As many of you already know, I have a small collection of tarot decks. The only portion of my collection that I would call a sub collection is my collection of “goddess” decks.
But I definitely have a thing for animal decks, whether mythical or not, I find it much easier to work with animal and natural symbolism than the more conventional Medieval Christian-inspired art, particularly where the court cards are concerned. (I loathe court cards in general) but something about animal imagery fires my imagination.
So here I am with the Animal Wisdom Tarot, a deck I’ve been lusting after since I fist saw preview images of it. It is authored by Dawn Brunke and the illustrations are by Ola Liola. The entire thing is published by Cico Books.
As usual, we’ll start of with the technical stuff. The card dimensions are around 3″ x 5″ (the same size as the Fallen Angel Oracle by the same publisher) and are thin and glossy (again, same as the Fallen Angel Oracle). The deck comes in a sturdy box with a slip cover, and includes a companion book as well as the 78 card deck. Pretty much every Major has been changed: The Fool is now the Trickster, the World is the All-Encompassing, and so on and so forth. The suits have also been changed to Shells, Branches, Fossils, and Feathers to reflect the more animal and nature-centric theme. The court cards are Seer, Seeker, Nurturer, and Guardian. A nice feature is that the cards are borderless, borderless decks are always great. The backs are fully reversible and show coyote’s head and a vine and flowers design. The companion book does not cover reversals, however.
Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that the companion book really isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. The author includes the ever useful three-card spread and the ever-present (and annoying) Celtic Cross spread, but she also includes two new spreads: Bear Pause (shaped like a bear paw) and Honeybee: Lovers spread, neither of which I’ve tried, I’ve heard some great feedback about the bear spread, though. Anyways, as far as the information in the companion book, yeah, it’s nothing special and it’s about as New Agey as you would expect. Fortunately, Brunke keeps the focus on the animals themselves and not on, say, romanticizing Native peoples (although when the fool is Coyote and labeled Trickster, it comes pretty close).
Okay so, forget the companion book, what you’re really going to buy this deck for is the art. The art is, in a word, gorgeous. It has a very storybook quality. The colours are a bit softer and more subdued than something like the Mythical Goddess Tarot but are no less stunning. My favourite cards are the night scenes, but i have a particular fondness for Bear (Guardian of Fossils) DAT SUNSET! Ola Liola did an absolutely fabulous job with the art.
How does it read? Well, I did two readings with it and asked for some feedback, and the results were reasonably accurate. One thing to keep in mind is that the deck is very non-traditional, so this is definitely one where you will want to use your intuition and (if applicable) knowledge of animal symbolism (if you don’t want to use the book, that is), this is basically what I did and it worked very well.
As for other things to keep in mind, I would say this deck is pretty child-friendly. The only “scary” cards in the deck are the usual suspects (Death, the Tower and the Ten of Swords). Death depicts a death’s head moth (appropriately enough) with markings in the shape of a skull, he Tower shows a fire breathing serpent, and the Ten of Swords depicts a dead pig with a vulture sitting on a branch near it. The rest of the deck is pretty much candy coated happiness, however, so I wouldn’t hesitate to have this deck around children as long as they aren’t really, really sensitive to that sort of thing. In terms of the diversity of animals, the most obscure animal in this deck is the Nautilus, the rest are mostly BINAMB (Big, Impressive, North American Mammals and Birds) with camels and elephants and such thrown in.
In sum, if you want a nice animal deck that’s a treat for the eyes and speaks to your inner child and you don’t mind a bit of New Ageyness, The Animal Wisdom Tarot will scratch that itch. If you want a more “naturalistic” deck, I recommend Lisa Hunt’s Animals Divine Tarot.
You can see more pictures at Aeclectic Tarot: http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/animal-wisdom/index.shtml#cards