Fairy Tale Tarot Reviews
The Fairy Tale Tarot is from Lisa Hunt, the artist of the Shapeshifter Tarot, Animals Divine Tarot, and many more. Her latest deck links fairy tales from around the world with tarot, in her usual stunning artwork.
Tarot Deck - 78 Cards - Llewellyn 2009
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
This is a beautifully done deck/book set (complete with a black organdy bag to house the deck in). I think that the name of the companion book (“Once Upon A Time”) sets the tone for this deck – it has a soft, “happily ever after” quality to it that makes you want to start your own journey on this path immediately, if not sooner!
The book and deck come in a cigar-type box with a lift up lid, and a subdued pink/peach background color. The front of the box features The Fool (Little Red Riding Hood), while the back of the box informs us that our “happily ever after” awaits us! The deck is described as transporting us to a faraway land of enchantment – a magical world where wondrous fantasies abound and anything is possible.
A word about Lisa before we get into the cards. If her name sounds familiar, it is because she has been associated with some of the greatest decks out there – the Shapeshifter Tarot, the Celtic Dragon Tarot, the Fantastical Creatures Tarot, the Animals Divine Tarot, and the meditation book “Celestial Goddesses”. She holds an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies, with an emphasis on Jungian Psychology/Art & Drawing.
This is a 78 card deck, following the traditional Rider-Waite style. The Major Arcana carry the traditional titles, with the following exceptions: The Fool becomes Innocence, The High Priestess becomes the Sorceress, The Empress becomes the Fairy Godmother, The Emperor becomes the Wise Old Man, The Hierophant becomes The Mentor, Strength becomes Courage, The Wheel of Fortune becomes The Wheel, The Hanged Man becomes Entrapment, Death becomes Transformation, The Devil becomes Temptation, The Tower becomes Deception, Judgment becomes Redemption and The World becomes Happily Ever After. Strength is VIII, Justice is XI.
The suits are Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. The Court Cards are Prince, Princess, Queen and King.
The companion book is 299 pages, and provides the reader with a wonderful entry into the magical world fairy tales and Tarot. On the cover there is a beautiful rendition of the card of The Lovers – gentle and inviting. In her preface Lisa talks about her early childhood, spent enamored of fairy tales. In high school, her artwork included creatures hidden in gnarly trees and roots (see Innocence -The Fool – Little Red Riding Hood - for an example of this). She also talks about wanting to include a mix of well known fairy tales and fairy tales from obscure oral traditions, and to be sure that the tales came from different places around the world, to show that fairy tales are an integral part of our world heritage.
In her introduction, Lisa notes that fairy tales allow us to confront who we are, and what we are capable of. The themes, motifs, archetypes and symbols help us to understand the universal nature of the experiences that we ourselves are going through. I loved the following excerpt, and want to quote it here: “In essence, we can learn to visualize our deepest desires. But in order to move beyond our tendencies to dismiss the “impossible”, we have to be willing to recognize the fantastic as a viable messenger of the soul.”
Each card is presented (along with a black and white scan) by title, story, culture, and keywords, followed by an explanation of the fairy tale and a discussion of the symbols and meaning. From the book:
0 – Innocence
Traditional – The Fool
Story – Little Red Riding Hood
Culture – French
Keywords: Inexperience, Innocence, Spontaneity
The story part of the presentation includes a conversation between Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Under Symbols and Meaning, Lisa discusses Little Red Riding Hood as representing the unrealized self, her red cape symbolizing potential vitality. The wolf is her animal nature, initiating the awakening of the ego. The forest of trees represents ancient wisdom, and the faces are aspects of our collective unconscious. The ferns are there to distract the traveler from the task at hand. Her braids embody innocence and restrictive thinking. The brown leaves on the trail represent the eternal cycle of life.
In summation Lisa says: "When we first travel down the path of life, we tend to be naïve and perhaps unaware of the dark forces that may lurk in the shadows. At this stage, you are wandering into the unknown, relying more on impulse than decisive action. Your adventurous spirit will help you cross into thresholds of new possibilities, but be aware of tricksters that may cross your path along the way.”
At the end of the book is a chapter entitled “Card Reflections”, which discusses ways to read the card. There is “Telling The Story – The One-Card Reflection”, “The Motif of Three Spread” (three positions of three cards each); and a seven card “Keys to the Kingdom” spread. There is also quite an extensive bibliography.
The cards themselves are approximately 2 ¾ by 4 ½”, of good quality cardstock. The backs are cream colored, with an old fashioned key in the middle, with the imagery of a vine going from top to bottom, with two leaves in the middle. The backs are reversible.
The card faces show the imagery going all the way to the edge, which is something that really appeals to me. It makes the cards a lot easier, for me, at least, to enter. The artwork was done in watercolor, in shades of brown, green and blue, with touches of white, red and lavender.
The Major Arcana show the card number and title at the bottom, in black lettering against a white scroll-like background. The Pips (numbered cards) show the card number and suit, while the Court Cards show the card title and suit, both against the same white, scroll-like background at the bottom of the card.
This is a gentle deck, with the imagery very fantasy/magical. It is also the type of artwork where each time you look at it, you see something new. I probably have 78 favorite cards in this deck! I loved Innocence (The Fool – Little Red Riding Hood), with her red cloak and basket. The wolf appears to be almost innocent, as do the faces in the trees. Hint: who does Little Red Riding Hood remind you of? Artist self-portrait?
The Magician (The Thunder Dragon) shows a very interesting looking gold box being opened by a young boy. Luminous light pours from inside the box. The Mentor (The Hierophant – Puss in Boots) shows a dashing Puss in to die for boots, and an adorable feather in his fetching blue hat.
The Chariot (The Enchanted Horse) shows a young couple astride a white horse, whose tail is braided into three parts, flying high in the sky over a kingdom. Look closely into the background, and see the dragon in the clouds!
The Wheel (The Wheel of Fortune – Twelve Dancing Princesses) shows a curved line of princesses, dancing around an Illuminated castle (with the moon in the background). Boats appear in the water in front of the castle.
The Star (The Star Maiden) is an incredibly magical card, showing the Star Maiden in the center of a tree, connecting the spirit world with the earthly plane. A spiral circulates from her chest, showing her desire to be freed from ego-limited thinking. Leaves are falling from the tree branches, and a full moon is behind her.
The Queen of Cups (Sealskin) is quite an interesting card, with the Queen (the seal wife) appearing to be part of the ocean wave dashing up against the shore. In the companion book, we see that she sits between the rocks on the shore (her conscious reality) and the water (the dreamy, flowing world of her desires). In the background we see a house that represents the Queen’s family responsibilities, while in the foreground we see the seals that call her back into the waters of her subconscious, the waters of her dream world.
In the Four of Swords (The White Doe) we see a female figure sitting up in the middle of a bed, with a doe peeking out from behind her shoulder. At the end of the bed are four swords, blades pointing outward. On the left hand side of the picture we see a window opening onto the forest. There are four golden circles above the window frame, and a picture hanging over the head of the bed.
I found this deck to be easy to work with – a deck that I would offer to any of my clients, no matter their age or cultural background.
This is a great deck for personal work, for collectors, for those looking for a deck to use with children, for those interested in myth and fairy tales, and for those interested in fantasy/magical art and story.
© 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.
Review by Kim Huggens
There is something inherently magical and wondrous about the Fairytale Tarot, something that enchants and draws you in, something mysterious yet enlightening about the artwork and stories… In this, her second solo deck and her fifth deck in total, Lisa Hunt has seamlessly merged fantastical fairytales from around the world with traditional Tarot archetypes to provide a deck and book set that is not only readable but beautiful, insightful, and original.
You may have seen Lisa’s artwork in decks where she collaborated with author D.J. Conway: the Celtic Dragon Tarot, Shapeshifter Tarot, and Fantastical Creatures Tarot. Having used these decks extensively over the years, I was excited to see Lisa’s Animals Divine Tarot (which she both painted and authored, her first solo Tarot deck) to see what kind of an author this wonderful artist was. I was pleased, and this magical combination of award-winning paintings with an open, informative, and relaxed writing style make the Fairytale Tarot arguably her best work. The artwork, although brilliant in her earlier decks, has improved to near-perfection, and her style is instantly recognizable. The artwork, executed in watercolours and soft pencils, is attractive and open, making the cards easy to read and symbols easy to identify. Every card image is expressive, evoking the feelings and emotions of the card perfectly.
The Fairytale Tarot bears a traditional Tarot structure of 78 cards, 22 Majors and the 56 Minors and Courts. In places the titles of the Major Arcana have been altered to fit the deck’s theme more accurately and express the meaning of those cards in relation to fairytale conventions. So:
Fool – Innocence
High Priestess – Sorceress
Empress – Fairy Godmother
Emperor – Wise Old Man
Hierophant – Mentor
Strength – Courage
Hanged Man – Entrapment
Death – Transformation
Devil – Temptation
Tower – Deception
Judgement – Redemption
World – Happily Ever After
It is delightful to see how these new titles not only add extra layers of meaning to a traditional understanding of these cards, but also how they link nicely with the work of Joseph Campbell, a famous mythologist whose work on the Hero’s Journey is – in my opinion – invaluable reading for any Tarot student. These new titles put the Major Arcana into a context of the Hero’s/Fool’s Journey more clearly, showing how the innocent Fool (or protagonist of a myth/fairytale) progresses through experiences to meet his Happily Ever After.
The Minor Arcana bear traditional suit titles of Cups, Pentacles, Swords and Wands, and unlike the Celtic Dragon and Shapeshifter Tarot the elemental attributions are for Fire – Wands and Air – Swords, symbolism I personally find preferable and which became a slight stumbling block in my reading of earlier decks from Lisa and D.J. Conway. Further, these Minors are not just the afterthought of an artist such as is found in so many other decks, but rather they are equally as considered, beautiful, and evocative as the Majors. The Court Cards have retained their titles of Princess, Prince, Queen and King (although some readers will be more familiar with the Rider Waite-style Page, Knight instead of the Thoth-style Princess, Prince), with only one change: Princesses are not the Page, and Princes are not Knights, a convention most Tarot readers are familiar with. Instead Lisa has switched them round so that the Princesses correspond to the traditional Knight/Prince and the Princes correspond to the traditional Page/Princess. At first this annoyed me and I got confused, but found it very easy to remind myself to read the Princesses and Princes “the other way round”.
As the title of the deck suggests, every card in the deck has a fairytale from around the world associated with it. Thus, the card images evoke not only the card meaning and interpretation, but also the events and characters of the story as well. It is always difficult for an artist to find the balance between portraying the story and the meaning in such decks, and in the cases of certain cards I feel that Lisa presented the story more than the card meaning, but overall I think she maintained a healthy balance between the two. Luckily, for any images one is unsure of, there is a companion book to refer to for the story!
One of the best things about the stories that Lisa has attached to the cards is that they are all very well chosen. There’s not a single card that I looked at and disagreed with the story choice for. Each story evokes perfectly the card meaning and symbolism, yet also add extra layers of meaning that speak more personally to the individual. Thus, even an experienced Tarot reader may find themselves pleasantly surprised at the insights revealed by the stories that accompany the cards they are otherwise so familiar with – I had an experience with the Five of Cups that left me reeling (in a good way)!
Every card is detailed and highly symbolic, with over-the-top occult symbolism completely removed in favour of more naturalistic images. Where before one might have seen a particular Golden Dawn staff, one now finds carvings in trees and faces reflected in moonlit pools; where one might have needed to refer to the Tree of Life before, here we see the card’s general theme portrayed instead on the character’s face or in their posture. Such symbolism speaks more readily to beginners, to younger readers, and to those who would rather read the cards intuitively than have to remember dozens of different occult systems to gain interpretation. Further, Lisa’s trademark – the almost-not-there faces and figures hidden in trees, mountains, smoke, lakes, and rivers – portrays the natural world as alive, a constant reminder of the childhood imagination manifested in fairytales.
These stunning images are made all the better by the fact that the cards are borderless, allowing you to step right into the images and more freely link them in readings as connected rather than as isolated events. The images are more open this way and seem so much bigger, despite the size of the cards themselves being the standard Llewellyn measurements (2 3/4" by 4 3/4"). The card backs are completely reversible, bearing a simple yet striking image of a two-headed old-fashioned key that reminds me of the key that opens the door to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden.
The companion book, entitled “Once Upon a Time…” is a complete joy to read. Lisa has retold every single fairytale for our enjoyment and benefit, then described the symbolism in every card and the way the associated tale represents the card meaning and how it might reflect our selves and our lives. It also features an impressive and extensive bibliography that would be an excellent resource for anybody wishing to research further the fairytales themselves. The book is also introduced by a succinct explanation of how fairytales are food for us: the same reasons why Tarot is good for us! In this short section, Lisa manages to demonstrate that the two are most definitely symbolically related and serve the same purpose.
The book presents a couple of new spreads, but I was hoping to see more spreads and perhaps some exercises or ways of using the deck that were more in keeping with the fairytale theme. However, anybody with a little time on their hands would be able to consider their own methods of using the deck. For instance, if you had children you could ask them to pull a card from the deck each night and read them that particular story, using it as a basis to discuss the image and the child’s feelings about the story. (This technique, I have found, works just as well for “grown-ups”!)
My first thought upon looking through the deck was that it would be especially good for children and families, and I also wondered if the deck was perhaps a little too “girly”, since it shows more female figures than men. However, upon showing my two best friends (who are both men in their mid 30’s), the positively gushy and enthusiastic response from them indicated that my initial judgement was incorrect: this deck is, in fact, a deck for anybody. Beginner or advanced reader, young or old, male or female, the card images and the associated fairytales speak to themes and feelings that are beyond all these transient states.
Thankyou Lisa. The Fairytale Tarot is utterly delightful.
Kim Huggens is a 24 year old PhD student in the Ancient History and Archaeology department of Cardiff University. She has been studying and reading Tarot since the age of 9, and has a deck collection numbering over 250. She is the co-creator of the Sol Invictus: The God Tarot and is currently working on a second deck, Pistis Sophia: The Goddess Tarot", and a book for Llewellyn Publications, due for release Autumn 2010.