Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Animals Divine Companion is the companion book for a soon to be released (August, 2005) Tarot deck by the same name. While I am not fond of reviewing companion books without the decks they are referencing, I was certainly intrigued by this one. I am an avid fan of Lisa Hunt's work (The Celtic Dragon Tarot, Shapeshifter Tarot), and an equally avid fan of the work of artist/author Kris Waldherr (The Lovers Tarot), who wrote the foreword to Animals Divine Companion.
In her foreword, Waldherr speaks of the Animal Divine Tarot as combining the symbolism found in the natural world with the mythos that each culture holds within its people. The mythos that Waldherr speaks of is represented directly in the Tarot through its archetypal nature. She sees the Animal Divine Tarot as a tool that can be used to raise the collective consciousness of humanity. Each card combines myth from diverse cultures with the world of animals. It is easy to see that the animals carry knowledge, and act as gateways for humankind to connect with not only the natural world around them, but with the world of ancient voices, the archetypal world.
In her preface, Hunt describes how she researched the animal world - through visits to wildlife sanctuaries, zoos, parks, and an animal farm. In this way she got to see the animals in various habitats, to see how they interacted, and to see how they moved. The idea for this deck came not only from her respect for the animal world, but her joy in this world, a joy that has been there since childhood. This is true grace, when our happy childhood memories can be evoked in our somewhat chaotic adult world/work.
Hunt connects the importance of animals in our lives with their appearance in the art, stories, and ritual that make up our various world cultures. She points out that when we choose to use animal Tarot cards, whether in reading, or in meditation (and I have to add ritual to the list!), that we have a profound tool for communicating with the animals (this is easier than you might think!), accessing the animal energies within each of us, and establishing a true connection with the animal world. One of the most important things that the animal world does for humankind is to act as a bridge (or gateway) to other realms of consciousness. They act to connect us with our own unconscious selves.
She asks us to be aware that information that we receive from the animal world is a mirroring of the world within ourselves. We need to be receptive to these messages, and to connect to the animals that we find in our own inner landscape. Each of us carry animal guides/mentors/companions, from which we can gain strength and knowledge. I was intrigued by the cards that Hunt found difficult to work with: The Moon, with its hidden, sometimes dark nature; and the Page of Pentacles, which is symbolized by the sacred monkey Hanuman.
Hunt also brings out something that I would never have thought of, and that is that before we can begin to work with animal energy, we need to understand/overcome any potential fears that we may have regarding specific animals. Part of the manner in which this might be done lies in respecting their space, and realizing that their actions are based on survival instincts - they are not really out to get us! She also suggests that simply observing animals will help us to understand, appreciate, and respect them. I really like something else that she talks about here - that studying and communicating with animals will accelerate our creative growth and imaginative thought.
Each card is presented with a black and white scan, the name of the card, the animal on the card, the culture the myth is from, the card meaning, a discussion of the symbols found within the card, and a description of the energies represented. I am a huge fan of Coyote, so I am going to share his card. From the book:
The Fool - Coyote, Native American
Meaning: setting upon a journey; adventurer; inexperience
Symbols: The coyote's journey takes him on a rocky path covered with entwined roots. The roots represent the obstacles that the unwary traveler will most likely encounter. The rocks contrast the roots with their stabilizing properties - but one must be careful not to trip on these earthly protrusions. The six birds flying overhead represent changes and impermanence. The raven in the foreground id beckoning the coyote to continue. The coyote must pass by the bones, symbolic of stagnation, in order to explore new opportunities of self-awareness. The dead trees are reminders that all things must pass and new paths should be made in order to promote new growth. The spirals on the rocks are reminders that life is a continual journey to be explored. The dragonfly represents our goals and dreams and the penetration of veils of deception. The necklace of feathers and heads represents flight and the continuous pursuit of truth. The subtle winding snake is ever changing and merging with the tree roots, a reminder that we have to activate all of our senses while traveling on the path.
Description: In Native American tradition Coyote is the fool, the teacher, the traveler, the transformer, and the trickster. Stories about Coyote are varied and sometimes complex. But the essence of his character as culture hero can be found throughout the Native American cultures. He often travels with other animal companions and engages in all manner of wily behavior. His curious nature exemplifies his tendency to be adventurous and even careless. In one Navajo story he used his trickery to defeat a child-eating monster. In this story his brazen self-confidence has a positive outcome. But in another story his impetuous behavior causes death to come to the world. Coyote argued over Wolf's decision to allow people to be rejuvenated after they died. Coyote convinced Wolf that this would lead to overpopulation. Wolf agreed but caused Coyote's son to be the first to die. The grieving Coyote realized his foolishness and learned to accept the consequences of his actions.
Coyote represents a zest for life. He is both the lighthearted traveler imbued with optimism and the dark shadow of the psyche that may pose conflict as we proceed down the path. Before we embark on our journey's, it is important to remain optimistic and adventurous, but it is equally important to be aware of the possible dark forces that may arise along the way. These shadows of the psyche will provide important ingredients towards the attainment of wholeness. The coyote as a fool is also a teacher. With his guidance we can learn to adapt, change and grow as new situations present themselves to us.
At the end of the book comes my favorite part of any companion book, and that is the spreads that have been developed for specific use with each deck. Hunt presents several spreads, each with a sample reading: a Four-Car Spread, based on the traditional three card past/present/future spread; a five card Animal Journey Spread (inspired by Barbara Moore); and a seven card Animal Wheel Spread.
Hunt also includes a short section on connecting with the card images through meditation. As she points out, "the artwork is the vehicle for delivering the message". Her advice is to allow the emotions that the imagery elicits to come through, to not be overly cognizant of what the symbols "stand for". Excellent advice!
I am impressed with this book, and with the manner in which Hunt has combined myth and the animal world to present a "whole" picture of the archetypal energy of each card. Although any deck can be used without its companion deck for guidance, I find that in making best use of the companion book, one gets a better understanding of the foundation for the deck, and how to access its wisdom. A definite thumbs up to this gracious author/illustrator!
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.