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SKU: AliceTarot_1stEdition_deck Publisher & Year: Magic Realist Press, 2014 Authors: Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov Card Size: 3" x 5" Purchase at: Out of Print

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The Alice Tarot

by Jewel


I am a confessed Baba Studios/Magic Realist Press (MRP) fan girl, and will never apologize for it.  Karen Mahoney and Alex Ukolov made a believer out of me with their previous decks, and just when I think they can't top what they have previously done, they managed to surprise me yet again with The Alice Tarot.  I know the deck is not new, it was originally published in 2014 and they are currently taking pre-orders for the re-release to come in March of 2019, but it is new to me and what a treat it is.  In my personal opinion it is the crown jewel of their fabulous decks.  From the fact that we have actual pictures of Alex as the Mad Hatter and his daughter as Alice, to the amazing costumes that were designed and created for the models photographed to create this deck.  Not to mention Alex’s artistic brilliance.  How he does what he does with the digital art to make people like me who are not into digital art love his work is mind blowing.  Realistc and magical all in one.


The quality and design of MRP decks puts them in a class of their own, but what I love most about MRP decks is the love and research that goes into them.  How they gravitate towards the classical, and re-elevate it making it relevant today.  Curiouser and curiouser indeed!  Though Baba Studios makes it look so easy, quality themed Tarot decks are not easy to create.  You have to reconcile the theme with the Tarot to produce a usable tool.  To achieve this, there are certain compromises that must be made along the way and Baba Studios has made this an art form all in of itself.  Always striving to do justice to the themes they select, Karen and Alex dove completely into the Lewis Carroll Books with passion and enthusiasm, then channeled the essence and whimsy of Wonderland and its denizens, creating a cohesive and masterful Tarot deck.  It is important to note that this deck is based on the original books, not on Disney or any other iterations of Alice or Wonderland.  The Alice Tarot is based on the real deal, and this deck will transport you to Wonderland without you even having to read the books!  Illustrating this deck was feat, even Mr. Carroll, known for being fussy about illustrations, would have been proud and probably as excited as I am about the metallic inks used so flawlessly to enhance the images.  There is a whole section in the companion book dedicated to the subject of illustrating this deck.  We will discuss the book a bit later in the review.


The deck has the traditional number of 78 cards, 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana.  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.  In the Minor Arcana the Suits mostly retain the traditional names, one change being Pentacles being renamed Coins, and elemental correspondences of Wands/Fire, Cups/Water, Swords/Air, and Coins/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 tells the story and conveys the meaning of the card.  The card number and suit are included at the bottom of the image in a scroll type box within the delicate thin gold lines that frame the image.  The cards come in a beautiful, decorative and fully illustrated box with a flip top open on three sides so you can lift the cards out of the box.  They measure 5” X 3”, and have ¼” borders, the pictures are delicately framed with thin gold metallic lines.  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 look like a blue and white floral tapestry with a couple of small white rabbits and are reversible.  The white flowers, leaves, and bunnies and all outlined in metallic gold ink.


There is a 283-page companion book by Karen Mahoney that can be purchased in addition to the deck, and I would recommend you to do so to get the most out of this deck.  As with their previous books you have the traditional RWS base keywords, and then you have the themed based keywords, in this case The Alice Meanings. Karen’s writing is as wonderlandiful as Alex’s art.  In the Introduction you learn about The Alice Tarot and its essence.  The next section is on Illustrating Alice, which talks about the creative process used for the cards, including some fascinating information about Lewis Carroll’s involvement in the illustration of the Alice books and his rigidity for artists conforming to the text.  This is followed by sections on how to use and read the cards, a section on spreads, reading with The Alice Tarot, the card sections and ends with Abridged versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and of Through the Looking Glass.  Going back to the spreads section of the book, which is always of great interest to readers, this one does not disappoint.  There are three variations of the three-card spread, there are the three variations of the five-card spread including “The Prague Threshold Spread” from their first deck The Tarot of Prague and then come the spreads specifically designed for this deck: “Down the Rabbit Hole”, “The Caucus Race”, “The Tea Party”, and “My Own Wonderland.”  There are sample readings included.


Five years in the making, The Alice Tarot thoroughly captures the lucid dream feel, the absurdity, the scariness, and the whimsy Wonderland has to offer.  So how does it read you ask? This is a deck that focuses on making sense of what makes no sense of course!  It puts you in Wonderland then spits you out initially wondering what the heck just happened, for you to then realize you have new understanding of what is going on.  The cards have much of the essence of the RWS deck yet pulls on a different take of that essence, a side of the card you had not thought about.  For example in the traditional RWS 5 of Pentacles you have this lady and child out in the cold trying to reach the sanctuary of the church for protection.  In the Alice Tarot you have Alice and the Fawn (from The Looking Glass) in the Wood Where Things Have No Name, lost and confused comforting one another.  Here the emphasis is on how companionship can make a hard situation more bearable.  That theme is also inherent in the RWS 5 of Pentacles, but in the Alice Tarot it is the emphasis.  The deck basically narrates a story to you via the spreads you use.  I have found the stories and characters of Wonderland intertwined as part of the reading, and in the end it all makes perfect sense.  It makes for lively, honest, and entertaining readings.  Just when things seem topsy-turvy and absurd they fall into place and make sense.  Strange but true.  Reading with The Alice Tarot is an experience, and wonderful and magical one at that.  I cannot say enough good things about his deck, and it has become my new primary reading deck.  If there is such a thing as the elusive “The Deck” many Tarot enthusiasts are always looking for, then this is that deck for me.


Like all other MRP decks I have experience working with, this one is extremely readable and ignites your intuition with its evocative art and in this case the story within.  Personally, I find this deck amazing for personal as well as readings for others.  Sometimes you will feel like the Cheshire Cat dishing out advice or asking questions to come full circle.  It is hard to explain, but amazing to experience.  It allows you to speak to things referencing a character that you and/or the querent know who you are referring to, but you put them in the context of the Wonderland character.  I have also found reversals to not be important with this deck, the way the readings unfold seem to put the cards in the right context without having to reverse them, and yes, I do use reversals with many decks.  The relationship between cards seems to play a significant role in the readings, which is basically how the story telling voice of this deck comes through.  This deck combines elements of the Alice stories and characters with tarot to give its message.


I recommend this deck to persons who enjoy the story telling aspects of tarot, and those who use Tarot with a psychological approach.  What I mean by that is readers that weave story into their readings.  Alice in Wonderland lovers will obviously love this deck as well.  The companion book is extremely helpful, especially if you have not read the original books, as it provides you with the part of the story the image is using and how it fits within the meaning of the card.  So people who enjoy using the companion books in conjunction with their readings will also love the deck.  Even with the companion book, I do not think I would recommend The Alice Tarot to a beginner as The Alice Tarot is a deck with a twist.  Having a solid base in traditional RWS meanings is really helpful as this deck often plays on aspects of those meanings that are not so obvious starting out.  Baba Studios/MRP collectors will obviously want this deck, and those who love tarot decks based on classical literature will also want it.  Honestly I have no clue why anyone would not want it, but I am biased. 


In Sum, this really is a stunning deck and the love, heart, sweat and tears put into resulted in a beautiful and well thought out themed deck that works.  It is very readable.  Because it expresses itself in a narrative story telling fashion it can deliver tough and harsh messages in a safe but very clear way … with Wonderland tact and Cheshire Cat flair.  There is no nudity in this deck, and I would surely read for Aunt Fifi with it if she asked.  Nothing offensive here except some occasional brutal or absurd honesty.

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