The Fantastical Creatures Tarot has 78 cards of mythical creatures, fantasy animals and legendary races, painted in watercolours in Lisa Hunt's beautiful and detailed style. It's based on the Rider-Waite, but in this deck Swords are associated with Fire and Wands with Air.
Jenny Greenteeth scared me into buying this deck, and I am glad she did! The Fantastical Creatures Deck is one that pulls together in such a fresh, innovative, positive way, it both pleased and surprised me. I am a firm RW/UW reader, and I am generally leery of "dragony" decks. I first saw this deck on Aeclectic, and was intrigued enough to learn that the author was D. J. Conway (Celtic Dragon Tarot), with art by Lisa Hunt in her fantastic style. I went to U.S. Games (the manufacturer) to investigate more, and as a sign from the Goddess that I should have this deck, Lo and Behold, it was on sale for a very nice price! I clicked "Buy" immediately.
I can sum this terrific deck up in one word before going into depth about how informative and positive it is: WOW! The cards themselves are a fairly firm stock, they fit well in the hand, and the back is a lovely beige with an oriental filigree circle that prevents the reader or querent from knowing reversals ahead of time---but this deck is to be read without reversals, according to the seventy-two page accompanying booklet.
Nice extras include a glossy layout sheet with innovative tarot spreads: Changes is a 5 card layout to help deal with change and transformation, and there's also a 5 card layout for present life challenges. Two other very interesting ones are the Pyramid, which purports to show past, present, and future lives (or the past, present, and future in this life), and the Decision layout, consisting of 3 rows of three cards each, which show ultimately what could happen due to the actions we take on the cards (Isn't that what Tarot Reading is all about?).
There are a few "cheat sheet" cards that have quick two to three word summaries of the meanings of the cards. These can come in handy before you become familiar with the deck.
Although I would classify this as a Rider-Waite style deck, this one is much less ominous. The creators have no reversed meanings, and for each card there is a "magickal use," which involves some type of meditation, or possibly a spell related to the meaning of the card, intended to heal the pain of the querent.
There are 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana, including Jenny Greenteeth who slimed me into buying this deck (Jenny Greenteeth is a quite ugly swamp woman slithering along the Bayou swamp). She is oblivious to the three swords. This illustration just drew me in for several minutes. The image just ooozes green Bayou slime and filth. What a fresh image for the Three of Swords! I later read in the accompanying booklet that Jenny Greenteeth lures her unsuspecting victims into her home, and they are never seen again. The card†meaning is quite traditional: omen of heartache, pain of separation of love, etc.
I have so many favorite cards in this deck! They are so well chosen, that some I had never heard of, and I learned quite a bit. I will share a few of these innovative designs with you. Who could make a better Emperor than Pegasus? Or a better Empress than Celtic Morrigan (maiden, mother, and crone)? A truly interesting take on the Hanged Man is Medusa, the Greek goddess being punished by having writhing snakes for hair, and possessing a gaze to put a man to stone. One of the loveliest Major Arcana is the Moon card, featuring a gentle unicorn and a friendly owl, illuminated from behind by a large witchy moon.
Examining the Lower Arcana was a delightful job, and it's difficult to choose only a few to highlight. Gratefully, this deck taught me about the tenga of the Shintu oriental religion (Five of Wands), and also about the female Valkyries (Seven of Wands). I particularly love the Griffin as the Nine of Wands, which neutralizes any negative cards in the layout and enhances any positive ones, as per the instructions in the booklet. This deck introduced me to the very intriguing kappa of Japan, a tricky water dweller that wears a tortoise shell and whose exposed body parts are covered with fish scales. If you can get him to knock the water off his head, you can get him to reveal healing and bone setting secrets, as he then loses his powers. Lastly, the suit of Cups marches out some of my favorite fantasy creatures. The Ace of Cups is represented by two lovely childlike fairies. The Two of Cups shows my longtime favorite, mer-people. Of course, I must mention the Nine of Cups, the Native American Mother Goddess, who is shown on a tortoise, symbolizing the Earth.
Finally, the Pentacles bring back the mischievous folk. The Two of Pentacles card features beautifully drawn Fey, graced with a Pentacle. The Three of Pentacles stars a hobgoblin painting five-pointed stars, with a long brush, just as an apprentice would. Adorable!
I say "Bravo!" to this deck, and I recommend it to Rider-Waite fans who have been hungering for a little of the fantasy stuff.
“World folklore and ancient legends tell enduring tales of mystical beings and their magical powers. Through vivid descriptions and intriguing imagery, Fantastical Creatures Tarot offers glimpses of these winged, finned, and feathered creatures and reveals the lessons they can teach us.”
Mystical beings, legendary creatures and mythic animals of all kinds come to life in the Fantastical Creatures Tarot, the fourth tarot deck from artist Lisa Hunt.
The fantastical creatures are mostly drawn from cultural myth and legend, with some amalgamations for the purpose of the deck. All are painted in their natural environment (so to speak) in Lisa’s typically detailed, lifelike and beautiful watercolour style, in hues of muted earthy colours with highlights of deep blue. There are the obligatory dragons, winged horses, and unicorns, but also sphinxes, gnomes, mermaids, phoenixes, and minotaurs. Winged creatures feature frequently – winged cats, snakes, horses, humans, fairies, even mice with eagle’s heads and wings.
In general, the deck is built on a Rider-Waite foundation. It uses standard Cups, Swords, Wands and Pentacles, Page, Knight, Queen, King designations, and major arcana titling, but for two substitutions: the Hierophant is the ‘High Priest’, and the Devil is titled ‘Chains’. The most major change from the traditional is that Wands are associated with Air and Swords with Fire, which is typical for Lisa’s decks, though makes it a bit more challenging to use at first if you’re familiar with the more common correspondences.
Measuring 2.75 by 4.75 inches, the cards are regular tarot size and in the hand feel quite slickly laminated. There are two extra cards printed with the ‘Quick Reference Guide to the Cards’, which has all 78 cards listed with a short phrase (not a keyword) to sum up the meaning. For example, the Six of Wands is ‘success after struggle’ and The Empress is ‘joy and prosperity’. The backs of the cards are plain, with a brown circular design on a cream background; easily used in reversals. The faces of the cards have an outer border of the same cream, and an inner border of twining wooden branches on three sides, the title panel at the base.
The deck comes in a medium-size cardboard package, with a thin outer slipcover over the cardboard insert. Inside a smaller deck box that holds the 78 cards and the 70-page booklet. (I’m not sure of the utility of the extra outer box, but it does give the option to store the cards in the smaller deck box and a larger package to store on the shelf.) Also included is a spread layout sheet, which is folded quite a few times to fit the 17 x 20 inch sheet into the outer box. On one side are the Expanded Celtic Cross spread and a few thoughts on reading, and four easy spreads on the other. It’s a nice inclusion but is a bit flimsily printed on glossy paper and might not stand up to much use
The companion booklet has been written by DJ Conway, who also worked with Lisa Hunt on the Shapeshifter Tarot. It is a fat little 70-page white booklet, and is entirely in English. Inside, there is a quick intro to the cards and the rest of the booklet ( bar for two pages on using the cards) is devoted to the card meanings. These have the background of the fantastical creature, a divinatory meaning and a magickal use for each card.
Those who were drawn to Lisa Hunt’s previous decks will no doubt also enjoy the Fantastical Creatures Tarot. The lack of a full companion book may be a hindrance for some, but the set should suit the intermediate tarot reader who enjoys fantastical imagery and more intuitive readings.
”The Fantastical Creatures Tarot” was a Top Ten Deck for its year of publication (2007) – for good reason! This is a magickal deck – a portal into other worlds. The basis for this deck is the theme of mythical/fantasy beings, and the myth and lore surrounding them. From the “Fantastical Creatures Tarot” site:
“ Mythical beings have been around as long as there have been humans inhabiting the Earth. Stories of their magical and spiritual powers have existed for thousands of years. The images of some of these fabulous entities were placed in temples, sacred places, and, in miniature, on home altars, where they were expected to act as protectors, guides and spiritual counselors. ~ D.J. Conway”
In the introduction to the LWB (Little White Book) it is noted that images of these mythical beings were placed in temples, sacred places, and on home alters in order to seek guidance, protection, and spiritual counsel. They are referred to as a kind of “middleman of the astral realms”. It is also noted that mankind has fallen away from connecting with these entities, and that now is a good time to reconnect with them.
The deck follows the traditional 78 card structure. The Major Arcana titles remain the same, with the following exceptions: Hierophant/High Priest, and Chains/Devil. Strength is VIII, Justice is XI. The suits are Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. The Court cards are entitled Page, Knight, Queen and King. Note: In this deck, Swords are associated with Fire, while Wands are associated with Air.
The LWB is text only (no scans), providing information on the mythological background and magical powers for each creature, as well as the divinatory meaning and magickal purpose. From the book:
“IX The Hermit (Old Lady of the Elder)
Described as an elderly, wrinkled woman, the Old Lady of the Elder is usually seen during a full moon as she hobbles about, balancing herself with a staff made from a gnarled elder branch. She is considered to be very wise in healing and magick. The Old Lady of the Elder is a solitary creature, using the silent, reflective time to spiritually strengthen herself. She quietly shares her knowledge with those open to her gentle teachings.
Divinatory Meaning: This card suggests that the inquirer needs a time of peace and quiet to contemplate decisions. Don’t make hasty choices, but ask advice of a knowledgeable person you trust. If poor health is involved, the Hermit points to a period of much needed rest and recuperation.
Magickal Use: The Hermit card can be used in a spell to add patience when searching for the knowledge to make a correct decision. It is also good to include in healing spells.”
There is a discussion at the end of the book on how to best use the deck. Some of the suggestions are to choose a card symbolizes the energy that you need to manifest a desire, and to place it in your sacred working space when doing magick. You can choose a card and meditate on its personal meaning (its meaning for you), or you can choose to draw a card a day as a symbol for that day. The cards can also be used for divinatory purposes.
This is a 78 card deck, with two additional cards – Quick Reference Guides to the Major and Minor Arcana.
The card box opens from the top, with an image of Strength on the front panel, and an image of the Star on the back panel. The cards are of good quality card stock, 2 ¾” by 4 ¾”. The backs are cream colored, with a central circular motif, leaving the backs reversible. The face of the cards has a ¼” cream border, surrounding an inner border that resembles intertwined twigs. For the Major Arcana, the card number is at the top, in Roman numerals, and the card title across the bottom. The Pips (numbered cards) show the number (in text) and the suit across the bottom of the card. The Court cards show the card title and suit across the bottom of the card.
The artwork is done in a gentle, very detailed fantasy style, using watercolors. There is a mystical, other-worldly feeling to this deck that just draws you in! I was incredibly excited to get this deck –it was a from me/to me Christmas present, and came wrapped so beautifully that I left it unopened on my credenza until Christmas morning (we open our gifts on Christmas Eve – but I wanted to make opening this one special, and it was!).
Lisa’s art is so good, on so many levels – it is hard to know where to begin! One of my favorite things are the winged creatures (and human figures) – the High Priestess as a winged serpent, the Emperor as a winged horse, the winged lion on the Sun, the winged Centaurs on the Chariot, the winged female figure in the Star, the winged figure on the Four of Wands, the winged Queen of Wands, the winged Knight of Wands, the winged Nine of Wands, the winged Page of Pentacles, and the winged High Priest.
Other noteworthy cards are the Eight of Wands (showing Odin’s great horse running full out), the Ace of Swords (showing Thor’s goats), the King of Pentacles (showing the Lord of the Greenworld), The Empress (Morigan), the Queen of Pentacles (Danu), the Magician (Winged Cat – with front paws firmly on his wand!), the Page of Swords (Werewolf), and Strength (Oriental Dragon).
The detail in this deck is very well done – each time you study a card you see something new and different! I feel that this deck would appeal to those with a basic understanding of Tarot who wanted to work with a fantasy theme, those who are attracted to fantasy themes/artwork, or those who wanted a gentle alternative/comparative deck. This is a wonderful deck for ritual, meditation or journeying.
© Bonnie Cehovet