Tarot of the Golden Wheel, by Mila Losenko, published by U.S. Games, Inc.
The Tarot of the Golden Wheel was recommended to me because of my Slavic background and my longtime interest in the magical traditions of the regions my mother’s family came from. I was very happy to check it out. It is described by its publisher U.S. Games as “Inspired by the magic and wisdom of Russian fairy tales…” and they say it “interprets traditional tarot through the prism of colorful Slavic folk culture.” Sounded perfect, and it also looked beautiful. Beyond genealogy, ancestor reverence, honoring my heritage, and simple love of my family, I have always had a particular and deep fondness for Slavic and Russian art forms, as well as for the Russian language and literature. I assumed that beyond evoking feelings of nostalgia, the Tarot of the Golden Wheel would also simply hold great appeal.
A Traditional Tarot
The Tarot of the Golden Wheel is structured as a traditional tarot, with 78 cards, Major and Minor Arcana. The four suits are Wheels (instead of Coins or Pentacles), Wands, Cups, and Swords. The Minor Arcana cards are designed very much like the Rider Waite Smith in imagery, with some obvious variations. It is an outstandingly accessible tarot to read and understand, and the fineness of its art is both delicate and bold. Done in watercolor, the artwork has a gentleness and is quite pretty to look at; but the compositions themselves, as well as the colors, are often strong and deep. In particular, I would draw attention to The Magician, several of the Swords, or pretty much any of the Court cards to easily recognize this. Clearly, Losenko is an accomplished artist – she is also a skilled tarot artist specifically.
A Stand Out
For someone like myself, whose involvement with tarot began in the early 1980s, it is remarkable and enjoyable to see so many new tarot decks continually being released. I’m always eager to discover new tarot decks! But particularly exciting is when a new deck is also based on a theme that hasn’t already been explored many times in tarot. Although I have started to see more representations of Slavic culture in tarot and mainstream spiritual writing, honestly I haven’t yet seen many that truly seem to express a resonant Slavic spirit. I expect there will be more offerings as people recognize the desire to learn about these cultures – though there may be some opportunism among those. That makes this particular deck even more significant.
The accompanying 84-page guidebook is well written and concise, and offers a broad kind of overview of the Slavic folk history that informs the cards. It introduces the meanings behind certain symbols and colors, and provides a basic explanation of the tarot through folklore and fairy tale. That being said, although the cards incorporate many concepts (and in a looser way, characters) unique to Slavic folklore or paganism, the descriptions do not really mention specific figures from Slavic or Russian tales, and do not specify source material. I thought I’d point that out in case there is an expectation of references to specific tales or teachings. I think a lovely job has been done however, in threading common Slavic folk concepts through the sequence of the cards, and in illustrating the cards with distinctly Slavic symbolism and aesthetics.
XV. The Devil – Captivity: According to an old Slavic legend, on the night of the marriage of the Water and the Sun the one who finds the magic flower of the fern will be granted full knowledge of everything in the world. He will be able to see the treasures underground, to read the thoughts of other people, and will gain power over evil spirits. But this magical flower is guarded by an evil force and the one who tries to abduct it from the forest awaits a terrible trial. Enraged spirits will drive him mad and will send horrible visions that can kill if the brave man turns around to look at them. This card tells us that our souls are killed by consuming passions, burning desires, pride, and a self-destructive desire to achieve at all costs. They are like evil spirits that haunt us. Ambition and vanity, base instincts, the desire to become better than others are entangled as if by a network of your mind, which overshadows your vision and leads to destruction. In order to free yourself from this trap, listen to the voice of reason and you will be saved from the captivity of your passions.
Upright: Materiality, limitation, cruelty, vanity, personal demons, primitive desires, greed, negative thinking, lust, sensual passion, perversion. Reverse: Internal strength, liberation, the daunting of fear, getting rid of illusions, ambition, rejecting dependence, overcoming temptations.an excerpt from Tarot of the Golden Wheel, by Mila Losenko
A Slavic Perspective
It is heartening to see the tarot as presented through the lens of Eastern European and Russian experience; at least, folk experience. For a person like myself who does not often see her family’s heritage depicted in popular media with any meaningful specificity, it is an exciting deck, and I’m so happy it was recommended to me.
I would highly recommend this tarot deck for anyone, regardless of heritage, but especially for those who identify as Slavic. It would be extremely accessible to novices, and I think it would also make an excellent deck when doing readings for others.
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A quick personal note: I have family in Poland, and I have family in Ukraine; I also have some family connections to Russia. The war on Ukraine has been devastating and heartbreaking, and I strongly stand with Ukraine through all of this. I have not abandoned my love of Russian literature and language… My family on my mother’s side is mostly Polish – from the Northeastern areas as well as the very Southeastern tip of Poland – but they are Ukrainian and Russian as well… it is difficult to try to separate one from the others.