Elemental truths – interviewing the Mary-el Tarot

The Mary-el Tarot, by Marie White, is a mammoth of a deck.

It’s full of mythology, ancient symbols, graphic realisations of life and death, creation, birth and destruction. The paintings are big and rich and deep and terrifying. I’m falling for it big-style, but it’s gonna take me a very, very long time to get to know it.

Temperance from the Mary-el Tarot by Marie White
Temperance from the Mary-el Tarot by Marie White

Still, I thought a good starting point would be to use the TABI ‘interview spread’ to gain a little insight into the journey Mary-el and I have ahead of us.

The deck interview tarot spread:

1. Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?
2. What are your strengths as a deck?
3. What are your limits as a deck?
4. What are you here to teach me?
5. How can I best learn and collaborate with you?
6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

Here goes.


All card illustrations (c) Marie White

1. Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?


This is a deck for balance. Temperance teaches us how to achieve that personal holy grail – a sense of harmony in our lives, where all the complex and contradictory elements that make up our selves and our world are understood, can function together as parts of a whole.

White’s painting is of a tiger, fire-bright, prowling towards us through a deep green sea. One giant, powerful paw reaches forwards to halt a crashing wave. Its opposing elements, fire and water, can be hard to marry, but here, water can’t put out fire, only infuse it with emotional and spiritual intelligence. The Mary-el Tarot explores this them in many of its cards. White talks about cycles of growth and destruction, life and death, and the magical energy that happens when opposing forces come together. It’s both universal and deeply personal.

2. What are your strengths as a deck?

Knight of Swords

In this fiercely energetic image, the knight swoops fast towards us on the back of a giant white owl, its huge golden eyes gleaming. The knight, bare-chested, wears a gold mask: a lion’s face and a symbol of the sun.

For White, this card is all about a search of the truth, a truth that will enable us, individually, to create a union with a higher power – god, the universe, magic, whatever you believe. This feels absolutely right for the Mary-el. For me, it’s an intense, forceful deck which won’t compromise. The Knight of Swords might sometimes be rude or arrogant, but he is driven by a single-minded, possibly naive, quest for justice and truth.

Any time that you say something exists in the sky, in the heavens; it realy exists inside, in your heart and self, in sthe spiritual unseen universe of energy.

Marie White

3. What are your limits?

Three of Swords

Well, this is not a deck for mournful readings! White’s take on this card is so unlike anything I’ve come across before. Here, a gentle, pure, innocent little dove is transformed into an eagle through its union with the sorrowful swords:

The agent that wounded your heart was a divine gift to begin with.

It suggests that the Three of Swords is about elevating ourselves through suffering…does this mean that the deck may hurt me, but its painful lessons will make me stronger?

Or, as a ‘limiting factor’, will we struggle to make the transition from dove to eagle?

4. What are you here to teach me?

Nine of Disks

This is one crazy image. And if I had not seen otherwise I’d’ve guessed it was the High Priestess.

The Nine of Pentacles/Disks is my ‘independent woman’ card. She represents self-sufficiency as a result of hard, determined work (for all genders!) and the wonderful sense of self-assurance that comes with that. Mary-el takes this to the next level, again talking about transcendence, this time by working hard at developing self-awareness:

The great power of a person can be a very scary thing.

The Nine of Disks true strength derives from self-knowledge, intergration of all four elements of our being, much as we saw in Temperance. Mary White writes:

The 9 of Disks is the perfect harmony of all of the elements in the self. It’s the complete manifestation of the amazing and powerful human being.

Which is a lot like Temperace and also a lot like The High Priestess. Self-knowledge, inner and outer balance, raising ourselves up through achieving these things – these are emerging as the key ideas in the Mary-el Tarot.

5. How can I best collaborate with you?

Four of Disks

I normally associate this card with withdrawal, holding back of resources, sensible selfishness. So my first thought when I saw this card was that perhaps this is a deck to keep to myself, for personal readings only. But that made me sad – I do want to reach a point where I’m confident sharing this deck with others and using it for many readings.

Perhaps this card tells me that in order to use this deck best, I must choose a simple, frugal life, tucking myself away from others when I read, focusing my energy inwards. It’s fair to say that to me this deck doesn’t have the best developed social skills – it’s far too intense and anything but chatty!

White adds some new perspectives on this card in stressing the ‘four squared’ factor: the four corresponding to th
e element of earth, and this being the Four of Disks/earth itself. For her, this represents the four elements in one.

6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

The Devil

Is Mary-el winding me up? Or am I just going to get completely hooked?

I think the latter 🙂

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  1. Joe Depeau says:

    I found this interview spread post really interesting to read. I pulled the four of cups in two recent deck interview readings (!) and it really threw me. This post helped with some additional insight.

  2. Vincent says:

    I’ve never held an interview before: I was actually looking for another type of spread when I came across this article, and I’m glad that I did! I recently had the chance to get a deck that I’ve wanted for over a year, and I had a very specific type of usage for it in mind: sitting down with it like this helped me understand what to expect from it, and how it would do in my proposed task. Turns out it was exactly what this deck wanted, but with some conditions to keep in mind. Thanks for a fun and rare chance of reader-to-card communication!

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