Created by Cheryl Fair
Graphics by Paula Millet

The Magical Realism Tarot is an incredibly personal work of art. It’s obviously a labor of love that Cheryl Fair used to combine all of her talents and interests in one Tarot shaped package.

I’ll be honest, I had a difficult time connecting with these cards. At first I was excited, I like Marseille style decks and a very modern, non-traditional version somewhat appealed to me, but Ms. Fair’s fantasy portrait style was hard for me to connect with emotionally. I picked this deck up and put it down for many weeks, shuffling and pulling the occasional three cards and doing nothing else with them, before I realized that I needed to approach the deck as a work of art first, and a tool for reading tarot second.

The deck comes with a simple black suede drawstring bag; and a metal tin that, while cute, was a VERY tight fit. I had a hard time getting them in and out of their little metal box, so I chose to keep them in the bag. It was like they had two coat options: classic vampire cape, or technopunk puffy silver jacket. What can I say, I’m a bit more traditional when it comes to tarot outerwear.

There is a LWB included, also written by Cheryl Fair. Like most little white books, it outlines basic card interpretations and gives examples of spreads. It’s pretty standard, although I have some major disagreements with her interpretations of the suit of Swords, especially the reversals. I wish she’d enlarged the booklet and written more about her artistic process in creating the deck.

The cardstock is good quality, the cards shuffle like a knife through butter. They stood up to my intense shuffling abuse like champs, hardly fraying over a couple months of use.

The design on the back of the deck is simple but meaningful, the elements represented on a black field, it evokes an ancient tome filled with forbidden knowledge, or the wheel at the helm of a ship. They hint at an arcane secret, mysteries held within, enlightenment to be discovered.

All of the models in The Magical Realism Tarot deck are members of Ms. Fair’s community; friends, family, other artists she’s collaborated with before. This is a deck of portraits of her beloved friends, as she sees them through the lens of the tarot, as well as the lens of her own unique photographic style. I absolutely love that the models participated in the creation of their cards, though costuming and prop searches, styling and makeup. It gives layers to the personality of the deck, makes it seem like a documentation of a very elaborate piece of performance art.

The Major Arcana and Court Cards are all portraits, most in the vein of RWS imagery. I can tell that a lot of thought went into the costuming and styling of each subject. Many of the people in the Majors are depicted wearing modern clothing and make eye contact with the camera, while the Courts generally look into the distance, more regal and aloof. The photo manipulation adds layers to the background and lighting, creating ethereal landscapes for these characters to traverse.

The Minors are pips, each element represented with colorful, cohesive backgrounds that draw the eye in. I especially love the background of ginko leaves depicted on the suit of Pentacles, and the Tudor Rosette that she chose for the disks themselves. I like to imagine that the coins are an image of a stepping stone in her garden, an item that represents grounding and personal history.

The Star, The Moon and The Sun are my three favorite cards in this deck. I tend to be drawn to these cards in many decks, and this is no exception. I love the color choices in all of these images. The blue-greens and bright white of The Star evokes the night sky and the cycles we watch for as the heavens spin above us. The washed-out blues, pinks and grays of The Moon card demand closer examination, the implied movement in the image, with the seashore and the blurring of the figure call to mind the constant pull of the tides and changes that come with it. The unbridled and uninhibited joy of the little girl on The Sun card as she runs through the field of sunflowers promises hope and respite after long dark journeys. The pattern of the field of flowers echoed on her dress says we can take this feeling with us as we continue to new and unknown destinations.

All in all, I’d say although this deck isn’t one I’d choose first for readings for myself, I do think it will resonate with those who are looking for a modern take on a Marseille style deck, especially those who love the fantasy genre of literature and film. I can tell that the creation of this deck was a very personal artistic journey and that Ms. Fair has invested her love of her community in every card.