Stone Riley's
Magic Mirror Tarot Set

Note in April 2015: This is old stuff; for new stuff please see

    FANS PLEASE NOTE:   Along with all the other stuff, this site has a free do-it-yourself kit.   All the instructions and images you need to build your own pirate copy of the set shown in that photo (left) are right   here   (although it does take considerable time, effort and skill) and I'm even giving you my official legal okay to do so - like for personal use or gifts - but you do not have permission to sell the copy you build or any of this other stuff.  And if you build one you have to tell people that you did not design it.  That's the deal.  Take it or leave it.  Read the copyright info document  here  carefully if you're interested because if you cheat then there's a vague possibility that I would sue.  Hey, maybe I would. - Stone

To read about this project's origin and design, just scroll down.
View or print the full-color deck  here.   It's called the Spirit Hill Tarot.
View or print the black and white deck  here.   It's called the Simple Tarot.
But here's the best way to see the work:  here.   It's a flash card show.
Or read the booklet  here.   It's called the Quick Start Guide.
And if that's not enough, there's lots of links for stuff to read on those two detailed deck displays.  There's a whole strip of links near the top of the window, just under the title.
You can see my  home website  for how to contact me.
 Click pictures to enlarge.

-O-Spirit Hill Tarot    -O-Simple Tarot    -O-Quick Start Guide    -O-Flashcard show    -O-Do-it-yourself kit    -O-Stone Riley home

The Project's Origin

        In 1910 in London, Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith brought out the revolutionary Rider Pack deck of Tarot cards.
Smith was, among her other talents, a costume and set designer for the London stage.  She had in her fingertips the rich visual language of gesture, pose and emblematic scenery that had been developed in the British theater since Shakespeare's time and before.  Furthermore, printing press technology had reached the point that detailed drawings in decent color could be manufactured on a large scale.
With their deck and its instruction book, suddenly any intelligent person in the English culture world might learn to use this priceless philosophical tool with only a reasonable amount of self-guided study.
 Click pictures to enlarge.


  By 1979, when I began to study Tarot, the Rider Pack had grown a bit antique.
The visual language Smith had used had long since disappeared from popular culture.  Her drawings had ceased to be transparent masks of the philosophical ideas that stand beyond the cards.  Now you had to wrap your head around those pictures.  You had to enter that theater through intense imagination and practice.
But on the other hand, meanwhile, popular culture had certainly developed a different visual language with truly vast communicative power.  And considering the case of Smith and Waite gave me to think what might be possible.

    Could Modern Art be used to make a Tarot deck that spoke very clearly to a large audience?  Why not?
After all, Modern Art is meant for exactly this kind of purpose.  From its start, Modern Art was meant to show the public ways to see.  That's what the diaries and letters of the founders say it's for.  In this disjointed, cruel and catastrophic modern world new ways of seeing were required in order to find ways of understanding that would actually tell the truth in peoples' lives.
And it is indeed the philosophy of our common human lives - so neglected by Western academic thinkers - that is the subject matter of Tarot.  All of human life in its immense variety of joy and pain is supposed to be shown and explained in the seventy-eight pictures.


  But painting isn't easy and Modern painting is probably the hardest kind devised so far.   In any case, you've only got a surface and some sticky colored paste.  Then in the Modern mode you are supposed to dance and sing all round about inside the viewer's brain.  And besides all that, the 1979 technology for reproducing paintings was very far beyond my reach.
But there was at least one possibility.  Black and white was cheap to print and some great Modern works are black and white.  And though it might take quite a while to learn to paint, I knew that I could draw a bit.
I took a running leap.

        The first week of 1980 I started in and then by December 1980 had a working deck.  That was the first rough version of the Simple Tarot, which has become half of the Magic Mirror set.
I worked the kinks out of the thing through countless readings.
And the folk who trusted me to read with them taught me philosophy.

        So suddenly I found that I could paint some decent pictures.
Then digital technology got good and cheap enough to put to use so I could print the things right in the studio.
And now the project's finished only twenty-six years later.

Project Design

The Magic Mirror Tarot Set is designed to be easy for everyone to read, at least for people in our culture at this time.  It contains two complete decks with different styles of visual art.  There are two modes of visual perception common in our culture at this time and this is how the set caters to both perception modes.
One deck looks rather like a black and white graphic novel.  The pictures are like pen and ink or pencil or charcoal drawings.  Meanwhile, the other deck has full color paintings in a wide variety of modern painting styles.  It's rather like you're walking through the Twentieth Century wing of an art museum.  Before you read the cards, you have to ask which style of visual art speaks to you most clearly and choose that deck.
Every card also has some brief wording printed on it to help you explore the picture's meaning.  For example, one card of each deck says The enterprise begins.   Another in each deck says With aid, the end comes in view.   Others give a bit more riddle, like The past speaks or We hide our wish to serve our will.   So your verbal perception sense gets a bit of food to chew as well.
I've also put a little booklet in the set.  It's mainly an introduction to the special reading method I've developed for these cards.  How can you best use Tarot that is so easy to read?  Divination can become an intimate deep conversation.  I have done hundreds of sessions and the booklet mainly lets me pass along the understanding that was gained from that.
And then there is the outside box.  It's funky.  I'm making them from re-used cardboard in a modest nod to "post-modern" art.  On the other hand, the two inner boxes that the decks go in have an unusual self-closing design copied from a nineteenth century dentist's instrument case.

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This page was last updated on October 9, 2006.
This website is (C) 2006 by Stone Riley.  To inquire for use please contact me as suggested on my home website:
Thank you for your interest in the work.
Peace through justice.