Mark McElroy received his first Tarot deck in
1973, but began serious study of Tarot in 1997.
While interested in the divinatory and
meditative aspects of Tarot, Mark primarily uses the deck as a tool for
brainstorming, enhancing creativity, and planning action. As Mark explains
in his forthcoming book, Putting the Tarot to Work, "My approach to
Tarot favors the practical over the mystical."
Mark works regularly with Carol Herzer's
Illuminated Tarot, the Thoth deck, Robert Place's Alchemical Tarot, the
Osho Zen, Paula Gibby's Blue Rose, and Julia Turk's under-appreciated
Navigator's Tarot of the Mystic Sea.
personal weblog receives more than 1500 visitors per week. He can be
reached through his professional web
site, or by email.
*What do the letters NTCAA mean after Mark's
name? No Tarot Certification At All.
Shareware / Free Unlimited Trial
$9.99 registration requested
Windows XP, 2000, NT or Windows 98/ME with
Microsoft .NET software (free 21 MB download)
Internet Explorer 5.1 or higher
9 out of 10 - This is a near-perfect program that every serious Tarot
enthusiast should own.
Orphalese Tarot is a powerful and flexible tool. The free, unlimited trial
is generous, and the Shareware purchase price, at $9.99, is an amazing
bargain. I know of no other program on the market that matches its
flexibility and power.
CONS: A few
users of older computers may have to download the .NET software before
using the program. Also, a few of the latest online features threaten to
"bloat" an otherwise elegant program.
Simply put: Orphalese Tarot is the most powerful and straightforward Tarot
application on the market. The cards can be shuffled and dealt into canned
spreads or dragged from the deck to any on-screen location. Switching
between decks is quick and easy. Because the user can specify any images
(and any number of images) as "cards," the program works with decks of any
size or shape.
program offers no canned meanings of any kind. Spreads, personal reading
notes, and even notes on specific cards can be saved (notes can also be
exported to your favorite word processor).
While the free trial is generous, users should support the responsive,
enthusiastic creator of this program by registering the software for the
incredibly reasonable sum of $9.99. The bottom line: if you work with
Tarot, get this program ... now!
The Ultimate Tarot Deck
Here at last is a virtual deck that behaves exactly like a physical deck
of cards. Run the program, and a deck of cards appears on your computer
screen, superimposed on the desktop or against a colored background of
this point, you can:
Shuffle the deck with a click of the mouse.
You may also perform a "seeded shuffle," which bases the shuffle on a
number, word, or phrase you supply. Behind the scenes, the computer
converts the word or phrase into a number, then uses this number as the
starting point (or seed) for randomizing the order of the deck. Using
the same word twice won't give you the same card order, because the seed
contributes to, but doesn't completely control, the randomization of the
Put the cards in sequential order
(Warning: this feature will make you lazy – you’ll never want to put a
real deck in order again once you become accustomed to performing the
task with two clicks of your mouse!)
Deal cards face-up or face down.
Cards dealt face down may be turned over with a single click of the
Deal the cards into any spread
you like, or use any one of several canned spreads, including the Celtic
Cross, the simple three-card spread, and a complex Yin-Yang spread. If
you use your own spreads, saving them for future use (or to share with
others) is quick and easy. Soon, the program will also feature the
ability to share spreads with users of other Tarot programs.
Fan the deck to search quickly and easily for exactly the
card you want ... or to choose an unseen card at random.
Return all cards to the deck
with a single click.
Resize or magnify cards.
You can enlarge the cards for better viewing or reduce their size as a
way of getting more cards on screen at once. Better yet, you can zoom in
on any card to explore the tiniest artistic details. (The clarity of the
zoom varies, depending on the quality of the images you use as cards.)
Switch to any deck in your collection
with just two mouse clicks. This makes the Orphalese Tarot especially
valuable for those of us doing comparative readings. I now regularly
deal the cards from the Universal Waite, then quickly and easily review
how the same spread will look in the Thoth deck or the Navigator’s
Set options controlling the behavior of the
program ... or a specific deck. Want to specify a card back, a default font for the
program's note-taking features, or even a default deck to be called up
whenever you start the program? No problem ... any of these tasks can be
done with two or three clicks of the mouse.
Launch an on-line reading session.
The program offers a
portal to an Internet-based chat room, where users can type messages to
each other, offer interactive readings, or -- as of Oct 2003 -- share
guided tours to any number of Internet sites of interest.
Don't Try This with a Printed Deck!
Unlike a printed deck, the Orphalese Tarot can be quickly and easily
customized to suit your preferences. You can:
Change card backs.
The program comes with a selection of 32 x 32 pixel tiles to choose
from, but you can easily add (or, if you have a photo-editing program)
design your own. Hundreds of web sites offer free "background tiles" for
web sites; all of these can be selected as card backs. Just copy them to
the "Backs" subdirectory of the Orphalese Tarot program and click to
select it. Alternatively, you can associate a scan of an actual card
back with any virtual deck.
Change card sizes
quickly and easily by pressing the plus or minus keys on your keyboard.
Change card edges
from square to rounded.
Change the percentage of reversals
to a value that suits you (I use five percent).
Alter any of the above settings, and the entire deck (including cards
dealt and those still in the pack) changes to reflect your choices. In
addition, the Orphalese Tarot is smart enough to associate certain changes
with individual decks. For example: once you associate a specific back or
corner style with a particular deck, the program will always use the
settings you selected when you call for that that deck.
Truly Universal Tarot
an effort to avoid any copyright infringement entanglements, the program
offers the crudely colored, public domain Coleman-Smith Tarot as its
default deck. But don't worry -- a number of other decks have been made
available at the Orphalese.net site, including Andreas Schröter's elegant
and pleasing Aquatic Tarot (one of the most beautiful renderings of the
familiar RWS images available anywhere).
more decks? Perhaps the most fascinating feature of the program is its
ability to use any set images you specify as a Tarot deck! As a result,
creating a virtual version of any deck you own is as simple as scanning in
each card and saving the images as .gifs, .jpgs, or .bmp files.
only constraints are:
the files must be named as numbers.
For a 78-card Tarot deck, the program creator suggests associating 00
with the Fool, 01-21 with the Major Arcana, 22-35 with the Ace through
King of Wands, 36-49 with the Ace through King of Cups, 50-63 with the
Ace through King of Swords, and 64-77 with the Ace through King of
Coins. Adopting this numbering scheme as a standard isn't necessary (you
can associate any card with any number you like), but aids in
consistency when trading decks with others.
the files must be loaded into a subdirectory
within the program's "Packs" directory.
Placing all your scans of the McElroy Tarot into a subdirectory named
"McElroy Tarot" results in the McElroy Tarot becoming available from the
program's main menu. Switching to the McElroy deck, then, becomes as
simple as pointing and clicking.
the numbered files are saved and in their directory, you can use the
images exactly as you would a deck of cards. Tell the program how many
cards are in the deck, and from then on, you're good to go.
importance of this feature cannot be overemphasized, as it makes the
Orphalese Tarot into a powerful tool for:
Collectors. Scan your collection into the computer, and
you'll be able to use any of your decks with point-and-click ease.* (No
more rummaging through the Tarot cupboard to find the deck you want –
and you can use even your most fragile decks on a regular basis without
fear of damaging them!) You could also create your own "Personal
Patchwork" tarot, including in your seventy-eight card deck the images
you love best from several different decks.
* Please note: sharing scans of copyrighted decks with others may be a
violation of copyright law; scans should be for your own personal use
Deck Designers. Artists having difficulty finding a publisher
for their decks could circulate virtual copies to build buzz. Designers
of out-of-print decks (Arnell Ando, for example) could circulate virtual
copies of their decks for use with this program. Designers of any deck
could release virtual copies of their decks to help generate buzz and
increase sales of decks now on the market. Richard Jeffries, the
programmer of the Orphalese Tarot, welcomes the submission of decks
designed to be used with the program, and makes download space available
on his website.
Publishers. US Games and Llewellyn, take note: making
virtual versions of your deck images available for use with this program
would be an excellent way of promoting them. Once attached to a virtual
version of a deck (which could be downloaded for free or at a reduced
price), collectors and readers would be very likely to purchase the
cards themselves. This might also be an excellent venue for a "sampler
deck"-- seventy eight cards from seventy-eight different decks.
Hobbyists. Want to create your own deck? Do so ... and using it
with or distributing it for the Orphalese Tarot engine becomes a quick
and easy process. Remember: the program doesn't care what images you
use. As a result, a user could choose *any* images (personal photos,
copyright-free web images, even scans of soup labels, for that matter)
and use these as an electronic oracle! (It does help if the images are
roughly the same size and shape; the program will make the deck be the
size of the first image "drawn," then force other images to conform to
Removing borders and keywords from cards.
Hate those borders on the Sacred Circle? Scan in the cards, use
photo-editing software to remove the borders, and enjoy the electronic
version of your customized deck in minutes. Love the Lo Scarabeo Tarot
of the Master, but find the multi-lingual keywords on the left border
distracting? Scan the cards in and crop out the offensive material.
Fresh -- not Canned -- Readings
Programs like Visionary Networks' TAROT MAGIC CD-ROM, the automated Tarot
readings at Tarot.com, and other Tarot-reading software also randomize
card decks. Unfortunately, even when these packages go so far as to
reflect slightly edited meanings based on card position, the readings are
still "canned." The text provided never varies, and the prescribed
meanings may or may not correspond to your needs.
Orphalese Tarot does not serve up canned meanings. The program makes it
easy to work with a virtual deck, period ... an approach I find
refreshing. Beginners may be frustrated by the lack of an integrated
dictionary of card meanings, but intuitive readers, those who prefer to
refer to a specific book of meanings, or those who prefer to work out
their own meanings for each card will feel right at home.
Print and save detailed information. Spreads and work sessions can
be printed. Notes, insights, and interpretations can be entered into the
program's basic word processor, then saved or exported to the word
processor of your choice. You’ll want to save your notes, though, in the
Orphalese Tarot’s own format … because, when you call up past readings,
the program automatically pulls the cards for you and arranges them into
the spread that inspired the saved reading.
Yikes! The Boss!
An especially thoughtful feature: if your boss walks up while you're doing
Tarot readings instead of working on the spreadsheet he assigned you, one
click will collapse the entire program, cards and all, into a tiny icon in
your Windows computer's system tray. Another click restores your layout,
notes and all. Try doing that with a physical deck!
As mentioned earlier, the program offers users the ability to log onto an
interactive chat system. In this online chat room, users may exchange text
messages, share readings, and even send PayPal payments -- which sounds
good, in theory.
reality, however, the online features of the program may offer more "Wow
Factor" than practical value. The interactive chat room is almost always
empty. (The programmer now offers an online appointment book to facilitate
meet-ups between users. On my last several visits, though, there were no
pending appointments on the book.)
of October 2003, the program allows users to share an integrated web
browser, making it possible for people in the chat room to share web pages
and participate in group tours to any site on the Internet. With the
program's existing online features clearly under-utilized, one wonders
about the value of adding yet another layer of Internet functionality to
the Orphalese Tarot.
course, users who lack interest in these features may simply overlook
them. That said, the overwhelming appeal of this program is its remarkable
ability to emulate a Tarot deck while eliminating any of the constraints
of working with printed cards. The Orphalese Tarot does this better than
any other program on the market ... so why bloat the program by adding
complicated online features that few, if any, of the users will enjoy?
Nice Price, Nicer Programmer
The Orphalese Tarot is Shareware -- the author has agreed to distribute it
free of charge, and allows you to use the software for an unlimited free
trial period. (During the trial, some features -- but very, very few of
them -- will be "locked out" until you register.) If you don't like the
Orphalese Tarot, you should erase it ... but if you do find the program
useful, you should thank the author by registering the program (it's just
$9.95, after all).
Richard Jefferies, the creator of the program, says, “I really want the
development of this program to be driven by people in the Tarot community
who will use it as a tool on a day to day basis.” After downloading and
registering version 1.0 of the program, several of us took Mr. Jefferies
at his word, sending him a list of changes we felt would dramatically
improve the value and usability of the Orphalese Tarot. Three days later,
I received via email version 2.0 of the program – implementing almost
every suggestion I’d made. Try getting that kind of response from
Since that time, Mr. Jefferies has continued to improve and refine the
program, which, as of this writing, had reached version 4.5.2. As a
responsive programmer who genuinely cares about his customers’ opinions,
he very much deserves the optional $9.95 registration fee suggested for
Great news: the biggest obstacle to your enjoyment of the Orphalese Tarot
has very likely been removed.
the Orphalese Tarot was first released, it required users to install a new
Microsoft technology called "Dot Net" (written as ".NET"). Without going
into technical details, .NET is part of Microsoft's effort to promote the
use of its own proprietary programming technology. Before users could work
with the Orphalese Tarot, they had to download all 32 megabytes of the
.NET software and install it. This was not a huge hurdle for those of us
with fast DSL or cable-modem connections, but it proved to be a real pain
for folks with a dial-up connection. Once downloaded, the installation
seemed to challenge all but the most tech-savvy of users.
Thankfully, newer Windows-based machines and upgraded versions of Windows
2000, NT, and XP now incorporate the .NET software. On my three newest
computers, the Orphalese program installed without a hitch, with no
download of the .NET software required.
you have an older computer, you may still have to download and install
.NET on your computer. (If you use a Mac or a Windows 95-based machine,
you're just slap out of luck.)
You can't beat the price of this amazing little program ... and no other
Tarot software I've seen matches its flexibility, power, and ease of use.
If you work with Tarot ... get this program now.