. It was designed under the guidance of the author, Kim Huggens.
Unfortunately, I was wrong on both counts. Not only is this decknot about secret societies or symbols, but also it was created before the author came on board for the project. (I found this out via the companion booklet, which states that the “panicked” illustrator needed an author to pen the text in a matter of weeks, so took to Facebook to put out a call to writers).
Although author Kim Huggens attempts to perpetuate the aura of “secret symbols” by saying the full-length companion book (Tarot Illuminati Revealed, available separately and only digitally) illuminates the multiple symbols imbedded in each card, the sample chapter on the High Priestess—included at the end of the companion book—reveals merely the usual Rider-Waite-Smith motifs (moon, pillars, scroll, etc.).
The 160-page companion book to the Tarot Illuminati is full-color with glossy pages—a lovely presentation (despite spelling errors such as “peek” instead of “peak”), with each card’s text giving a “voice” to its meaning (i.e. a first person narrative), as well as about a dozen Themes and Concepts (key phrases). I enjoyed the fresh take on the cards, a dialogue with the reader, even though the imagery itself is the same old Rider-Waite-Smith posing.
Some of the card images by Erik C. Dunne are stunning and vibrant, but the mishmash of CGI, cartoonish illustration and cut-and-paste collage has a jarring, skewed result. Some of the heads and hands are too small or large for the figures, and the photorealistic backgrounds (or actual photos) with detailed foreground smashes the planes together for a flat effect. (In sophisticated art, the background is more muted or faded, which produces visual depth). Some images are quite pixely (brown horse in The Chariot) and others appear to have design flaws (the vertical line going right down the middle of The Hierophant).
The Minor Arcana suits are conveyed with four ethnic groups/eras: Wands are Persian, Pentacles are Asian, Swords are Elizabethan England and cups are a “fantasy culture”. Court Cards are Princesses, Princes, Queens and Kings. Huggens attributes Earth, Air, Water and Fire to each respective designation, but some Tarotists like myself attribute Fire to Knights (Princes) and Air to Kings (Kings)—and, really, this information unnecessarily complicates the text, especially for a general companion book.
While the opulent trappings of the cards—including shiny gilt edging and borderless imagery—will no doubt enamor some, the Tarot Illuminati just doesn’t work for me (nor anyone I showed it to). I love the sturdy, magnetic box with the flip top lid and the looks of the slick companion book—Huggens truly has a gift for storytelling and her key phrases are excellent—but these positive elements aren’t enough for me to like, or recommend, the deck itself. I've tried reading with it, and it says nothing to me.
There is truly nothing new here in terms of imagery, but if you like your Rider-Waite-Smith iconography warmed over for the millionth time via cluttered illustrations and bright colors, then you may want to give this deck a try.
To see 18 additional images from this deck, click here.
Thanks so much for your frank review. There's been so much HYPE about this deck, but none of the images I saw seemed to live up to that hype. After reading your take, I feel I can rest easy without adding this one to my collection.
At this point, I prefer new takes on the cards, not mish-mashy rehashings. (Of course, I must say I love my Bohemian Cats, which a person might say similar things about!)
Thanks for saving me some hard-earned bucks.
Posted by: Jamie Morris | 06/12/2013 at 11:39 PM
My pleasure. :o) I had no idea there was so much hype about this deck...until I posted my review and started getting hate messages and 1-star reviews of MY book on AMZN as retribution.
You see, I don't follow progress of decks or FB pages; I just know when a deck comes across my AMZN "Recommended for You" feed, I check it out, decide if it looks good (if I can even find card images online) and then buy it (or not).
I'm glad my review helped you make an informed purchasing decision! Thanks so much for stopping by. :o)
Posted by: Janet Boyer | 06/17/2013 at 10:47 PM
Perhaps the Spirituality in some are in question here. Is not the joy of vision and emotion the reason we get pleasure from such decks?
Posted by: PJ Cox | 08/31/2013 at 10:49 AM
Spirituality--including how it's defined--is a personal matter (and preference)...just like art. Not everyone takes joy in Picasso or Van Gogh or Dali. Same with Tarot decks, books, movies, music or any other art form. :o)
Posted by: Janet Boyer | 08/31/2013 at 02:55 PM
I'm wondering why the Robin Wood deck doesnt seem that popular. It's so colorful and clear to me and makes more sense to me than alot of other decks. I do have The Gilded and Tarot Illuminati as well. They are very beautiful but I don't have the artist's eye. How do you feel about the Robin Wood deck?
Posted by: Susan | 10/03/2013 at 06:08 PM
Hi Susan! You know, that's one deck I DON'T have. I love the colorfulness of the imagery, but not too big on the nakedness/bushy genitalia. ;o)
Posted by: Janet Boyer | 10/06/2013 at 05:28 PM