The Key Tarot immediately caught my eye when I initially encountered it online. Admittedly, I have a bit of a partiality for cards that feature a matte black back and foil detailing – but although that was what caused me to stop scrolling, it was the other side of the cards that kept me looking.
Now, I speak quite frequently with my guests on the Worldwide Witchery Podcast about the idea of “seeing magick in the everyday,” and The Key Tarot beautifully marries the magickal and mundane with some of the most unique tarot imagery I’ve personally encountered. Rather than paintings, sketches, or even purely digital artwork, the cards feature a beautifully diverse assemblage of real, live people that bring the meaning of each to life through the medium of photography – something I’ve rarely seen to begin with, let alone seen executed well.
A straightforward 78-card deck, The Key Tarot utilizes the traditional suits of cups, pentacles, swords and wands, which often makes for a rather striking contrast against the backdrop of the “real world.” This is not to say, of course, that the artwork is created strictly via photography, as there are some cards that would simply be impossible to capture in such a manner. I’m thinking specifically of the Ten of Swords and The Tower here – I think we can all agree that the massive property destruction and grievous bodily injury traditionally depicted on these cards is best left to the realm of digital creation in this case! Additionally, the potential impracticality of hauling up to ten swords (or other tools) around to create such scenes means that many of these objects are added to the photos separately – though it is done in such a way that still honors the intention and overall feel of the deck.
That said, the scenery in which the cards’ central figures are shown is absolutely gorgeous, ranging from lush forests to picturesque shorelines, city parks to downtown skylines, and everything in between. The colors are vibrant, the images crisp, and the addition of special effects such as levitation, flames, sparks, and mist adds an extra pop of magick just where it’s needed. The eye-catching card backs, with their matte black background, feature a gold-foil design that incorporates visual representations of all four suits, along with large skeleton keys in the center. One small item to note is that the cards backs are not symmetrical – the pentacles at the top and bottom borders both point the same direction – so if you are someone who reads reversals, you will be able to tell whether a card is reversed before turning it over, based on the direction that the pentacles are pointing.
When it comes to the more mundane attributes of the cards, the weight, texture, and size all come together to create a gorgeous shuffle right out of the box. At about 2.6in x 4.6in (6.6cm x 11.7cm), they are neither particularly thick or thin, and are notably flexible, without holding a bend or becoming warped. The gold edge gilding is surprisingly grippy, and the dual-sided matte finish allows the cards to glide across one another, without sliding chaotically all over the place.
Inside the gold-foiled box, along with the deck itself, is the soft-cover guidebook. Printed in black-and-white, the book features a brief introduction and a note on one- and three-card spreads before diving into card meanings. Each card is given one page, with three keywords followed by two short paragraphs discussing its interpretation in greater detail. For those curious, the back of the book also contains a list of the models featured throughout the deck.
With many doors to open, here is a key…The Key Tarot
While selecting only one favorite from this deck was a nearly impossible task, the one that continually stood out to me each time I flipped through it was “The World” (featured in the image at the top of this post). The dreamy purples and blues just pulled me in, and what a surprise to learn that the model is none other than the wonderful Aly Kravetz!
A few other cards that I simply had to call out for their stunning imagery include The Wheel of Fortune, The Star, the Three of Wands, and the Four of Swords. (Flip through video coming soon!)
About the Creators
Scarlet Ravenswood is a professional tarot reader and instructor from the Chicago area. Through her website, Instagram, and Youtube channel she provides educational content about a variety of esoteric and spiritual topics. Her writings have been featured in multiple publications and she regularly speaks at events within the tarot and pagan community.
Jamie Gold is an artist, designer, chakra healer, spiritual guide, and community organizer in Chicago. She can be found leading women’s circles, and offers 1×1 spiritual guidance. She loves reading tarot, learning and practicing world religions, and getting creative with photography and artwork. Follow Jamie’s artistic and mystical explorations on Instagram.