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The Victorian Romantic Tarot – Limited Gold Edition

By Jewel


Published in November of 2006, The Victorian Romantic Tarot was the fifth Tarot deck published by Magic Realist Press (MRP).  The original release was published as a deck and book set, and a Limited Gold Edition was published as a set with a blank journal instead of a companion book.  This review will focus on the Limited Gold edition as that is the version of the deck that I have.  If you have read any of the previous reviews I have written about MRP decks then you know I am a huge fan of their decks and books, so yes, this will be a glowing review.  I was not really into the Victorian era at the time the deck was released, nor am I really now either.  To me it was just a gorgeous collector deck, so I purchased the Limited Gold edition only.  Then one day a friend who loves and uses this deck called me up to get my input on a reading she was doing for herself and I pulled out my Gold VR, laid out the cards in the spread and …. magic happened.  The deck just sang to me.  Everything was so clear.  From that day forward I was, and remain, a huge fan of The Victorian Romantic Tarot as a reading deck.  I was not really expecting that, though I should have known better with it being a Magic Realist Press/Baba Studios deck!


As with all their decks, Karen Mahoney and Alex Ukolov did extensive research and worked their magic in this creation.  Karen and Alex don’t just pick a theme/idea and find things to fit it, they immerse themselves in the subjects of their Tarot decks and blend that immersive experience with Tarot knowledge and just wow me with every deck they release.  No two decks are the same or have the same feel or voice.  They have perfected this blending into an artform all in of itself.  The Victorian Romantic was inspired by an old engravings book published in Germany in the late 19th century full of overlooked art or, as noted by Karen “denigrated by formal art history.”  But Karen and Alex were impressed by the technical skill and “narrative flair.”  From personal experience, I can say that the cards do have a narrative flair indeed!  These paintings, being of the same time of Arthur Wait and Pamela Coleman-Smith, were art they would have been familiar with “European salon art at its most accomplished and popular.”  Scenes that can be eluded to in the Rider-Wait-Smith (RWS) deck.  This book of engravings started Karen and Alex on their path to collecting high quality books of engravings of this time period.  Many of the books originated from Germany, the Czech Republic and England, encompassing artists from Europe and US.  The more they found the more possibilities for a Tarot deck became a reality.  As noted by Karen in the Introduction of companion book “We found engravings that were emotive, gorgeous and memorable, and as we began making them into sketches for the cards, we realized how strong this deck could be in cartomantic readings; these images not only spoke, they sang, laughed and cried.  Their realism was to easy to relate to, but could be provocative and unsettling, as well as captivating and charming.”  And the deck delivers on every single one these things that Karen mentions.


The Victorian Romantic Gold came with 79 cards.  It has 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana, the 79th card is a second Lovers card, a more sensual version of the card.  This gives the reader a choice of which one to use, or they can include both and read them differently.  Personally, I use the more sensual version. The Limited Gold edition of this deck was limited to a run of 500 numbered and signed decks.  A gold overlay ink is strategically placed on the images under the varnish so that it does not chip or scratch.  It is truly lovely, and as I use the deck and riffle shuffle I can tell you they were serious when they said it would not chip or scratch, I have been using this deck for over 10 years.  To me the gold just adds to the elegance of this deck, and even once I realized I was going to read with this deck I did not purchase the standard edition because the gold just seemed to add to my connection with the cards.   There have been three editions of this deck:  The VR Gold Limited Edition, VR Standard, and most recently the edition with the metallic overlay which I would love to get my hands on!  This new edition has several card changes and includes two Devil cards, as well as two Lovers cards (different from the extra Lover’s card in the Gold Edition.)  As much as I love my Gold Edition knowing what their metallic overlay decks are like this one must be simply exquisite, and I would so love to get my hands on a copy of it.  Mini-deck versions of this deck have also been published.  The Major Arcana retain the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith titles, the difference lies in the Majors not being numbered so the reader can position Strength and Justice at position 8 or 11 based on personal preference.  This is standard fare for Magic Realist Press decks.  The Minor Arcana Suits retain their traditional names and elemental correspondences of Wands/Fire, Cups/Water, Swords/Air, Pentacles/Earth.  The court cards are King, Queen, Knight, and Page.  The cards do not rely on exact number of suit icons to tell you what card you are looking at, rather the picture itself sets the scene, tells the story, and conveys the meaning of the card.  The card number and suit are included at the bottom of the card.


The cards measure approximately 5” X 3” and have an 1/8” white border on three sides, a ¼” border on the bottom, and a thin gold line surrounding the picture.  The card titles are included in the bottom ¼” of the card in gold lettering.  The card stock is superb, something MRP is known for.  These decks are easy to shuffle, durable, and just another sign of the quality that goes into them.  The back of the cards are white with an elegant gold Victorian filigree design.  The Center area of the card backs are denser in pattern, framed by a deep red line which is in turn framed by a less dense design, also in gold, with some small red hearts as part of the pattern, and finally a red outer border that goes to the edges. The deck is reversible.


As noted, the Gold Edition did not come with a companion book.  The original release of the standard deck set did.  I purchased the book separately.  The companion book, written by Karen Mahony, is 216 pages in length and includes the following sections:  Acknowledgements, Introduction to the Victorian Romantic Tarot, A Short History of Tarot, Reading Styles, Spread Styles, Sample Spreads, The Major Arcana, The Minor Arana:  Wands, Minor Arcana: Cups, Minor Arcana: Swords, Minor Arcana: Pentacles, The Court Cards, and last but not least a Bibliography.  The Introduction section was really interesting to me because it shares Karen and Alex’s experiences as they amassed their collection of engravings, and served as a mini-lesson in Victorian art.  You can almost hear the wheels turning in Karen’s head.  The Reading Styles, and Spread Styles section is standard in MRP companion books, very detailed and helpful to beginners and intermediate level readers.  Spreads are presented in the Sample Spreads section and include the One-Card Draw, four variations of The Three-Card Spread, a general five-card spread and of course their staple Tarot of Prague “Threshold” Spread (also five cards).  Then you have two spreads specifically designed for the Victorian Romantic:  The Romance or Relationship Spread (eight cards), and the Looking Back, Looking Forward Spread, which is a six-card spread.  The Major and Minor Arcana card sections include keywords and phrases, suggestions for reversals, card description and pointers on reading the cards, and a sources section where they tell where the art used for the card is taken from.  Overall the book is excellent, well designed, easy to read and follow, very complete.  As with all of their decks I recommend getting the book.


This deck is extremely readable and ignites your intuition.  It is RWS based, so if you use RWS based decks you will have no problem reading with this one.  This deck not only reads easily, it practically sings.  One of the most beautiful and easiest decks I have ever read with.  I had no frustrations what so ever with the Golden Victorian Romantic, and if anything it gave me a whole other appreciation for the expressiveness of Victorian art.  If you are looking for diversity or esoteric trappings you will not find them in this deck.  There is nudity in the deck, but it is artistic and elegant in nature. All versions of this deck are now out of print, with the metallic third edition selling out in August or early September 2019.   


I recommend this deck to everyone, with the caveat that beginners would really benefit from having the book because the imagery is different from the RWS imagery.  Intuitive readers will really love this deck, like I said, it sings.  I also recommend it to persons who enjoy the Victorian era, those who like art decks, writers, and to those who like beautiful elegant decks.  No matter what version of the deck you get you cannot go wrong with this one.  For MRP fans and collectors this is a must have deck, it is one of their finest and most popular.  How would my good old Aunt Fifi react to it?  Well she is a classy lady and this deck oozes class, so she would love it.  She might blush at some of the nudity, but it would not deter her for asking for another reading with this deck.

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