The Mary-El Tarot

Review by Terri Clement


The Mary-El Tarot by Marie White

Published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.,

ISBN: 978-0-7643-4061-1

Retail: U.S. $39.00

The Mary-El Tarot is a unique and almost macabre perspective of the Tarot. The oil painted images are symbolically deep, albeit a bit dark. This deck and book set combines the traditions of the Tarot de Marseilles, Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth.  


This set was 10 years in the making and was completed using an oil paint technique called grisaille. This technique is thin layers of color slowly built up bringing a depth to the images and luminosity to the paint. 

The set is housed in a large heavy duty cardboard box, with white ribbon pull tab and stays and features a magnetic closure. The deck is held with a plastic sleeve. There is room inside the box for two recesses to hold both the 192-page paperback book and the deck.

The oversized cards measure in at 5 5/8” tall x 3 3/8” wide. The cardstock is quite thick, and coupled with the size, it makes this deck a challenge to riffle bridge shuffle.

The suits are Wands, Swords, Cups and Disks. The courts are titled Page, Knight, Queen and King. Justice is numbered VIII and Strength is XI.

There are many ethnicities featured in the deck. You will also find a lot of nudity. Many of the figures contain both male genitals and female breasts.


The card back is reversible friendly. It features two Ouroboros snakes intertwined with each biting its own tail on a black background.

The card fronts have black borders measuring 3/8” on the sides and top and 5/8” on the bottom. The title for each card is written in tan, inside the lower border. The several cards of the Majors (The Fool, Magician and Star to just name a couple), were printed a little off set, so the right side border measures in at ¼” instead of the 3/8”.  


The Chariot was inspired by the story of Odin and his wolves and ravens. This card features 4 wolves in the foreground, with a woman in a fancy head-dress. She has two red stripes on her forehead. There is a lotus blossom between her breasts. The companion book says “War, troubles, battle, victory, triumph, and overcoming obstacles.”

The Star shows a woman in an orange and red dress floating in the center of the card, over what looks like foot hills, but upon closer inspection they are made up of figures of people. The book states “In the blackness that was the Tower the Star will guide you home."

The book contains black and white images of each card, artist notes, keywords, and traditional meanings for each card in both the upright and revered position. The majors are layed out sequentially, then minors are grouped by number, followed by the court cards and 5 spreads. The book felt a bit rushed and could have gone deeper on many levels.

The Mary-El Tarot is not a cookie cutter type deck that can be easily used right out of the box. This one will take some time and study to be used at the deep soul level for which it is intended.

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