Landscapes of the Abyss

I bet all of us have this experience from time to time when we feel like something was created specifically for us, that it somehow encapsulates the essence of who we are, creates this deep resonance by pulling the right strings of our heart - be it music, poetry, visual art, natural phenomenon or someone's piercing gaze. That's how I feel about the outstanding tarot deck created by Marie White.

It's nihil novi - the Mary-El exists on the market since 2012 and is widely recognized and well-loved by many. It's me being a little late to the party due to various reasons. Serendipitously, with my stupid luck and thanks to the insane generosity of Alaina I'm finally in posession of the Holy Grail. And let me just say - straight from the moment I touched the cards I knew we were going to have a fruitful romance. This is what many tarot enthusiasts aptly describe as having a visceral reaction to the deck. (Although, it's hard to believe some of them if they "have a visceral reaction" to almost every deck they review. I imagine their viscera must be in horrible condition at the rate of one or more decks per week! Pardon my sarcasm.)


Unlike most other tarot decks in my posession, this one crosses the line of being just a psychological tool for me. It comes straight from the primordial soup of collective unconscious, of mythos and ancient mysteries, of forces that elude language and thus elude judgement through the prism of black&white human morality. While I understand that it might seem blasphemous and seditious to some, it feels deep, dark and delicious to me.

Mary-El is a Crone of tarot - she doesn't shy away from strong imagery of Goddesses and Wild Womanhood, of menstrual blood mysteries. She's also not intimidated by phalluses and strong Masculinity, which is rather rare these days. She doesn't feel the need to depreciate Masculinity to strengthen the Feminine. She's definitely not the ethereal, delicate, dreamy type of woman but rather the firm, deeply grounded one, with moist soil under her fingernails, creased forehead and fiery heart.


What initially drew my attention to this deck ages ago was the Knight of Wands. When I saw the Black Panther, I knew I needed this imagery in my life no matter what. I've always felt a strong connection with the Felinae People, especially the Black Panther. She's been my guide, my teacher and my wild Self since I can remember.

And let me just say - I bet Carl Jung would be intrigued to see this imagery. With its Liber Novus-like aesthetics, it seems to be the tool for shadow work. This is precisely the kind of art that works with the shadow - dark, rich in symbolism that's sometimes difficult to stomach, raw and real to the bone. I'm delighted that it appeared in my life at this moment. It is a topic for another story, which I happened to tackle in My Year Ahead post in February.

Anyway, as I already somewhat mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are these stimuli - pieces of art, certain phenomena, smells, places, weather or vibe in the psychosphere - all these things that trigger specific altered states of consciousness, launching us on a journey within. It can be extremely helpful to pinpoint our personal triggers to be able to: a) be aware of the signs that indicate some shadow content is creeping up on us; b) use them to induce a desired state of mind "on demand". For me, Mary-El is certainly one of those triggers.

Since I got Mary-El on February 9th, I haven't touched any other tarot decks. Marie White must be a Soul from my tribe of people - her images are depictions of what I feel when I think of the archetypes of tarot. Her words from Landscapes of the Abyss set my heart on fire, she would probably understand me without words and vice versa. She knows. I doubted I'd ever experience this feeling with tarot, but here I am, in awe and forever grateful for this gift.

Of course, there's no such thing as a tarot deck for everyone and this one is no exception. I've seen people say that the companion book is gibberish, that the images are too edgy, unnecessarily confronting, that it's not a deck for everyday use because the messages that come through are too deep and hard to digest. Well, it all depends on why you do tarot in the first place. If it's for staying in the comfort zone, to feel special or to be enabled, then this deck is definitely not for you. But for me, this deck is exactly what tarot is about. Getting dirty and sweaty from the hard work. Cutting the bullshit and looking at things as they are. Seeing what I might not want to notice otherwise. That's my thing. And Mary-El is precisely designed for that.

To get the most out of it, you need to have some basic knowledge of mythology, kabbalah and western occult traditions, be able to interpret symbols, understand metaphors and - most importantly - have some degree of an understanding of the laws of nature and the world around you. Don't expect things to be handed to you freely, interpreted and explained for you. This deck will pull you through the Abyss and make you decide what kind of human you want to be on the other side. It will make you do the work, if you're willing to commit.

5 comments:

  1. I love this. I'm so glad that you've found this deck! And you describe it so perfectly, so eloquently, and so precisely. This is a gorgeous deck - admittedly not one I work with, but definitely one I highly respect. My husband owns this deck and it's by far his favorite of all time. He has the Lovers tattooed on his arm! So, this: "I've seen people say that the companion book is gibberish, that the images are too edgy, unnecessarily confronting, that it's not a deck for everyday use because the messages that come through are too deep and hard to digest." Gah! I have heard similar things from people. And like you, I have to wonder what they use Tarot for, and how they engage it. Because growth is confrontational, and if it isn't at least a little uncomfortable, it's probably not helpful either. Images as "too deep"??? I can't wrap my brain around that. So glad you found kin in this set of cards.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading my thoughts on this deck. You understand exactly how I feel about it. As you said, growth is confrontational and is supposed to be sometimes uncomfortable. This deck does this for me, and for your husband (that tattoo must be stunning!), bet you have a tarot deck like that too - a special one that does the magick for you. I'd actually be curious to know what's yours?

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  2. Beautiful, Joanna. So, so happy that you love this deck. I love this excerpt:

    "Unlike most other tarot decks in my posession, this one crosses the line of being just a psychological tool for me. It comes straight from the primordial soup of collective unconscious, of mythos and ancient mysteries, of forces that elude language and thus elude judgement through the prism of black&white human morality. While I understand that it might seem blasphemous and seditious to some, it feels deep, dark and delicious to me."

    Whoa. I'm diving into some mythology work myself and the collective unconscious is so moving. I think if others dedicated time to exploring mythology, the world might make more sense. I find it interesting/confusing how others do not find the value in the study of mythology.

    As for decks: I've been loving the Morgan Greer and Soul Space Oracle (together!) lately. I can't say I've found my soul deck as yet, but I'm really enjoying those two for the depth that the Soul Space adds to the Morgan Greer. I have trouble being unbiased in readings for myself - all of my readings tend to speak my personal current events, aka bias - and I find that combining an oracle with a tarot deck provides more guidance for where I need to look in my life and apply the tarot's knowledge - if that makes sense. I'm rambling now!....

    Anyway, I would be curious to know if you have any further recommended reading relating to the above excerpt?

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    1. I've seen you sporting the Morgan Greer & Soul Space Oracle combo for some time. It's so cool to see how each of us gets this kind of response from completely different decks!
      Also, completely agreed on the importance of studying mythology. It really does help us see the bigger picture and understand where we come from as humanity and how to make sense of things. I think I'll actually write a blog post about my recommendations (books, movies, documentaries etc) on this subject, cause this comment would probably be very long. Thanks so much for asking, I'll try to deliver the answer as soon as possible :)

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    2. I look forward to it!

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