I’ve seen the Madam Clara Sees All deck around for awhile – when it came out, I was intrigued by the captions, the statue based artwork, and the limited color palette. I missed the first edition of the deck, but was pleased with the changes that came with the second edition: black borders instead of white, and easier to read black captions. The deck still maintained its bright color scheme though, which delighted me. It’s a neat deck with a bit of a “fortune teller machine at the carnival” theme to it, with fortunes captioned at the bottom of the cards. The deck also features a wide number of statues (grecian, roman, and renaissance era) in place of the people in the cards.

Madam Clara is an 80 card deck that follows the RWS system with a twist. The two extra cards – The Hand of Mystery and The Eye of Providence – play on the fortune teller theme. They also seem to bring in explicit connections to the concepts of psychic intuitive power (beyond the High Priestess) and Spirit, which may play well for some readers.

The deck feels lovely in hand – it’s a smooth linen finish with a quality cardstock. It riffle shuffles like a dream and stacks back together without feeling like it might hurt itself. It comes in an adorable tuck box and a printed bag, which gives readers options for how they want to store the deck. There’s no guidebook or LWB, so be prepared to get a basic RWS text or have your favorite one on hand if you like learning with books. I personally recommend Kitchen Table Tarot for absolute beginners, then 78 Degrees of Wisdom and Holistic Tarot as you get further along in skills and studies. Be prepared to exercise your intuition and possibly your tarot journaling habit too, whether or not you have a tarot text. The images and captions align well with the traditional RWS system, but there are still many delicious differences to work through!

The Madam Clara Sees All captions are designed to be read both upright and reversed. The fortunes/captions at the bottom of the cards say one statement while upright and say another one when reversed. Each statement is related to the upright or reversed meaning of the cards, which can be helpful to new readers learning the card for the first time, or to more advanced readers learning to read reversals… as long as your perspective on reversals is that they’re the opposite of the upright meanings.

Reversals can be read in so many ways, so if you read them as a blocked energy or something to pay more attention to, then the reversed captions may be more annoying than not. The captions can be ignored, though, if you like the deck. And if you like them, they can be used to help guide the reading and provide soundbites that serve as memorable takeaways.

The court cards follow the RWS system here: Pages, Knights, Queens, Kings. Pages tend to align with Aces visually – instead one hand offering up the element, there are two hands holding it out to you. Otherwise, the knights are on horses,  and the queens and kings have their crowns and regal bearings. The courts maintain their RWS symbolism, and you can easily find the RWS motifs in their cards, like the Queen of Wands with her sunflowers and cat.

As I’ve been writing up this review, I decided to anthropomorphize the cards a bit and pulled the deck out to ask them informally about themselves. What did I need to know about them?

From the top of the deck, I pulled the 6 of Wands, the Emperor, and the 4 of Cups. The voice of Madam Clara is clear and bright here: it’s a deck that puts it all out there for you. The authority it can project comes from a solid grounding in and understanding of the RWS system. It’s an offering – a snack, if you will – that provides insight in small morsels. A bit prescriptive maybe, but that certainly follows in the grand tradition of the carnival fortune tellers it takes after. From the bottom of the deck, I pulled the 2 of Wands. While this deck wants to tell you what to do, this is the reminder that in the end, you make your choices, not the cards. Madam Clara Sees All Tarot can be found on etsy from MotelGiftShop.