The Fool’s New Journey Tarot

Published by Alison Cross on

Just published at the end of March, The Fool’s New Journey Tarot (TFNJT) is the latest offering from John Matthews to hit the esoteric shelves. It’s a 60-card deck billed as a tarot by its publishers, REDfeather, so that made me super-keen to see how the deck challenges what I expect from a tarot.

First of all I wanted to make a special mention of the box! Gosh it is really quite lovely – dark blue with almost holographic clouds.

Although it took me a bit longer than I cared to admit to realise that I had to sliiiiiide the sleeve off the box before it would open. Once I’d figured that out, I am pleased to report that the box is a flip-top style that fastens with a satisfying magnetic snap.

I’m useless with tab-top boxes – my desire to Get At The Cards is supremely thwarted by fiddly little lips and slips of box that I inevitably end up tearing. A flip-top box gets a tick from me.

Inside the box you will find a full-sized book and the cards themselves … and *resigned sigh lol!* the cards are in a tab-top box. Knew it was too good to be true! I promise that I have opened it extremely carefully and have not ripped the lugs off the side of the box yet.

Let’s talk about the cards first.

The artist, Charles Newington, has a successful career as an artist and print-maker and is perhaps best known for The Folkestone Horse which is carved into the chalk escarpment above the Channel Tunnel on the English coast. He is also the artist on John Matthews’ ‘The Goblin Market‘ Tarot (2021).

Initially, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get along with this deck. I’m a big fan of tarot decks that have loads of symbolism. I love drawing out interpretations that may be tied to a gesture, a fold in a robe, the colour of a dog’s collar or even where a head sits in relation to distant cloud formations. The artwork of the FNJT deliberately strips that away and takes the idea of the card (well, the original 22 Majors) back to simple principals. That’s not to say that there is NO symbolism in the deck, but it’s definitely got the gas turned down low.

Here’s a video walk through of all the cards.

All 60 cards of the Fool’s New Journey Tarot

The card stock is very good and I love the finish on the cards – there is no sticking together or clumping. I think you can see how slippy and divinely shufflable they are at the end of the video when my little pile of cards topples over.

Given my love of symbolism, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the artwork – from the content to the colours. Several cards remind me of Matisse or Picasso in style – so don’t confuse simplicity of line with unsophisticated card art!

The traditional 22 Majors ARE here, but interspersed throughout the 60-card deck. New archetypes such as The Future, The Believer, The Fisherman flesh out this new Fool’s Journey that is designed with 21st century seekers in mind.

Let’s look at the book. It’s a box-sized companion book coming in at just under 250 pages and opens with an absolutely splendid foreword by fellow tarot artist and sometime-collaborator Andrea Aste. This is followed by an introduction by John who explains the genesis of the deck and lists the 60 cards of this new tarot dawn.

The companion book is, as you would expect from an author of the calibre of John Matthews, very well-written – concise, clear and informative. There are two pages (including a small colour image) devoted to each card. The card descriptions include reversed interpretations and keywords – so you are really getting 120 possible single card scenarios from this deck as it IS designed to work with reversed images (btw the image on the card back absolutely lends itself to reading with reversals too).

The second section of the book takes the form of The Fool’s Story, written intuitively by John. Firstly the Old Journey story takes our Fool through the Majors of the traditional tarot and then the New Journey, which leads The Fool through the new swathe of characters and situations offered by this deck.

The final section outlines how to work with the deck and contains readings and spreads using varying quantities of cards for you to play around with and includes a few paragraphs on what to do with a card that feels unreadable – which I thought was an interesting idea!

I’ve been working with the deck on facebook for the past few days, offering readings for friends and referring to the guide book for the interpretations. I think it works really well. The traditional Majors are still themselves, but some aspects are transferred to these new archetypes – and I find that it doesn’t diminish the originals at all.

Three cards drawn for a daily ‘pick a card’ draw on Facebook. The Clown, Death and The Wasteland

But the thing is – and I’m sure it’s the question that you are asking yourself – IS IT REALLY A TAROT DECK?

Well, if that’s your query, you would really need to be very clear on what constitutes a tarot deck. For some it might be the quantity of cards – 78. But just take a look at a Minchiate deck – nearly 100 in those whopping decks and Minchiates are very much regarded as tarot decks.

Your idea of what makes a tarot deck could revolve around the structure of the deck. A traditional tarot has a Major Arcana (usually 22 cards, but not always) and a Minor Arcana that consists of four suits, each running from Ace to Ten and then a quantity of court cards per suit – mostly four.

The Fool’s New Journey Tarot does not have this structure.

Of course you DO have decks that are Majors Only and usually consist of 22 card but there is no reason why a Majors Only HAS to have 22 cards. A Majors Only deck based on a Minchiate Tarot would have over 40, so why not 60, like this one?

How would I describe the FNJ then? I would say that it is a Majors Only deck – a vastly expanded Majors Only deck. Or perhaps a Tarot Oracle? However you wish to describe it, the FNJ Tarot feels like a brand new green shoot on the gnarled old tarot branch of the divination tree.

At the end of all this, what do I think about the deck as a working entity? I think that it’s an excellent divination tool that would form a natural bridge for those who like working with oracles, but who maybe feel that tarot itself is a bit fuddy-duddy.

I also think that it’s the perfect gift (treat yourself or a friend!) for someone who has maybe lost their divining mojo because with these new archetypes and a refreshing freedom from tradition, this set of cards is guaranteed to re-ignite and revitalise their practise.

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


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