The Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot is a whimsical, non-traditional deck, the tarot imagery has been recreated as a mix of fairy tales and the natural world. The card art is animated and vital and the deck as a whole approachable and friendly. While the Llewellyn edition is no longer in print, decks are available from Poppy Palin.
See card images of the Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot
Tarot Deck - 78 Cards - Published by Llewellyn 2002
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
This deck came to my attention when one of my
Tarot e-lists started talking about it. Actually - it
was used for the reading of the day - and the scans
were out of this world! I had to check out the artist,
her site, her work - everything! It was time well
spend - pure energy of Grandfather Sun into my day!
Poppy Palin is an author and illustrator who has written
on her personal experiences as a psychic. She is also
a professional tattooist, teacher and lecturer. And,
IMHO, a lady with a great deal of insight into life in
general and the Tarot in particular.
I do not usually
connect with high energy decks - they tend to put me off.
But this one is so whimsical, so carefree - it makes
me laugh, it makes me want to pick it up and work
with it some more - it is magickal! The deck, "Waking
The Wild Spirit", and the accompanying book, "Stories
Of The Wild Spirit", provide a wonderful walk through
"Waking the Wild Spirit" takes the format
of connecting with the wild - in the form of nature,
the elements and our own wild, instinctual sides. Ms
Palin sees the cards as a way of connecting with the
animal, plant and spirit beings around us, and of living
in the "now", of being aware of our acts and their
consequences. The Major Arcana represents archetypal human
experiences, while the minor arcana represents things of a day
to day, physical nature.
The book "Stories of the
Wild Spirit" is exactly that - a series of stories
about the wild spirit within each of us. Each Major
Arcana card is presented with a black and white scan and
a story, from the cards point of view, taken from
myth, childhood fantasy, faery tale and legend. There
are no keywords, no reversed meanings - just a
wonderful story that makes one think.
Each Minor Arcana
card presents its voice in a shorter version, and in a
manner that supports the Major Arcana. They speak in what
Ms Palin terms a "briefing".
From the book:
Peace Keeper (Spirit of Air) (King of Swords):
the authority to build bridges between nations and
forge links between people. I have a grasp on vapor, for
peace cannot be quantified, only felt. It cannot be
held, only discussed. I am the Keeper of a concept, the
one who spreads an idea of how it could be if we
listened ... really listened, as if we were one another,
as if we felt the empathy that makes us walk, albeit
briefly, in another's shoes. I am he who seeks a solution,
he who needs to complete a mission to bring peace to
I let my understanding of peace spread out around me
wherever I go. I am the representative of no one man, only
the messenger and the intermediary of a Way of Being.
I advocate accord, reconciliation and compromise, in
the name of unity, for the purpose of strengthening
our connections to all things and one another. I share
my words of kindness, I divulge my methods of
constructive discussion, and I pass on the information, which I
know has forged solutions that have worked for
I never give up on my peace talking, and I will not
abandon the need for someone to stand at the center of
arguments and disputes, for I am a solid, stable form, and
invite others to bounce their ideas an opinions off of
me. I am friendly and open, hiding nothing, walking
with Spirit and talking honestly , from the heart.
People feel my inner peace, and they know that I am not
out for my own ends. All I desire si to see the
concepts of harmonious cooperation discussed calmly, with
a mixture of compassion and logic. My ideas are
always tempered by consideration for others. My aim is to
bring together the rational and the imagination, to
blend them into a seamless way of interacting with
Let us all contribute to the peace process with our
honest communication, and may we never give up the will
to achieve peace on earth.
I only have two quibbles
with the book: one is that while each of the suits has
a chart for which card is which (all cards and suits
in this deck have been renamed), the Major Arcana has
no such chart. The other is that the traditional
names are not given on the same page as the "retitled"
The deck itself is quite nice at 3 1/4" by 4 1/4", on
glossy, quality card stock. The backs are busy, but done
in pastel colors with two sets of figures facing each
other in the center, each with arms outstretched. One
would not be able to discern a reversed card until they
turned it over.
The face of the card has a 1/4 inch
white border, with a color coded border containing black
triangles with symbols in the four corners. Spirit of Air
(Swords) is coded yellow, Spirit of Water (Cups) blue,
Spirit of Earth (Pentacles) green and Spirit of Fire
(Wands) red.Each Minor Arcana card carries the suit name
and number of the card on the top, and the retitled
name on the bottom of the card. The Major Arcana
contain the number and retitled name on top, and the
spirit on the bottom.
The scenes are done in pastels,
and have an "other-worldly" quality to them. The Seven
of Earth (sub-titled Journey) shows a figure in a
jacket, wearing heavy boots and carrying a walking stick
moving through a forest. The Wandering Minstrel (The
Fool), subtitled Free Spirit, shows a Joker-like figure
jumping through space, his dog beside him, pack on his
stick over his shoulder, reaching for the sun. The
Healer (The Hermit), subtitled Wise Counsellor, shows a
figure seated at a table, working with a light coming
from behind him, holding his hands over some type of
bowl, with a cat at his feet and a white bird over his
There are two extra cards to this deck, each presenting
different a manner of reading the traditional three card
spread. I find this a very nice addition to the book/deck
The cards are evocative, and follow the intent, if not
symbology, of traditional Tarot cards. I find this a lovely
deck, easy to use, but perhaps not for beginners. I
recommend this as a working deck, as well as a deck for
meditation and study.
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 Solandia
Created wholly by Poppy Palin, the Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot is a celebration of nature and life. There is a freshness and lightness to this tarot deck, with its natural, magical and mystical cards that blur the boundaries between human and nature-sprite. Drawn with a Pagan, Celtic flavour, this is a lively tarot deck of nature and the wild. Pixies, faeries, humans, and characters from fairy tales leap out from the cards. There is a strong sense of movement and animation in the art, which is detailed and full of life but never busy.
Palin wished to create a different way to learn to use tarot, a contrast to the rote memorisation of lists of keywords approach. Every card has been reworked to strengthen the links between the image and its meaning, so there are more visual cues for interpretation. The majors are 'essences from fairy tale and childhood fantasy, myth and evocative legend'. The traditional titles have been replaced with more descriptive words, so that the deck could be more accessible to beginners, and not just the tarot-learned. The minor's suits are simply Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Unusually for tarot, but in keeping with the visual reinterpretation of this deck, the minor cards rarely feature the tool of the suit.
The tarot cards and book set is packaged in the usual giant but flimsy cardboard box of the Llewellyn deck-and-book set. (This is one deck I would have liked packaged with its own bag!) The companion book is substantial and, as you might imagine, has no keywords, astrological associations or correspondences alongside the picture of the card. Instead, the expansion of the card's meaning in text is immediate and personal, written in first- and second- person dialogue. Palin tells the story of the card in a conversational style, asking blunt questions and giving advice in the honest but kind manner of an old friend.
This is a warm, approachable tarot that welcomes you and gives straight advice. It's definitely not a stiff, regal tarot that demands to you work hard to uncover its esoteric secrets. Palin has worked hard to create that is unlike any that have gone before - and she has succeeded. If standard tarot has become a little boring and routine, pick up the poetic, evocative Wild Spirit Tarot and see it in a new light.
Review by Kim Huggens
I had been awaiting the publication of this deck
for months before it eventually came out I am a big
fan of Poppy's writing and artwork, and to see both
encompassed in a Tarot deck and book set seemed like an answer
to my prayers! When I got the deck, I found that I
wasn't to be disappointed. Poppy's artwork is at its
finest in this deck, with the cards looking like 78
miniature masterpieces. However, it is very noticeable that
the Major Arcana are probably better done than the
Minors, with the Majors having more symbolism to convey
the meanings, and the Minors relying heavily on
keywords. Looking at the illustrations of the Minors often
does not reveal the meaning of the cards very
The Major Arcana titles are all changed, and help
convey the meaning along with the images, which are,
whilst having a more Pagan feel to them, fairly
recognisable. The titles used in the Wild Spirit Tarot
Fool - Wandering Minstrel
Magician - Cunning Man
High Priestess - Wise woman
Empress - Mother Nature
Emperor - Lord of the Wild
High Priest - Interpreter
Lovers - Soul Mates
Chariot - Hunter
Strength - Natural Force
Hermit - Healer
Wheel - Dance of Life
Justice - Hooded One
Hanged Man - Silence
Death - Rebirth
Temperance - Inner Child
Devil - Fiddler
Tower - Lightning Tree
Star - Source
Moon - Mother Two Moons
Sun - Sky Dancer
Judgement - Transformation
World - Reaper
As you can see, these titles have a very Pagan theme,
often using Pagan concepts such as Mother Nature, and
Lord of the Wild. All the Majors have keywords on
them, and a boldly coloured border. This border is one
of the weaknesses of this deck, as it often makes the
cards look too cluttered and the colours do not
complement many of the cards at all. Despite this however,
the Majors are stunning. Just by looking at the
images one can gain meaning.
The Minors also have the
same type of border around them, coloured depending on
their suit. The suits themselves are elemental, with
Swords becoming Air, Wands becoming Fire, Cups becoming
Water, and Pentacles becoming Earth. This is not
distracting, and it adds to the rather Pagan and eco-friendly
feel of the deck. Considering that one of the themes
of this deck is Nature and humankind's relationship
to it, I feel the suit change is very apt. Another
possible weakness of the deck however is that quite often
the meanings of the Minors are changed. For instance,
Three of Air (Swords) which is usually heart-ache and
emotional pain, has become 'Freedom Flight'. Such changes
make the deck difficult to work with at first,
especially if you are used to the more traditional meanings.
These Minors have keywords on them just as the Majors
do, but I often find myself relying more on these
keywords than on the actual pictures, die to the fact that
the Minors do not convey meaning very well. I found
this detracted from my usual practice of reading
'intuitively', so instead of 'saying what I see', I found myself
having to apply the keywords to the querent's question.
Often however, these keywords do not convey meaning
either, so I also found it difficult to apply those
keywords to a reading.
The Court cards' titles have not
been changed at all, and the Courts are one of this
deck's strong point They are all very expressive and
each figure in the Courts is doing something which
conveys meaning. For instance, the Page of Water (Cups)
is a fortune teller, with a crystal ball and a
three-card Tarot spread on a colourful piece of cloth. I
found it very easy to read these Courts, and indeed,
this is one of the few decks which can boast easy to
understand Court cards!
The backs of the cards are
breathtaking to say the least. Not only are they reversible, a
pro for those who use reversed cards, but they are
beautiful. Very earthy, with Nature spirits, plants, leaves,
and insects, in stunning colour. Shuffling this deck
is an absolute pleasure, as with each shuffle comes a
mini-waterfall of colour! It is hypnotic and beautiful, creating
the right state of mind for a Tarot reading.
that accompanies the deck is in a class of its own, and
it is distinctively different from any other
companion book I have ever read. It does not give the
divinatory meanings of the cards, nor does it describe the
symbolism of the cards specifically. Instead, Poppy writes
in what many have called 'Magical Fiction' style
writing in role as the figures in the cards, directly
addressing the reader, and often telling the reader their
story to illustrate the concepts within that card. From
this, it is up to the reader to apply meaning.
first, I was doubtful of such an approach, and being used
to lists of keywords and meanings it is hardly
surprising! However, when I finished reading the book, I
realised that I knew so much more about the concepts within
the cards than I did before. I realised that I had
been relying too much on remembering lists of meanings,
and not trusting my intuition enough. Poppy writes in
an amazingly engaging and imaginative way, drawing
the reader into her stories, which is a big help when
attempting to convey meaning. Often, the reader finds
themselves empathising with the characters in the cards and
the feelings and thoughts they are describing
Something not often found in a Tarot deck companion
Poppy's approach to describing the cards is innovative,
unique, and welcoming. Her writing is splendidly
evocative and descriptive, and one can gain alot from just
the book alone.
Overall, this deck is admittedly
difficult to use at first, and many who prefer the
traditional meanings and imagery in the Minors may not
appreciate this deck at all. However, for those who want a
deck with a more eco-Pagan feel to it, the Wild Spirit
Tarot is perfect.
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.
Review by Lilitu Babalon
I really enjoy working with Tarot decks with a
Pagan leaning probably because the way I read relates
more to the images that to any “meaning” ascribed to
the cards. I've always worked that way so I'm
attracted to colour, symbolism, action and feeling.
Consequently, I found Poppy Palin's Wild Spirit Tarot really
wonderful to work with.
The cards are vibrant and alive
with imagery and are very obviously designed by someone
with a strong connection to world of the Elves, Fairies
and people of the land. The four suits are called,
simply, earth, air, fire and water. All of the images are
strong in Pagan sensuality and spirituality and a joy in
the world and in life.
The accompanying book is
interesting. Unlike many books which give the divinatory
meaning of the cards, each card has a story attached to it
and the book is in fact called, Stories of the Wild
Spirit. The stories are much longer for the major arcana
cards, but are, I think, designed to provide food for
thought rather than simply tell fortunes.
cards are substantially different to other decks, I
decided to spend a couple of weeks acquainting myself with
them, so each night did a reading for the day using
three cards which I then removed from the pack. I did
this for a week and found that the cards gave me much
food for thought. That of course is what we should
expect from a deck. Divinatory meaning is all very well,
but I think we really need to do that work for
ourselves, using the cards as a starting point but not a
be-all and end-all of the process. If, however, I was
looking for a deck to 'tell' me things, I'd say the Wild
Spirit deck is successful.
For people who, like me,
enjoy working with Pagan and Faery imagery, and who
don't mind giving some thought and personal
interpretation to readings, I'd highly recommend this deck. For
those who like a more formal or traditional style of
deck, you can have some fun with the Wild Spirit Tarot
and maybe break out of the boundaries a little!
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