The English Magic Tarot – Rex Van Ryn, Steve Dooley and Andy Letcher

The first Tarot deck to draws its imagery and inspiration explicitly from the English magical tradition, The English Magic Tarot is a landmark in Tarot publishing.


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Newburyport, MA, USA: Red Wheel / Weiser, 2016. Creator, Rex Van Ryn, with Steve Dooley and Andy Letcher. 78 full colour cards; 160-page guidebook. Boxed. New.

Drawing its inspiration from the turbulent, revolutionary and creative period of English history between the Reformation and the Restoration, The English Magic Tarot features such notable figures as astrologer & Angelic communicator Dr John Dee, scientist & alchemist Isaac Newton, and John Aubrey, the seventeenth-century antiquarian and folklorist who rescued prehistoric sites like Stonehenge and Avebury from obscurity and destruction.

The English Magical Tarot is a collaboration between three people: artist & magician Rex Van Ryn (creator of the acclaimed graphic novel John Barleycorn Must Die), mural & trompe l’oeil artist Steve Dooley, and writer & Druid Andy Letcher (author of, amongst other works, Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom)

Letcher’s 160-page book includes an overview of the historical period in question;
 an introduction to English magic, beginning with its foundations established during pre-Christian Britain. The book gives guidelines and ideas as to how one may use the cards, with suggested spreads, and ways in which to develop a deeper relationship with the cards. It encourages users not to think of each card as having a set, fixed meaning, but rather, to use the the visual imagery as a jumping-off point to for one’s imagination and intuition.

The Wands, Swords, Cups and Coins of the Minor Arcana are represented by Tudors, Cavaliers, Roundheads, and Restoration period figures. Some historical figures (for example, Henry VIII – The Emperor;  John Dee – The Magician; Sir Isaac Newton – The Star) appear in the Major Arcana cards, and many of the cards (both Major and Minor) feature visual puns and mysterious messages in various magical alphabets that add extra dimensions and layers to their imagery.

If one considers each card as a single frame of a graphic novel, a story may then develop, a story that is both unique at that particular instant, and unique to each querent or reader, who may then create or re-imagine her/his own life narrative.