I’ve been excited about Ana Tourian’s Tarot of the Abyss for quite a while now, and followed its development from pretty early on. The illustration work here has this dark and complex fairytale aesthetic, which tells the origins story of Light. Check out what Tourian did there with Key 12: The Hanged One. You are the hanged one. We’re seeing the world through the first person point of view, and we’re suspended upside down. That card back design is just beautiful. I love everything about it.
In the companion guidebook, which is very meaty, Minor Arcana card entries are given equal treatment to Major Arcana card entries, which is something that automatically earns brownie points from me. =) What delights me the most about this deck is following Tourian’s path of reasoning for how she illustrates each tarot card’s key concepts, like in the Two of Swords. The faceless woman balances in her hands two contrasting jester masks (representing two different, contrasting aspects of ourselves that we want to present to the external world), and she kneels atop the two crossed swords that are the emblems for this pip card.
Tarot of the Abyss is the kind of deck you’d reach for when it comes to deepening exploratory work through the nether regions of your own mind. It would also make for a great professional reader’s workhorse deck because the art gives you so much to draw from.
This is an 80-card deck where there are two bonus cards: an Alternative version of the Three of Swords and one for the Ten of Swords. Whereas the Alternative Card version draws its meaning from the numerology of the number 3, the Triad, and the element Air, which is of the mind. So here, the Alternate Three of Swords is about growth and expansion of the mind– multiplicity of the ways you see and understand knowledge. The Book of Thought that the three swords are pierced through suggests an unlocking of those pages. The words floating off the pages toward the figure represents living knowledge.
When you study the play between black and white, positive space vs. negative space in Tourian’s art, you know you are looking at works of mastery. There is a diversity of textures and such volume that you don’t miss the color at all. Her implied lines (the drama in the negative space) vs. the actual lines of her pen strokes are dynamic, which is why these illustrations feel alive to you, why you think there’s such momentum and flow.Tarot of the Abyss is a stunner, one that you will find yourself reaching for when you are lost, disoriented, or trapped in chaos and desperate for a visual of that Path of Light. Magical, mystical, and satisfyingly witchy in its aesthetic, U.S. Games has absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one.
—Benebell Wen, Author & Reader
The Tarot of the Abyss is a new deck from artist Ana Tourian, published by US Games. I’ve been following the creation of this deck basically since Tourian started illustrating it, and holy ****, this deck is gorgeous. I am absolutely, unequivocally, unreservedly head-over-heels in love with this deck.
I’ve always been a sucker for black-and-white decks, so it should come as no surprise that I love the Tarot of the Abyss as much as I do. The choice to render everything in black ink gives Tourian the opportunity to play with light and shadow in meaningful ways; I love, for example, the way the chiaroscuro effect on Strength forces the woman and lion into the foreground of the image. Some of the Major Arcana have been renamed: The Hierophant is the Wise One, the Hanged Man is the Hanged One, and Judgment is Awakening. While I’m typically skeptical of renaming cards, I feel that all of these changes work well for the deck. I find all of the card images in this deck incredibly engaging. They’re visually evocative in a way that would not only be great for divination, but would also provide a great starting point for Tarot or pathworking. The choice to depict the Lovers as two intertwined trees is inspired, as is the depiction of the Devil: Not someone who binds others, but someone who is, himself, bound and held captive by his own materialistic desire (pulling him down toward the Earth and preventing him from flying).
This deck is full of creative choices like that, which really add to traditional RWS imagery. Anyone who’s been around the blog long enough knows that I sometimes feel like new decks aren’t actually doing anything innovative or new with Tarot; the Tarot of the Abyss puts all those decks to shame and shows that even in the year 2021, it is still possible to approach Tarot in a new way that provides a fresh, deeper understanding of the cards. Looking at the Minor Arcana, I think the image of a child torturing a butterfly in a jar perfectly captures the cruelty and helplessness of the Five of Swords, and the birthday cake (below) is such a spot-on image for the Four of Wands.
The Court Cards in this deck are beautifully rendered, and show sides of the cards that don’t always come through in other decks. Because this deck is grounded so much in RWS imagery, and because the card images are so evocative, I think this would be a great deck for readers of any ability level. Novices are going to find that this deck reads easily, and is compatible with any Tarot book designed around the RWS system. More advanced readers, on the other hand, will find new insight and innovation in this deck, which make it worth purchasing even if you already have half a dozen other RWS-style decks. The Tarot of the Abyss will bring a new perspective to your Tarot readings, and will show you things that other decks will not.
This is a magnificent deck. I’ve been anticipating its release for a long time, and I couldn’t be happier with the final result. Tourian remains, far and away, one of my favorite artists in Tarot and oracle decks, and everyone should buy this deck.