The Life Code by Janis King & Matt Corvis
I love reviewing tarot decks and books and it is especially satisfying to be asked to review a prototype deck and the request is even MORE exciting when it’s been designed by a former mentee of mine from the Tarot Association of The British Isles.
The Life Code has been designed by Janis King (aided and abetted by another TABI-cat, Ray Mallaney) and the artwork has been created by Matt Corvis.
The box gives you a good idea of what the look of the deck is going to be – bright flashes of colour set against areas of darkness, which really make the cards (and the box!) pop to your attention. Initially I was a bit confused by the lack of the word ‘tarot’ on the box – the front shows the deck’s title ‘The Life Code’ and the strap line ‘Everything is energy’. But it’s only on the back, almost towards the end of the box information, that the word ‘tarot’ is used.
This may be a cunning bit of marketing, appealing to those who deliberately avoid tarot decks because of some preconceived notions about what tarot is about. However, the Life Code is not an oracle deck for the tarot-avoidant, it really is a fully formed tarot deck, so it might just be an accidental omission on the prototype box!
It’s a standard-sized 78-card deck with Strength at VIII and Justice at XI. The Majors are all traditionally named bar one; Judgement has been renamed Wisdom – and the suits are Cups, Wands, Swords and Pentacles.
The Life Code is a take on the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck and while the images are not identical by any means, a user of the RWS will be able to slip into this deck without any difficulty whatsoever. There are not, for example, three swords in the 3 of Swords, but the symbolism is clear. You could absolutely cut the card numbers off these cards and be able to recognise which card is which. Something that you cannot do with a great many contemporary tarot decks.
As far as the card art is concerned, I think that it’s excellent and unusual. All the figures are rendered in silhouette and this allows the reader (or sitter) to free themselves from many of the limitations that fully-formed images might impose.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the cards have pops of vivid colour that are set against dark backgrounds. This does not lead to a dark and dismal deck, but a bright and attractive one. There is a white border around the images, rather than a black border. This is good because black edging shows up every dink and kink as you use it.
The Minors are colour-themed – Wands are fiery oranges/reds, Pentacles are shades of green/gold, Swords are a warm grey/black/white and Cups have bright pinks/blues.
The card back is a bright rainbow swirl with the deck name. This means that you will easily be able to spot reversed cards, so perhaps not suitable for reversals – but up to you!
There is an interesting slant for this deck in that five Major Arcana cards are also aligned with each Minor Suit. For example, the suit of Cups is regarded as the Foundational and Emotional Realm and the Majors 2 – 6 have a correspondence with the suit of Cups. So you find the pinks and blues of the Cups suit to the fore in these Major Arcana cards. And so on for the other Majors. Note: The Fool and Magician sit outside of this structure.
Being all about the court cards, I’m looking at them specifically.
The Cups family
Showing off the deck’s dark figures, The King of Cups is shown as some kind of counsellor or psychiatrist, the Queen as a figure meditating on a hilltop. The Knight rides a motorbike with his bride riding pillion behind him and the Page stands ankle-deep in water staring at a fish.
The Swords Family
The King is shown to be a judge, the Queen a bit of a dominatrix, the Knight is a pilot and the Page stands at his laptop. We see that each family member has a different type of crown included in their cards, not just their title. We can also clearly see the symbol of the suit repeated as the background image.
The Pentacles Family
This practical team show the King as Something In The City, the Queen as a working-from-home mother, the Knight as a farmer and the Page of Pentacles as a kid engrossed in books. If you look Knights in these families, you will see that they each drive some sort of machine – with the Knight of Pentacles in the practical, slow tractor.
The Wands Family
The King is depicted as a rock star, while the Queen leaps like an earth-shattering super-hero. Our Wands Knight roars off in a sports car and the Page of Wands stands with sparklers in his hands. This Page image really resonates with me because many years ago when we were creating a TABI Tarot deck, I created a very similar image for the Page of Wands – a silhouetted child holding sparklers in front of a roaring bonfire! How about that for co-incidence?!!!
Of course, there is a Little White Book which is actually a full-colour booklet of 80 pages. Each card is depicted in colour and the entry includes some useful keywords and a few paragraphs about the card, based upon the image (no reversed meanings). The Court cards are also provided with their Elemental Name (Kings are Air and Knights are Fire).
At the moment, the book doesn’t have any spreads or ‘how to use these cards’ type info – nor information about the authors and artists. More importantly, the information about the various Realms – Foundational, Emotional, Energetic, Developmental etc and the links between groups of Majors and the Minor suits is not in the book. Since this is what really sets this deck apart, I hope this will be included when the prototype moves to production. Or perhaps it will form part of a separate workbook for the deck?
I’ve been using the deck to give some free readings on facebook and have found the imagery satisfying to work with – I like the colour cues on the cards and found it easy to provide readings for people.
It’s got nice textured, yet slippy, card-stock and I believe that The Life Code is printed in the UK – something that is becoming increasingly relevant given the world’s current situation. It’s a really nice, really useable deck and perhaps that perfect starter deck for someone who loves oracles, but a bit hesitant to embrace our tarot world.
I believe that the deck will be launched as a Kickstarter project in the near future – so stand by for me telling you more about that when the deck goes live!