Lisa Hunt (“The Fairy Tale Tarot”, “Fantastical Creatures Tarot”, “Animals Divine Tarot”, “Shapeshifter Tarot”, “Celtic Dragon Tarot”, “Celestial Goddesses”), has another slam dunk with the “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot”! I have followed this deck since day one, and no one could have been happier when the lovely deck appeared on my doorstep!
This is a 79 card deck, with accompanying 61 page LWB (Little White Book). Excuse me … 79 card deck? Yes, 79 card deck. The additional card is meant to be a special bonus card for those questions that require deeper reflection. Lisa suggests that the reader allow the ghosts and spirits to talk to them, to help dissolve the barriers between conscious constraint and objective inner reflection. She goes on to say that ghosts and spirits are often messengers that are trying to tell us something, and that it is her hope that the “Ghosts and Spirits Tarot” provides a conduit for further communication and understanding. I love the extra card - very reminiscent of the Happy Squirrel in the “Touchstone Tarot” (Kat Black), and the Artist in the “Sakki Sakki Tarot” (Monica Cleo Sakki).
The deck follows a traditional structure, with Strength at VIII and Justice at XI. The Hierophant becomes the High Priest, and the Devil becomes Chains. The suits are entitled Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. The Court Cards are entitled King, Queen, Knight, and Page.
In her introduction in the LWB, Lisa talks about growing up in a wooded New England town, where she played in the woods, never doubting that they contained supernatural energy. She saw faces in the trees, and “little people” in the garden. It is a blessing for all of us that she was allowed these beliefs, as many children are strongly encourage to “forget” this type of connection in their early years.
She notes that many types of ghosts appear in various guises throughout the world. Included in this deck are ghosts and spirits from legend and lore. They represent an array of ethereal beings found throughout the world. Some are friendly, some are terrifying … all are part of the anthropological landscape, reflecting a relevant aspect of our humanity.
The LWB presents the cards through text – no scans. Each card includes a description of the ghost or spirit represented, along with the divinatory meaning. From the book:
The Hermit (Dryads)
Dryads were ancient Greek nymphs that dwelled in forests and lived in trees. Although they were gentle woodland spirits, they were fierce guardians of the environment. The dryads are one with the trees and elements. They participate in the mysteries of the forest and feel connected to the organic matter that is swirling with magical energy. The spirits in the trees mingle with the dryads and exemplify the sacred nature of the isolated ofrest.
Divinatory Meaning: Seek out a sacred space to relieve the mind of external noise. It is important to unplug and release all the mental debris that may be rendering you fatigued and uninspired. Sometimes a time-out is just what you may need!
At the end of the LWB is a five card spread entitled “Realm of the Spirits” that Lisa developed specifically for this deck. This is followed by two lined pages meant for note taking.
The deck and LWB come in a standard sized box, with the image from the card of Justice on it. The front of the LWB carries the image from the Six of Cups. The cards themselves are 2 ¾” by 4 ¾” – a good size for small hands. The backs show a ¼” white border, followed by a thin b lack border. The background is predominately blue, with a swirling yellow circle of energy in the middle of it. Three white ghosts flow in the center of the swirling energy. The card backs are versible.
The card faces are a beautiful beige color, with a thin black border ¼” in from the deck sides. For the Major Arcana, the card number and title are printed in black across the bottom of the card. For the Minor Arcana Pips (numbered cards), the number and suit, in text, rare printed in black across the bottom of the card. For the Court Cards, the title and suit name are printed in black across the bottom of the card.
The artwork immediately draws the reader in – it is the most extremely detailed, in depth fantasy work that I have ever seen. Anyone who has ever seen Lisa’s work knows what I am talking about. Her work is haunting, to say the least!
Let’s start out by talking about the bonus card. It shows the head of a figure that appears to be behind bars. Look closer … another face appears to the right of the central face (I didn’t even notice this at first!) More faces are below, and one gets the impression of water. Not a scary card, but a very deep one.
The Queen of Pentacles is Cailleach Bheur, a winter spirit in Scottish tradition that is capable of summoning destructive storms. With her staff, she beat down vegetation and suppressed the soil with an icy grip. Remember, however, that she was an important part of the seasonal cycles.
The Knight of Cups to me is simply haunting, as we see a male and a female figure, hands clasped, flowing towards each other. This Knight is an Undine … a changeling born from the sea as a water-sylph, raised by mortals, that grew into an ethereal beauty. Born without a soul, the only way she could obtain one was by marrying a mortal. This she does … but you will need to read the LWB yourself to see how this turns out!
The Ace of Pentacles is Rubezahl, a German forest spirit who loved to confuse travelers. I love the steps that wind from the bottom to the top of this card, representing ascension and unexpected opportunities.
The Moon is represented by Aeneus’ Journey to the Underground. A prophetic dream sends him to the underground in search of his father. There is good and bad on this journey. When Aeneus finds his dead father, he learns that he, Aeneus, is fated to be the founder of Rome. The underground passage in this card displays the faces of both tortured souls and enlightened beings.
Death is represented by the Grim Reaper, in dark cloak with scythe in one hand, and an orb in the other. The scythe symbolizes linear time, while the orb symbolizes sacred time. The setting indicates that the end is drawing near.
Strength is represented by Mummy/Ka. Ancient Egyptians believed that each individual is born with a spiritual double lived detached from their body, and served as their life force. The deceased would join Ka for eternity. Ka was an important energy, as it wandered in the night for a place to live and food to eat in the afterlife. If Ka were neglected, it would return to haunt the living. The swirling energy int his card shows the duality between the physical body and the eternal spirit.
The Six of Cups is represented by Revenants … restless ghosts who return to the land of the living to tie up lose ends. Some of them could assume mortal qualities, some could come back as ghost animals or apparitions. They seek assistance from among the living to complete their mission and find closure and a peaceful exit to the land of the dead.
The Knight of Wands is represented by Hiku, a Hawaiian hero/demigod that traveled to the land of the dead to bring back his wife, Kawela. When Hiku was traveling with his wife to the physical world, she attempted to escape by turning into a butterfly. Hiku recaptured her and took her to surface. When the butterfly united with the corpse, spirit and body merged, and Kawela returned to consciousness. The edge of the ocean surface represents restrictive thinking.
Note: The descriptions of the cards are directly from the LWB. Lisa is an excellent writer!
This is a very special deck, that could easily be used by anyone, from any background. It is perhaps best not used with children, due to the graphic nature of the cards. However, it may also be that children, who generally do not judge, would find it easier to accept the cards than some adults would. It works well as a reading deck on its own, and could easily be used in comparative reading, or for meditation, ritual or journeying purposes. I don’t think I have to say that I highly recommend this deck!
© Bonnie Cehovet
Few tarot artists have created as many tarot decks as the incomparable Lisa Hunt. I often credit Hunt, as well as tarot artists Kris Walderr and Julie Cuccia-Watts, with bringing to life a new tarot tradition, one I refer to as “archetypal assignment.”
Hunt has worked on joint projects with famed Pagan writer D.J. Conway. Hunt’s new deck, Ghosts & Spirits Tarot, from U.S. Games Systems, Inc., is another of her solo projects. As much as I love her Celtic Dragon Tarot, I have to say I enjoy Hunt’s solo projects better than her collaborations. The reason is this. Lisa Hunt seems to be a relentless perfectionist. Few people have her stamina, dedication and talent. Hunt is multi-talented. She is an accomplished musician, hard-working parent and even excels at martial arts. While those talents don’t specifically translate into the creation of a tarot deck, they are a testament to her dedication to excellence. I think that excellence shines through best when she is allowed to take a project and run with it on her own.
One talent that does translate to the creation of a tarot deck is Hunt’s skill as a writer. Ghosts & Spirits Tarot comes with a standard “Little White Book” that is anything but standard. In the introduction, Hunt writes about her beliefs about the spirit world, her motivation to create this deck and her hopes for its use, in a way that is nothing short of inspiring.
Her card descriptions are equally evocative, and evidence of another of Hunt’s talents. Hunt is a phenomenal researcher. She has illustrated each card of Ghosts & Spirits Tarot with a myth, story or legend about the spirit word. These stories come from all over the world. The Little White Book gives us enough detail of each story to understand not only the interpretation of the card, but also why Hunt chose a particular story to illustrate a particular card.
Archetypal assignment tarot decks offer a great opportunity for tarot education. While the card images of this deck, and decks like it, do not follow traditional tarot images, they help us to understand the archetype of each card, and the archetypal nature of tarot. In this deck, we see how those archetypes are expressed by the stories told around the world about death, the afterlife, and how spirits might interact with the world of the living.
Some of the stories used in this deck are obviously fiction, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” used skillfully to depict Major Arcana 16, The Tower. Others come from ancient spiritual beliefs, such as the Egyptian Judgment of the Dead, used to illustrate Major Arcana 20, Judgment.
One of my favorites is Major Arcana 19, The Sun, which is illustrated by the story of the Grateful Dead. Yes, I love this myth because it lent its name to my favorite band of all time. But I also love it because of the spiritual truth it tells; a truth appropriate for both the cultural phenomenon of the Grateful Dead band, and the traditional meaning of the Sun card.
Ghosts & Spirits Tarot is standard sized. The Minor Arcana suit and Court designations are traditional. The Minor Arcana is as brilliantly detailed as the Major. The suit icons appear in their correct number in each Minor Arcana card, but you might have to hunt to see them. The elemental associations of the Minor Arcana are not a focus.
The Devil card has been renamed “Chains,” as it is in some others of Hunt’s decks. It is ironic that Hunt did not choose to use the Christian myth of Hell to illustrate the Devil card, but overall I am comfortable with the new tradition of the “Chains” card.
There is a 79th card. This is becoming a new tarot tradition, one of which I don’t entirely approve. The 79th card of Ghosts & Spirits Tarot has no name, and seemingly no place in the deck. In her introduction, Hunt tells us this card “is for questions that require deeper reflection. Let the ghosts and spirits talk to you and help you dissolve the barrier between conscious constraint and objective inner reflection.” Hmmm…I thought that was what all the tarot cards were supposed to do.
However, in defense of the 79th card tradition, I will say this. I have chosen to leave the “Unknown Card” in my Crystal Visions Tarot deck, and it does come up in amazingly appropriate ways. I am sure the 79th card in Ghosts and Spirit Tarot will do the same. Beyond that, if you don’t like the 79th card, you can always leave it in the box.
Artists such as Lisa Hunt have elevated tarot art to a completely new level. Let’s face it; quite a number of symbolic and useful tarot decks are not as skillfully illustrated as the decks produced by Lisa Hunt and some of her contemporaries.
How we should use Ghosts & Spirits Tarot is an interesting question. It is not a great deck for a beginner looking to learn basic tarot tradition. It will be a fine oracle for a tarot reader of any level of experience willing to read the Little White Book and learn the cards as Hunt has created them. For a serious student of tarot, an advanced reader or a collector, this deck is a must-have.
Here’s what I am thinking, though. I often use tarot as a way of communicating with those who have passed on. For me, tarot is a true tool of mediumship. I also often use tarot to bring comfort and understanding to the bereaved. Sometimes I am called to “read a house” whose owner is disturbed by the suspicion of a ghostly presence. Dealing with death, dying, and the spirit world is certainly a job for traditional tarot. Is it possible that, because of its subject matter, Ghosts & Spirits Tarot could be an even more potent tool for these pursuits? Could this deck be a specific fit to aid in ghost-hunting, house-clearing and spirit communication?
As with all my decks, only time will tell how this
one wants to be used. I am stunned by the
I have been a keen feminist and spiritualist for several years. I follow the teachings of Cora Richmond and get excited when a book is released on women, suffrage and mediumship particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. When Lisa’s Ghosts & Spirits Tarot was released I was excited. A blending of my two passions into one artistic expression!
What I liked about the deck at first flush was its finely detailed drawings inside a border that suggests antiquity and well-used. Although the cards feel new, shiny and modern, they don’t look it. This border suggests old fogs and bogs in the English countryside.
Some images admittedly are somewhat scary. If you are reading for someone who is slightly nervous about Tarot I wouldn’t recommend you use this deck. The High Priest for example is a candidate for a futuristic, scary movie. If you look closely at his face, his eyes are completely white, his whitish hair is standing on end, blowing off to the right and his nether regions suggest drapery. The same for the World card which was a surprise. Lisa has planted a skeleton at the centre with arms flung out in joy surrounded by spooky looking characters and birds circling overhead. The imagery would have been better suited for the Judgement card in my humble opinion but when I went to her accompanying little book and read, “The birds represent the flight of the spirit into higher planes of consciousness. Their silhouetted presence merges shadow and light, delivering a collective sense of renewal and wholeness”, I connected much better to her chosen imagery. Despite its macabre appearance, the meanings are about wholeness and renewal. I doubt once you’ve studied this card, you’ll not soon forget its meaning when it comes up in a reading.
Lisa’s handling of the Minor Arcana is a pleasant surprise. She gives them as much weight and attention as she did the Majors. The 2 wands exemplifies this with her description and depiction of the “Doppelganger”. “As one’s double, the appearance of this ghostly twin can presage ill tidings or death. It casts no shadow and bears no reflection in the mirror or water, lending to its ominous presence…The girl’s red hair symbolizes fiery ambition. She can either embrace those qualities that enable her to be focused and energized, or she can succumb to self-imposed fears as represented by her colorless counterpart.” A brilliant two of wands! Many of her minors are treated with the same respect.
Lisa’s images are detailed and busy! I would love to see this deck much larger to be able to take in the image in a whole way. I found myself examining each card very closely, my eyes roaming around the card taking in pieces at a time which was mildly frustrating. Also the accompanying book is so tiny and so packed full of great stories. This is not your typical little white accompanying book and I guarantee you will want to read it. You will want to know what those images are referencing and Lisa delivers this to the reader in rich, easy to read text!
Overall however, I didn’t see this as a reading deck per se, but more a deck of curiosity and perspective. It is a learning experience to read Lisa’s rationalizations for why she chose the images she did. Her stories from mythology in combination with the images she’s drawn for the cards are tremendous memory aids in learning the meaning of the cards.
Am I happy I bought this deck? Yes I
couldn’t possibly miss it. It’s a spiritual, mythical
journey into the tarot and Lisa is a smart guide. She’s
well versed in this subject and she’s a gifted artist