Review: Ghosts and Spirits Tarot by Lisa Hunt

I’ve been following the development of the Ghosts and Spirits Tarot ever since Lisa Hunt announced the project on her blog. For those of you who have never heard of her, she’s done the art for the Celtic Dragon, Shapeshifter, Fantastical Creatures, Animals Divine, and Fairy Tale decks–the first three in collaboration with D.J. Conway (and Sirona Knight for the Shapeshifter), the latter two were entirely her own work. I own all of these except for the Fairy Tale Tarot.

So now we come to her latest offering, the Ghosts and Spirits Tarot. I was so excited for this deck that I decided to take advantage of a special promotion and order one of her “Spirit Drawings” as a birthday present. It’s hanging on my wall right underneath my Inanna print, also by Hunt:

My Spirit Drawing

But that’s enough about me, you want to know more about the deck, so here are some specs:

Card size: 2.75″ x 4.75″ (pretty standard for a U.S. Games deck)

Reversible? Yes

Borders? Yes, a light brown border (think parchment paper) surrounds each card)

Renamed cards? Yes, the Hierophant is the High Priest and the Devil is Chains

Strength is 8, Justice is 11.

Thematically, the art features ghosts and spirits from all over the world. Unlike in the Fantastical Creatures Tarot, Lisa includes ghosts and spirits from literature as well as mythology. You’ll find Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare rubbing elbows with zombies and poltergeists. Some of the entities will doubtless be familiar to you (Poltergeists, Zombies, Vampires) others might not (like the Duppy from Jamaican folklore or the Moss Maidens). Norse mythology buffs will be surprised (and perhaps pleased) to learn that a fair amount of these ghosts and spirits are Germanic: Valhalla, Groa, the kobold, Glam (from Grettir’s Saga), the Wild Hunt, and Herne (who is English in origin but honored as a hunting deity by some Vanatruar) are all represented in this deck. The art itself is gorgeous if a little macabre in places (well, it is a deck about ghosts and spirits) and very detailed. In fact, it’s so detailed that the fact that the cards aren’t bigger is almost a crime against art (my hands, which are small, are grateful though). The colour scheme is notably muted–lots of blue, white, and grey, but it suits the theme and not every card is like that (particularly in the suit of cups).

Unfortunately, the deck suffers from an issue that affects many of Lisa’s decks, and that is that this is definitely not a deck for those who are sticklers for tradition. For the most part, the cards do attempt to stick to the Rider-Waite school, but some of the imagery and/or meanings came straight out of left field for me. The Danse Macabre for the World card was spot on, but I couldn’t help but think that some cards would have worked better if they were switched with other cards in the deck. A good example of this is the Ace of Cups (Giselle) and the Two of Cups (Isabella and the Pot of Basil). The former is a story about love and forgiveness, the latter is about a woman who, mad with grief at her lover’s death, cuts off his head and buries it in a pot of basil, which she then nourishes with her tears. The imagery as well as the story would better suit the cards if their positions were swapped, IMHO, but I’ll leave that to you to decide:

Ghosts and Spirits – Ace of Cups
Ghosts and Spirits – Two of Cups

Other cards were simply puzzling to me. For instance, the Justice card is the Snow Ghost (Yuki-onnaand I find it puzzling that, out of all the tales of angry ghosts out for vengeance, the spirit that was chosen to represent Justice is the sort of spirit who leads travelers astray in a blizzard. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Snow Ghost painting (I even voted for it to appear on the front of the box art) but it just doesn’t say “Justice” to me. If I was going to pick a Japanese spirit for Justice, I probably would have chosen Kuchisake-onna (Watashi wa kirei? 🙂 ) for the slot, but I suppose I’ll just have to make my own. I think you could make an entire deck out of Japanese ghosts and spirits alone.

What this all adds up to is a deck that is beautiful to look at but potentially hard to read and definitely not beginner friendly (for a deck that is, I recommend the Celtic Dragon Tarot, which has gorgeous art by Hunt but is basically a Rider-Waite clone, and dragons). Speaking of which, how does it read? Well, I actually haven’t tried to read with it yet, but now’s a good time to do a deck interview spread:

Deck Interview Spread

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

15 – Chains (Jacob Marley)

I’m not going to play around with you. Your other decks will tell you what you want to hear, you won’t get that with me. Ignorance is as much a chain as the ones that Jacob Marley drags around behind him.

What are your strengths as a deck?

8 – Strength (Mummy/The Ka)

I may be forceful, but I also temper that force with gentleness. As the Ka searches for its body, so I can help you in your search to find your own inner strength.

What are your limits as a deck?

Four of Cups (Davy Jones’ Locker)

My ability to teach you is dependent on your level of complacency. Our relationship won’t work if you choose to ignore my messages or choose another card because you don’t like what I have to tell you (I know you do that with other decks, don’t try it with me).

What do you bring to the table? What are you here to teach me?

Page of Swords (Black Dogs)

You were hoping for the Ten of Cups, eh? That I could help you get in touch with your ancestors? Yeah, right, what a stereotypical use for a deck about ghosts! I can help you cut through deception and see the truth about yourself. I can give answers that are clear and honest (even though they aren’t ones you always want to hear).

How can I best learn from and collaborate with you?

Nine of Cups (The North Wind)

I know you might be hesitant to use me now that you know I won’t beat around the bush, but trust me and soon you’ll be flying as high as the boy in the picture. Wishes do come true, you’re just going to have to work for them!

What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

Six of Swords (Gilgamesh and Enkidu)

That depends on you, you might be a little disheartened after reading with me (like our friend Gilgamesh) or you might enter a new frame of mind, see things from a different perspective, go on a journey of self-discovery. Which path do you choose? You need to make the decision for yourself.

So there you have it, a deck that won’t screw around or spare your feelings. At least, a deck that won’t spare my feelings. This seems like it will be another good “shadow” deck. If anyone has a different opinion of this reading, please let me know in the comments!

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