Not really a review: The Tarot of Jane Austen by Diane Wilkes


The High Priestess (As the author of The Tarot of Jane Austen, Diane Wilkes, is a Dear Friend of AustenBlog, we thought it a bit squicky to do a formal review, so we decided to just post some information about the set instead. All thumbnails of card images are clickable to a larger version–but these are not the greatest scans, and the actual cards are nicer. –Ed.)

We have read and heard some anticipation for the Tarot of Jane Austen set for a while now. Is it a game? Is it a joke? Is it a “real” tarot deck? We can report that it is indeed a real tarot deck, and much more besides. The authoress, Diane Wilkes, is a Certified Tarot Grand Master and tarot teacher; she has a master’s degree in English literature and is one of the most well-read people we know. She is uniquely qualified to put together this deck and make it enjoyable to tarot devotees and Janeites alike.

The EmpressEach card in the deck represents a character or scene from one of Jane Austen’s novels, except the High Priestess card, which is Jane herself. For those already familiar with the tarot, the cards are analogous to the Rider-Waite tarot, though the suits and court cards of the minor arcana have been rechristened with Austenish names: Coins (Pentacles), Teacups (Cups), Quills (Swords), and Candlesticks (Wands); Maiden (Page), Knight (Knight), Lady (Queen), and Lord (King). The card illustrations fit the scene or character while still reflecting the symbolism of the original card. We were amused to note that the artist, Lola Araghi, seemingly took much of her inspiration from the various films, and for some reason chose the 1940 Pride and Prejudice upon which to base her P&P-inspired illustrations. The Gwyneth Paltrow Emma also clearly provided a great deal of inspiration.

The HermitThe companion book is especially well done. Each card is given an in-depth storyline and interpretation, relating the card both to its original story and the tarot. In some cases the interpretation is almost more like reading light lit-crit than a tarot book. For instance, the Hermit card features Mr. Bennet in his study.

The Hermit’s priorities are grounded in what is real and authentic, and he mocks pomp and circumstance. Scorn for sacred cows can result in being perceived as a non-conformist, a role in which The Hermit is quite comfortable.

When you receive this card in a reading it can represent an astute observer who sees the human follies and foibles beneath the mask. That observer can be someone you consider wise or cynical, and can certainly include yourself.

What a perfect card to represent Mr. Bennet.

There’s no hippy-dippy nonsense; the style of the book is straightforward and common-sense, like Jane herself. There’s no mysticism, just a thorough explanation of how each card allows the querent to see inside herself and understand the card’s place in the tarot. For Janeites wishing to learn more about the tarot, the genius of the deck is that we already know the novels; it makes it much easier to tie each card into its own story. Having taken one of Ms. Wilkes’ tarot classes, we know that she encourages readers to use the cards to tell a story, rather than attempting to memorize a set list of meanings; this opens the tarot to each reader’s own mind and energy and makes the deck a truly personal tool of self-knowledge.

Along with the individual card interpretations, there is a section on how to use the tarot and a selection of different spreads to try. There also is a synopsis of each novel, but we don’t need those, do we? 😉 The book is available by itself, the deck by itself, or the two together as a set. We think Janeites will get the most use out of the set, as the book is the key to fully understanding the deck. The deck does come with a “little white book” that is a very abbreviated explanation of each card.