Friday 23 September 2016

Tarot Blog Hop Mabon 2016: The Cook's Tarot Review

For the second time this year, I've been drawn to join in again with the quarterly Tarot Blog Hop - host Jay Cassels' brief was this:

It is at this time in the Wheel of The Year, our ancestors would traditionally start to harvest and begin to store food for the winter. In the spirit of tradition it was suggested that this Tarot-Blog-Hop be about food; however those of you that have ever read my posts in the previous hops know I do tend to stay on topic but go off in strange tangents (similar to this funnily enough)...
Okay so the title of our blog hop this time is Foodies Guide to the Tarot and the premise or brief is actually quite open. I'd like you to take your readers on a gastronomy (foodie to everyone else) tour of the Tarot...
I decided to share with you a review of a quirky little food-themed deck - The Cook's Tarot, created by Judith Mackay Stirt, published by Schiffer, ISBN: 978-0-7643-4620-0.

When this book & deck set came up for review, I thought it might be interesting since I already own the Epicurean Tarot, also food-based. This – if you’ll excuse the pun – is a completely different kettle of fish.

The author/artist Judith Mackay Stirt has a Jamaican background, and the colors of her deck are certainly tropical in tone; the art is primitive in style and the cards being borderless and oversize (3 ¼’’ x 5 ½’’/9.5cm x 14cm) means their impact is more immediate. I was not surprised to see the World Spirit deck referenced in the bibliography, as the art style is similar; I am sad to say, it puts me in mind of the reproductions used as décor in some restaurant chains. The deck and cards are packaged in a sturdy, glossy lidded box; the shiny yet somewhat sticky feel of the cards is typical of many decks printed in China.

Looking through the cards, one is instantly stuck by the humor evident in several of the depictions; I particularly noticed the following:

Obviously the cook from the 10 of Swords needs more practice in making a spatchcock chicken ! However, true cooks still sneer at the use of microwaves:

And in addition these renderings made me see a connection between the 4 of Pentacles, XV The Devil and XI Justice:

And between the 5 of Swords and XI Justice:

For me, the most interesting part of the accompanying book was the author’s description of her creative and artistic journey - so fascinating to have a rare glimpse into what is a very individual and personal process.

Five spreads are given at the beginning of the book, but the only unusual one is the ‘Maitre d’ Spread: and not just because a Maitre d’ is a professional who works with chefs, not cooks in a home kitchen – it is shaped like a body and the card positions represent the ‘head, heart and guts of the situation’.

The symbols of the suits are not consistent throughout, but are easily recognizable, whether it is cups, goblets or jugs representing Cups, or matches, cats’ tails or baguettes representing Wands; Swords are of course knives (or cleavers) with clever alternatives like novelty cocktail sticks or so very appropriately, skewers in the 9 of Swords. Pentacles are shown by pizza, cupcakes or even fruit.

Although the art and color are crude, some of the symbolism is not; I especially appreciated the Ace of Swords; I wondered if VIII Strength is referencing Obeah, and indeed the author in the end refers to the ‘sorceress’:

The card interpretations given in the book are standard, but the summaries given under the header ‘Kitchen Wisdom’ seem to be a poor fit, being a mix of proverbs, sayings and simple advice, very little of which is connected to cooking, food or kitchens.

The author addresses the most obvious and glaring omission in her preface, where she tells us this deck is ‘not a culinary guide, or about recipes and wine-pairing’; it seems a shame to miss such a great opportunity to share some of recipes for the foods that must have affected the author’s path in creating a ‘Cook’s Tarot’, even if it was merely to include the recipes from ‘Dining with the Major Arcana’ (self-published).

Overall, a charming little deck with evident great personal meaning for the creator; for others, look beyond the obvious and immediate impressions in order to get the best from it: the art style may fool you into thinking there’s little of substance, but you’d be mistaken.

                                                © Vivianne Kacal 2015
(1st published on the TABI Blog 2015)


  1. Love the card imagery and hadn't heard of this deck before. Thank you so much for the heads up!

  2. OK, now I have another deck to add to the nearly 120 that currently fill up my bookshelf in the reading room. Thank you for a grand journey--this deck sounds...well, yummy!

  3. Thanks for the overview of this deck! I don't have this one but I've enjoyed seeing posts by others who use it. I appreciate the deeper look into the creator and the thought behind the cards.

  4. I think Judith's deck is one of the most overlooked decks out there. It's amazing!

  5. Another Tarot deck to add to my wishlist.

  6. Another deck I've not heard of...but it seems I'm not the only one :-) Thanks for bringing it 'to the boil'...

  7. I really like the "Jamaican/primitive" artwork in this deck, as well as the humor about our common human condition and relationship to food. Great "foodie" deck for this blog hop!

  8. I know we sell this deck at the store where I read, but I haven't' ever seen it, so I appreciate your review. A perfect choice for the hop too!

  9. I like the art, it is very strong and expressive. A shame the author didn't make any connections with food... :/ Great review Vivianne, thank you for sharing!

  10. I remember this from when the review went up on the TABI site. I kind of like the idea, but just wasn't convinced by the execution, especially given how much I dislike Schiffer card stock :/

  11. Nice rehash, though still not a deck that appeals to me :D

  12. I don't know this deck, but now I'm starving for spatcock chicken. And I'm a vegetarian! It certainly looks like there would be a lot to say about this deck - would be fun to use somewhere where food was the main focus of the event!

  13. Thank you so much for this post, Vivianne! :) Some weeks ago I wrote to Santa because I am in Tarot-purchase punishment till the end of the year :D (some regulations were needed :), but I so much would like to have this deck that I wrote to Santa, hope he understands me. :) Thank you for the lovely summery, I loved it a lot!

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