The Shadowscapes Tarot is rather atypical in the context of my previous self-bought deck acquisitions. The bordering is a mild silver color, and the color schemes are very light and tend towards the pastel. Overall the deck has a slightly washed out aesthetic, compared to my other two decks, but also feels very delicate and light. Each card image has a lot going on in it, but there are some recurring themes. Almost every card has fairy-like figures melding into and out of the landscape, and the imagery shows lots of repeating hearts and ankhs. The humanoid figures, and even some of the animal figures, often sport colorful tattoos in repeating or similar patterns. This was especially noticeable in the wands suite — they all, but humanoid and non-humanoid, seemed to have the same tattoo pattern on the shoulder.
One of the main reactions I had to this deck, when I sat down to write the first glance, was how much was happening in each card. At a single glance it is easier, but one I look any closer I quickly become overwhelmed. Therefore, I will not be exhaustively describing each card, but will just be commenting on what caught my eye about it.
The cards that often make or break my desire to obtain a deck.
Not my ideal Lovers card, but loads better than RWS Lovers. The Shadowscapes version is kind of bland and heteronormative, but other than that, I have no real complaints about it. The stealing of the crown off the head of the masculine-coded figure, combined with the placement of the feminine-coded figure’s hand, as if ey is waving off the birds taking the crown, makes me feel like a possible story-based interpretation is that the femme-coded figure is entrapping the male-coded figure, removing eir symbol of authority. It quite appeals to me.
While this does have a lion on it, and usually I take that to indicate that I don’t want the deck, this card falls into none of the pitfalls that generally make a Strength Lion unworkable for me. Its jaws are not closed at all, but open, and the humanoid figure standing proud at its side appears only to be caressing the lion’s head. The ready-to-fight swan on the lion’s back is a great addition, as well, considering how terrifying swans are.
A fairly standard temperance card, involving the mixing of fire and water and a mood of inner calm.
A lot more RWS than I’m used to, with a trumpet, an angelically winged figure, and spirits rising up through the sound made by the trumpet. I’m going to have to spend time with this one to pin down my interpretation, I think.
Unlike the majority of the cards, the World actually has a developed background image, and therefore an obvious setting, and to some degree that’s all you need to know about it.
Knight of Swords
This is the court card I generally choose as my own significator, so its appearance in a deck is important to me. Ey’s riding a huge bird, has an obviously flat chest, and really the whole card is a huge win.
Most of the major arcana cards — indeed, most of the cards with humanoid figures on them — stand on some kind of pedestal or outcropping, with not much indication of background specifics. Personally I find this to be somewhat trying in finding a context for the card, but all told it’s a minor quibble.
The Hierophant is an interesting card that seems to completely deviate from the remainder of the deck. The primary figure is an old, wizened ent with a glowing staff, interacting with small woodland creatures while looking solemn and grim. I’m not sure how to feel about it. A few weeks ago I might have said it was fine, but that was before I began to realize how drawn I was feeling to the Hierophants of Azathoth and XIII. They’ve recently begun to feel far more approachable to me, as cards, but the Shadowscapes Hierophant is distant and unapproachable. I feel like I’ve been abruptly shut down when I look at it.
The Hermit faces away from the reader. I found that to be an interesting and very sensible choice, but it’s not one I often see on Hermit cards for some reason.
The Hanged Man is suspending emself from a tree limb by eir bent legs, and nothing more.
Death is a phoenix aflame.
The Devil is a reimagining of fairly traditional symbolism, but what struck me was one detail involving the figure in chains. The key to allow em to unlock emself is within eir reach — but ey is busy feeling sorry for emself, and does not look up to see it.
Each suite has its own color scheme tendencies, and an associated type of animal, as well. The Wands tend to oranges and yellows, and are associated with foxes. The Cups tend towards blues and greens, and is associated with merpeople and fish. The Queen and King of Cups are specifically shown with sea turtles. The Swords tend towards purples and yellows, and are associated with birds, especially swans and ravens. The Pentacles tend towards greens, and are associated with lizards, which grow from small normal lizards, to small winged lizards, to full grown dragons as the suite progresses. The Queen and King of Pentacles appear to be dryads, growing out of tree trunks, or perhaps emerging from wooden cocoons.
Ten of Wands carries eir burdens as a tree growing out of eir back, with a small settlement within its branches, and is associated with a snail shell. I suppose ey has let eir burdens grow up around em, caging em in until they almost resemble home.
Six of Cups notably involves a tea party, with various stuffed animals in attendance. I can’t think offhand of what this may be trying to portray, but I find myself fascinated by how out of place it seems, thematically.
Ten of Swords is… odd. To me it appears almost carefree, though with a certain disregard for self-care. There is not much about this card that follows tradition.
Knight of Swords is. As I said. Riding a huge bird. Perfect.
Queen of Swords is, without a doubt, the most elegant figure in the deck. Eir sword is curved enough to form a hemisphere which ey holds before em like a bow, using it not to fire, but to release butterflies onto the winds. The colors in this card are the most uniformly pale of the whole deck, with the only vibrant spots being three beautiful purple-pink orchid flowers blooming at eir feet.
Eight of Pentacles shows a spider, having crafted the eight pentacles diligently into eir web design. I am almost certain that the spider in question is a black widow, and there is something I want to say further on that matter, but I cannot quite grasp it for now.