A gorgeous and unique tarot of the Fey, not the British fairies, but a more universal variety depicted in art with an anime feel. The Fey Tarot is a well-thought out and carefully designed tarot set for readers of all ages - and a beautiful, playful deck full of its own unique magic.
The cards are interwoven with Dreams
that soar above daily routine;
with Joy that
allows us to come through storms
without losing our way;
and with Magic, the vital
breath of every Fey.
---end note by Riccardo Minetti, The Fey Tarot
I find this anime style a refreshing change. Engaging, not for young children, but perhaps it will remind you of certain wistful memories. If I were to assign a tarot card mood, it would be a six-of-cups perspective. One of my childish delights was imported reruns from Japan, usually cartoons or campy movies. So I saw Dr. Seuss and family-style shows, but also techno-fantasy (Astroboy, Speed Racer) and eclectic anime (Kimba). I remember these stories as much freer and visually different than regular American fare.
In some cases the differences were quaint. Kimba from the 1960's had lion cubs as the stars of the stories. But there was also a hard edge, as Kimba was an albino lion cub trying to assume an adult role in his pack after the death of his father. (If this sounds like the Lion King, it predates that Disney cartoon by about 30 years).
If you have developed a taste for better graphic novels, this deck does not disappoint you. The colors seem to be airbrushed in soft, rich tints. The card back is a lavander plum color. Many of the major characters in each scene seem to be in a twilight or night backdrop, or skies of light hues.
If you are into Asian graphic novels, you would this coloring in the Shojo, the somewhat more reflective style of Japanese anime. I see details in Fey that remind me of Asian anime, although the Fey characters are not traced to any one culture or time period.
At first, I thought this tarot would be a happy choice to share with my nephews brought up on Pokemon and Totoro. Some of the cards, such as the Five of Pentacles, has a funny Pikachu-style character with glowing eyes peering wistfully into a window. But after a comment from Riccardo Minetti (the deck author), I do not think this is anime for younger children. I find it more accurate to say this tarot fits a more adult audience that might warm to fairylike characters with many humanlike expressions.
In my opinion, Fey Tarot addresses a different audience than the soft cuteness and nursery school rhymes of the Whimsical Tarot by Mary Hanson Roberts. I would say Fey belongs to an older audience. Perhaps if you like the balance of archetypes shown in the Fairy Ring Oracle, but want a slightly softer tarot take, this would be an interesting tarot for you. I would say this tarot does balance archetypes well, but the harder archetypes do not pose an in-your-face challenge. For instance, the Tarot of the Northern Shadows might have some Fey beings, but there is a brutal aspect (think Braveheart with Mel Gibson) to those life and times. In comparison to the Fae Tarot recently reviewed by Lee Burston on TarotPassages.com, I would say those illustrations have a more challenging, courtly aspect.
The Fey majors are depicted clearly to me, so that a tarot fan might remember the correct attribution from one of their more standard decks. For instance, the Fey Magician has a figure with upraised hands performing magic in a room with symbols of the four suits in the scene. But look closely---this Fey figure is creating a small mouse in front of a real mouse. The four suits of this tarot in the picture aren't their usual form. My first glimpse of the Wands in the Magician card is a green, growing branch. The wand or baton is not a stick of wood in the Fey world.
The Fey majors follow a Rider-Waite-Smith ordering and have a mix of imaginary figures. The winged sprites and the small animals in these cards are appealing--mice, fish, unicorns, teradactyls, mermaids and others interact with wide-eyes and humanlike expressions. I would say most of the pictures show original creations---although some scenes may remind you of earlier Lo Scarabeo deck cards. For instance, the Hanged Man is a male youth under water among puzzled fish---a similar scene is in the Marco Polo/Journey to the Orient deck.
The minors in this deck are also original. Each suit has a mix of colors that portray a feeling or mood. Each pictorial scene does not have the usual pip arrangement. For instance, all cup minor cards have a decorative cup somewhere in the scene, but you need to look at the title and number printed on the card to realize which pip number that you picked.
Below are some comments on the suits and colors. Some people might be able to pick up the tarot deck and included little white book and use the deck right away. But I liked the book for both the artistic history of the deck, the sketches and discussion of each scene and general colors. These comments aren't covered in the little white book and might assist if you are deciding whether to buy the Fey as a book and deck kit or just the deck.
For instance, without the book I would have guessed, but been a little puzzled that the element of wands might be growing plants instead of sticks. I would have also guessed some of the minors showed an integrated impression of what the card should mean. Below, my notes include some of the book commentary on the minors.
Chalices, with the element water, refer to sentiments and the spirit. The Chalice is nourishment for the soul and the water symbolism shows a free flowing spirit that is full of life and wisdom. These Fey focus on beauty and enjoyment, finding pleasure from observing people in gentle and close relationships and small moments of joy. If one is in touch with their emotions and able to reflect what they feel at any given moment, that is what is important to these Fey beings. Colors of each card range mainly from a delicate mint and soft blue to a deeper midnight, with plenty of gradations and other color accents.
Pentacles in this tarot refer to the sphere of the world and material possessions. We normally equate pentacles to coins or money and the element earth. We typically use the pentacles suit seeks to show what we as human beings define as our concept of wealth, how we measure what we have, what has been built and what is being conserved or hoarded. We also show the pentacles suit usually in the form of being in touch with the earth.
The Fey tarots colors in the Pentacles are red, violet and light touches of yellow. Pentacles as yellow bits of matter--a highlight or accent. The Fey beings show how to live in harmony with the material world without denying the world of magic and dreams.
Wands normally are associated with fire, passions and ambition. In other tarots and idealogies, we see this as the sphere of social relationships between humans. But wands are not expressed as red flames of fire in the Fey tarots. Instead, this is where the power of green growth and its vivid, reaching strength is more reflective of the world of the Fey. The Wands are the colors that reflect natural tones of greens and blue, with lighter touches of brown. The Wand Fey live in harmony with trees and nature.
The Swords, usually associated with air, usually refer to the intellect and responsibility. The Sword Fey are courageous, noble and their main objectives are the responsibility and understanding of of what their actions bring. In this suit, the color red is a key highlight against backgrounds of gray, with plum and blue tints. The deep red might be thought of as resembling the courageous heart, a life-giving rose. In Asian cultures this red is a positive sign, where blood is life and full of good fortune.
All in all, I find this a very unique and engaging deck. The addition of the book of 155 pages is quite notable in the kit. The book includes 36 pages of black and white sketches, background notes behind the deck with concise notes on tarot history that is quite a treat. The rest of the pages go into nice detail about all the cards in this deck and offer the reader four spreads. This is a unique book that gives full credit to the artist and a very modest, engaging description of the writer-artist collaboration from Riccardo Minetti's point of view.
I am thinking, even if my nephews outgrow anime titles, my own reawakened interest in such things might be lasting. If so, this will be a very good tarot to continue to have and enjoy for quite awhile. And if my nephews grow to be interested in this style of tarot as they get older, I'll show them the cards.
But as far as this kit goes, they'll have to get their own.
Mari Hoshizaki, 04/15/03
P.S. On Tarotforum.net we have a general study group for
subscribers on discussing the Fey Tarot deck. I hope that you
join us and we can get a regular discussion group going
on the courts, majors, and other uses for this unique
A collaborative project three years in the making, the Fey Tarot is the first deck released by Lo Scarabeo with a companion book. Italian painter and comic book artist, Mara Aghem, was responsible for creating the Fey card art, and her images have a fantastical, magical, vibrantly otherworldly quality. Pokemon and Japanese animation were strong influences on Aghem's artwork, noticeable in particular to me on the Emperor, and the 10 of Wands.
These Fey aren't the distinct species of Anglo-Saxon folklore and legend (as in the Fairy Ring Oracle) but more universal symbols of nature and magic. They are childlike, capricious and joyous, winged fairies of varying colours, sizes and facial features. Some look close to human, some are nearly grotesque, others look distinctly alien, but none are bad, violent, or malicious.
The deck's tarot symbolism is not always completely standard, but Aghem hasn't departed entirely from it, rather designed the next step in its evolution. References to esoteric disciplines like astrology and Qabbalah were removed, as the book poetically says, "The wind has carried away the astrological designs (the Fey have little to do with stars) and cabalistic references (the intellectual work of man does not marry well with instinct and nature), but the indications that refer to life remain. They provide a parallel between what is in a card and an emotion of recognisable sensation". Of all the cards, I particularly liked the Sun card. Often this card gets standard (or even sub-standard) treatment, but the Fey version is clear and radiant - a male fairy sits in a golden field, basking in the sunlight. The Two of Wands, with a fairy looking fearfully over the edge of a nest and preparing to fly, is also beautiful.
The cards in the minor suits of Chalices, Pentacles, Wands and Swords are wholly pictorial, having moved away from the pips-style effect of emphasising the card's number of suit emblems, ten wands or six pentacles, etcetera. The focus is instead on a fairy representing the card's archetypal energy, and a single elemental object, decorated and presented in a way that blends with the theme and scenery of the card. The Swords fairies have a wild and disturbing energy, the Chalice fairies are sweet and intense, while the Pentacles fairies are roly-poly and happy.
The book, 'The Fey Tarot', is written in informal style. The book's layout could have done with a little more polish and the English is a little convoluted but poetic (probably as a result of being translated from Italian). The text gives the back-story of the deck and the Fey theme, and a thorough introduction to tarot. This first section is illustrated with small copies of Aghem's original card sketches, placed for insight into the card's development and its evolution from idea to actuality.
Further into the book, each card explanation accompanying the image is split up into different sections. The majors begin with The Sentence (more like a paragraph or two); The Image (a description of the card's picture); Simple Meaning (divinatory keywords aimed at beginners); Advanced Meaning; The Chosen Symbols; and Reflections (which is anything else Riccardo wanted to add but which didn't fit into the other categories). Minors have just The Image, Simple & Advanced Meaning, and Symbols Used. It's fantastic to see a tarot deck from Lo Scarabeo with a companion book, and the content does not disappoint.
The packaging of the kit is excellent. Despite being packaged in a large outer cardboard box (Llewellyn style), the cards still have their own small printed box. In case you don't want to carry around the full 156 page companion book, a multi-lingual little white booklet with keyword meanings is also provided.
The Fey Tarot is tailored to be an entry-level reading set for beginners, but it still offers a refreshing depth and approach to tarot for the more experienced reader. This charming tarot of 'dreams, joy and magic' is a deck unlike any other.
An excellent packaged kit. It comes as a Deck Set with 78 cards and a 156 page book. The cards themselves have their own small printed box with the little white multi lingual booklet. On the back of the 156 page book it says, The Fey Tarot is an enchanting deck: full of life & energy. Just like fairies, it contains no shadows - or only those that we ourselves bring - and no evil, violence or maliciousness. The cards are interwoven with dreams that soar above daily routine; with Joy that allows us to come through storms and tempests without losing our way; and with Magic, the vital breath of every Fey.... The heart of the Fey is linked to that of a child. It is as sweet and delicate as the dew, as well as simple and kind - yet it is also ancient, noble & courageous: in tune with the magic of the entire world.
This book also contains 36 pages of black and white sketches, background notes behind the deck with notes on tarot history. There are four spreads offered. It also gives credit to the artist and a description of the writer artist collaboration from Riccardo Minettis point of view. The Publisher is Lo Scarabeo and the box says it is Printed in the EU, but most likely to be the usual Torino. It has 4 pages of a brief description on the Major Arcana, the entire 22 cards but none on the Minors. A well thought out design by the artist and editor, who by the way are both from Italy. In the border of each card is the given name and number it is also in five languages.
The Tarot of the Fey has British fairies in a more universal variety and each of the cards show a scene from the world of the fey. The minors are original and can be puzzling if you do not have the book from the deck set. Each scene does not have the usual pip arrangement. And each suit has a mix of colors that portray a feeling or mood. For example all the minor cup cards have a decorative cup somewhere in the scene but you will have to look at the title and number printed on the card to really know which pip you have picked. Minor Cards are: Cups now are called Chalices with the element of water refer to the sentiments and the spirit. The Chalice nourishes the soul and the water symbolism show a free spirit full of life and wisdom. Pentacles refer to the sphere of the world and the material possessions. Wands which are normally associated with fire, ambition and passions are in stead the power of green growth. They reflect natural tones of greens and blues with touches of brown they are living branches. The Wand Fey live in harmony with trees and nature. The Swords are courageous, noble and their objectives are responsibility and understanding of what their actions may bring. The suit is the color red and resembles the courageous heart and life.
It is a unique tarot deck one for the collector to have. A set for a beginner but offers a deep approach to the tarot for the experienced reader, this I feel is not for young children.