A new deck in town is always an exciting thing, and maybe I’m crazy, but the Light Grey Cosmos Tarot & Oracle Deck had me extra excited. If you’ve had a glimpse of this deck online, you’ll know that the production is lux and the art show-stopping. Not only that, but in addition to the standard 78-card tarot deck, it also includes a bonus 22-card oracle deck. Effectively, it’s two decks in one. A hard proposition to resist for those of us who like our cards a little… extra!
Cosmos is the second collaborative tarot project from the masterminds at Light Grey Art Lab (you can find the first Light Grey Tarot here). Like the first deck, each card in Cosmos is the work of a different artist, bringing together 100 artists from around the world to riff on tarot and astrology in this unique and beautiful deck.
I don’t know how they managed it, but like the original Light Grey Tarot, Cosmos is simultaneously diverse and cohesive, aesthetically speaking. It’s an amazing feat of fortune and coordination to have one hundred artists – not necessarily versed in tarot – create one hundred individual artworks that come together to make a singular working deck. Honestly, it’s kind of remarkable!
Oracle Cards from the Light Grey Cosmos Tarot & Oracle
The other feat of unification that the Light Grey Cosmos deck achieves is its parallel exploration of tarot, mythology and astrology. Each card has a celestial attribution, bringing together traditional tarot meanings and the symbolic and mythological significance of constellations, planets, and other astral phenomena. Although, to say the tarot associations are traditional is not strictly correct; some of the cards read like their Rider Waite Smith equivalents, but many have been taken in unique directions. Cosmos is definitely kind of deck that rewards study, so get those tarot journals out!
When I look at a new deck, I like to check out how it deals with sexuality and gender, usually by looking at the Ten of Cups, the Two of Cups, and the Ten of Pentacles, and The Lovers. Interestingly, each of these cards depicts a woman either alone or with an animal (The Lovers, which is associated in this deck with the sign of Cancer, shows a woman with an abstract, crab-like creature).
When it comes to racial diversity, there are cards that depict people of colour (to name a few, The Sun, The Star, and the Five of Earth). The art definitely errs on the side of fantastical, so there are also a lot of magical blue people, for example. Cosmos’ depiction of people of colour is not overly realistic, but then, there isn’t much realism at all in this strange, celestial deck.
Interestingly, a goodly proportion of the cards depict non-human figures, landscapes, or symbolic objects. For that reason, Cosmos will definitely appeal to readers who prefer their decks to place less emphasis on mundane human images, or who like their art well steeped in fantasy.
Since this deck very much marches to the beat of its own drum, it’s fortunate that it comes with a pretty detailed book. There are also keywords printed on each card, along with the card name and associated constellation, which you can utilize or ignore at will.
So, I’ve been taking my time getting to know this deck (a lot of which has been spent just oohing and ahhing over the lush gold foiled edges and the gorgeous imagery). After a while, though, it’s time to stop looking and start reading! For the purposes of this deck interview, I’ve excluded the oracle cards. I’ll give them their own review and interview at a later date.
1. TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTERISTIC? Queen of Fire (Cassiopeia)
Keywords: Consequences of Arrogance. Vanity and Pride.
The Queen of Fire tells the story of Cassiopeia, and her daughter, Andromeda, women punished for their pride by the sea god, Poseidon. While the story of Cassiopeia warns of the potential pitfalls of pride (or perhaps of cranky gods who’d rather keep women in their places), the accompanying booklet says that really, this card is about Andromeda rising above her trials and breaking free.
Freedom is something the Light Grey Cosmos Tarot has in spades! Traditional tarot structures and elemental associations are all up for grabs here, and this deck makes no apologies for it. This deck captures all that dark stuff – pride, revenge, subjugation – but also brings a liberated spirit to the reading table.
2. WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A DECK? XVIII The Moon (Pisces)
Keywords: Subconscious. Indecision. Critique. Sensitivity.
I’m not surprised to see The Moon come up, because this deck can be pretty weird! From the imagery to the keywords to the astral phenomena, Cosmos follows its own lead and resists any assumptions you might want to impose upon it (there’s that free thinking again!). Obviously, this uniqueness and weirdness is a great strength!
When it comes to working with The Moon, we know the best tools we have are intuition and creativity. It’s fair to assume that Cosmos is in its element when the reader approaches with these tools in hand.
3. WHAT ARE YOUR LIMITS AS A DECK? 10 of Water (Corona Borealis)
Keywords: Triumph After Sacrifice. New Beginnings.
Cosmos associates the Ten of Water with the story of Ariadne, who, after being abandoned by her lover, Theseus, finds redemption and a new beginning when she is wooed by Dionysus (it’s worth noting that while the artwork on this card depicts a woman with two leopard-like cats so is not overly heteronormative, the myth that the card is associated with obviously is, so your mileage in that regard may vary!).
So, what do we make of this as a limitation? It would seem Cosmos is not overly concerned with tidy endings, or clean-cut tales of redemption. Don’t expect any coddling here! This deck is complex, and maybe even a little cool, so until you’ve learned to speak its language, reading with it is not going to be a soothing experience. Who doesn’t love a challenge, though?
4. WHAT ARE YOU HERE TO TEACH ME? Three of Air (Hercules)
Keywords: Great Effort. Trial.
Personally, I love this take on the Three of Air. Unlike the traditional meaning of this card (pain, heartbreak), Cosmos makes the Three of Air about proving yourself through strength and endurance. The scene on the card depicts Hercules’ eleventh labour, and demonstrates that we often have to weather many storms in order to get to where we want to go.
Cosmos is obviously here to toughen us up! Or to remind us of how resilient we actually are. I’m already finding that the mixture of tarot, astrology, and mythology in this deck is forcing me to flex my reading muscles, and that’s evidently part of Cosmos’ design. This deck is here to push us as readers, which can only be a good thing!
5. HOW CAN I BEST LEARN FROM AND COLLABORATE WITH YOU? King of Water (Camelopardalis)
Keywords: Seeing the Big Picture. Gaining Perspective.
The King of Water is associated with Camelopardalis, the giraffe constellation, and is associated with the Qilin, giraffe-like creatures from Chinese mythology. This King is all about taking an aerial view of things, stepping back and seeing the big picture.
That definitely feels like a good strategy for reading with a deck that’s so ambitious in scope! The best way to work with Cosmos is to step away from narrow assumptions about traditional card meanings, and instead to allow elemental, mythological, and astrological associations to coalesce into something bigger and more complex.
6. WHAT IS THE POTENTIAL OUTCOME OF OUR WORKING RELATIONSHIP? Two of Fire (Fornax)
Keywords: Incubation. Pregnancy.
The Two of Fire tells the story of the Roman goddess of the hearth, Fornax, who was honoured with the festival of Fornicalia to ensure that the year’s grain would be properly baked. Buns in the oven, anyone? I hope we’re all using birth control!
It seems Cosmos is so slick it might even get you laid, but it’s probably more likely that working with this deck will lead to some cool creative breakthroughs. There’s so much richness to delve into here that fruitful inspirations are bound to bloom. Personally, I’m excited to delve into this deck’s depths and get those fiery, creative ideas incubating!
Phew! It's been a long one today, but there's just so much in this rich and beautiful deck. Cosmos is definitely a deck that rewards close study, so I'm looking forward to spending more time with it and discovering all of its quirks and secrets!
The Light Grey Cosmos Tarot & Oracle deck is, of course, in the shop now and ready to ship! You can pick up your own copy right here.