The Chrysalis Tarot is an unconventional deck that fascinates me, although I truly can’t say why. I’ve had it for a couple of years, take it out once in a while to admire it . . . and then put it away. Certainly its quiet luminosity strikes a strong sympathetic chord in my artist’s heart and it reads beautifully as an oracle deck, but there must be more to it than that. As a literalist first and a mystic second, I tend to distrust unalloyed intuition as just so much subconscious navel-gazing. But the Chrysalis, with its non-traditional mythic iconography and gentle demeanor, ignites a spark of inspiration, imagination and ingenuity in my otherwise largely analytical attitude toward the cards that most standard decks fail to accomplish. It gets under my skin, so to speak, and offers compelling flashes of pure insight that have little to do with accepted tarot symbolism.
I don’t do deck interviews in the usual question-and-answer way whereby I have a casual chat with my decks as a fanciful exercise in panpsychism. Instead, I challenge them to reveal their deeper “voice” by applying a set of qualitative filters based on the elemental principals embodied in the four suits. I recently upgraded my “personality profile” deck evaluation spread and was looking for a good candidate to run through it.
So here we go . . .
The top row is the Wands row, indicative of the deck’s vitality and spirit; the second row is the Cups row, showing the deck’s fluidity and sensitivity; the third row is the Swords row, expressing the deck’s eloquence and directness; and the bottom row is the Pentacles row, conveying the deck’s solidity and reliability.
The left-hand column describes “First Impressions,” or the face the deck presents to the observer upon first encounter. The series runs top-to-bottom, Wands (Energy); Cups (Heart); Swords (Voice); Pentacles (Substance).
The Healer (Page of Mirrors/Cups) in the upper-left “Wands” position neatly summarizes this deck’s chief virtue: it has a powerful yet unpretentious aura of natural healing about it; there is nothing really “edgy” about its presentation, although there are decidedly less sanguine images to be found. “Affirmation” isn’t its stated goal, but it exhibits a comfortable approachability that invites exploring wounded sensibilities in an enlightened way. The 4 of Spirals/Wands in the far-left Cups position has a warming effect that doesn’t risk “flashing to steam” as a more volatile Fire card might do in this combination. There is no urge to force an emotional mandate upon the circumstances of a reading. The 2 of Stones/Pentacles in the left-hand Swords position avoids the mental paralysis that can often plague the blending of Air and Earth; as with all Twos, this card has a harmonizing and reciprocating dynamic that harnesses the restlessness of Air to its practical purpose.The 5 of Scrolls/Swords in the bottom-left Pentacles position is another Air/Earth pairing that is less complementary; Earth wants to stay put while Air assumes mobility and the Fives are all about movement and change, so the practical advice from the deck may not always square with the reality of the matter at hand.
The center column shows the deck’s usual “manner of speech” and “conversational tone.” The vertical sequence is the same as before. Three of the four cards in this column are low-numbered (close to the elemental source) suit cards, bringing abundant energy to the dialogue.
The image on the 3 of Spirals/Wands in the top-center Wands position suggests the spirit of organic growth as the elemental “tone” driving the deck’s forthrightness and sincerity. A low-numbered Fire card in the Fire position promises creatively inspired insights that are both enthusiastic and well-favored for immediate action. The 3 of Mirrors/Cups in the middle Cups position furthers the idea of insistent growth in an emotionally sensitive and fortuitous way; a quality of enormous patience and forbearance is also evident in this card. The 2 of Scroll/Swords in the “Swords” position is also circumspect in its even-handed deliberations and not prone to speak out of turn, offering quiet “words to the wise” rather than idle chatter. The 8 of Stones/Pentacles in the Pentacles position shows a dedicated and purposeful pragmatism that infuses the deck’s outlook on mundane considerations.
The right-hand column displays something of the deck’s overall nature; the cards are read in combination with the middle set to provide a more ample description of the deck’s potential. The vertical sequence is again identical.
As an expression of the deck’s vitality, the King of Mirrors/Cups (Fire of Water) in the upper-right “Wands” position is best described by the words from the deck’s “little white book:” the Chrysalis Tarot will come across as “. . . good-natured, emotionally balanced and filled with wisdom and empathy.” The preceding 3 of Spirals will nudge the benign King away from any tendency toward complacency. Merlin (the Fool) in the right-most Cups position imparts a wide-ranging and relatively uncritical angle from which the deck will make its emotionally-relevant observations, many of which could be quite unexpected (reinforcing the impression that the deck isn’t so much a “tarot” as an “oracle”). The supportive 3 of Mirrors provides the creative impulse to give airy Merlin focus and traction. The 4 of Stones/Pentacles in the far-right Swords position is the third Air/Earth match-up, and is more likely to succumb to intellectual laziness than the previous two. This deck is not likely to offer much in the way of truly innovative or visionary ideas, mainly sticking to the well-worn path. The leading 2 of Scrolls doesn’t really have enough “horsepower” to push the 4 of Stones out of its rut. Bella Rosa (the Devil) in the bottom-right Pentacles position is truly the wild card in this layout. Given sufficient “play time” and the latitude to unburden itself and really “spill its guts,” the deck may yet deliver a few hard-nosed truths. This quintessential Earth card (Capricorn) is entirely too comfortable with the physicality of the Earth position, so the deck’s advice in all matters related to day-to-day affairs should be carefully scrutinized. The Chrysalis Tarot may eventually reveal itself to be more than the engaging lightweight it at first seems to be. The Devil is so far out-of-sync with the rest of the spread that I’m wondering if there isn’t a hidden message here. It reminds me of the verse from the Lynard Skynard song, Gimme Back My Bullets
“Life is so strange when its changin’, yes indeed
Well I’ve seen the hard times and the pressure’s been on me
But I keep on workin’ like the workin’ man do
And I’ve got my act together, gonna walk all over you”
I can’t wait.