The Tarot of the Hidden Realm has 78 expressive, intriguing, and borderless images. Rather than relying on traditional tarot symbols, it strips back its images to the raw elements of nature and the fae. The art is full of life, movement and feeling.
This deck takes us to the mysterious and hidden realm of Faery. Its creator is Julia Jeffrey and the accompanying book is written by Barbara Moore, who always manages to enter the spirit of the many and various decks she has written about. This one is no exception.
Practically, it’s a very user-friendly deck, standard tarot deck size (4 ½ x 2 ¾ inches) and easy to shuffle. The cards have a low sheen and are non-sticky. They are borderless (yay!) with a light brown strip at the bottom for the title. The backs are a twining pattern of shaded grays, and non-reversible. The only other downside is of these cards is their flimsiness. A bit more weight would’ve made them perfect.
The artwork is of astoundingly high skill. The deck creator used models for her figures and faces, and it shows—beautifully. The people all look familiarly human, with fey features that hint at their otherness. Equal artistic attention has been given to both Arcana; only the titles indicate which one you’re looking at. In color and design also this is a cohesive deck, every single card fits in.
Julia Jeffrey made several Major Arcana changes to the standard RWS titles. The Chariot becomes “Faery Stallion”; the Wheel of Fortune is the “Fortune Faery” blowing a fluffy dandelion seed; The Devil becomes “Shadowdance”, the Tower is the “Blasted Beech,” while Judgment is titled “Life Renewed” and shows a young girl offering a sprouting acorn to the viewer.
The Minor Suits each have animal totems, as shown on the Aces. Wands are introduced by a fox, Cups by an otter, a heron by Swords, and Pentacles by a hedgehog. In the rest of the Minor cards, similar representative creatures interact with human/fey beings, or appear in the background.
This deck is exceptionally eye-catching, but never “fluffy”. While these fey people inhabit the world of earth, river and tree, they are not sentimental nature-lovers. The presence of swords and arrows indicate that they are also hunters and warriors. The savage expression of the woman in the Ten of Swords shows in no uncertain terms that she has had enough, thank you! Other cards show wistfulness (Six of Swords), mystery (The Hermit) and deep tenderness (Three of Wands).
The accompanying 213 page book starts by giving the essentials of tarot reading and finishes with ideas for spreads and pathworking. Each card is shown in B&W and followed by an evocative 2-3 paragraph description and interpretation. As the meanings rely more on atmosphere, environment and facial expression than on symbolism, there is much scope for intuitive interpretation. Beginners would therefore have no difficulty in reading with this deck.
On first sight I had doubts about the emphasis on human/fey figures, being used to seeing swords, wands and other traditional elements. Looking again I can see they are there, but often in subtle and unexpected guises. As you’d expect, perhaps, in a message from the hidden realms.
Dislikes? One thing that irks
me is the Magician’s moustache; it looks stuck-on
rather than real. And some of the Kings look a little
young to be holders of elemental power and wisdom—but
then, it’s said that among the fey no one truly ages!
Be drawn into the rustic forests of old England, where dwell the pagan folk of faerie. So dense are these woods we can almost smell the pungent odors of woodland life. From the treetops to the stone circles, either hunting or communing with the animals that dwell here, Julia Jeffrey’s beautiful often-haunting images enchant us to approach them.
This Tarot depicts a romantic life style, not without its hardship but full of adorable characters that offer us wisdom and reach deeply into our imaginary memories. The portrait characters dominate these cards but they are so hauntingly vulnerable that their allure draws us to enter.
The subtlety of the Majors Arcana Star, the gentle arrogance of a young Magician, the wisdom of a wizened Heirophant and the duplicitous beauty in the Shadowdance, replacing the traditional Devil are just a taste of a plethora of absorbing Major Arcana images. It’s a very interesting touch to the Major Arcana as it ages from child to youth to adult and not in that order.
Every suit of the Minor Arcana begins with an animal, the fox of the wands, the otter of the cups, the hedgehog of the pentacles and the heron of the swords. What follows is a playful, creative and competitive romp through the wands. A poignant sharing of love and joy shared after birth in the three of wands is empathetic and heart reaching.
The water world of the cups is ethereal and submerged in mysticism whilst the swords are intertwined with the bird world and the shape shifting of fight and flight. This is a fabulous suit of swords, one of the strongest and most approachable I have encountered.
Finally the pentacles are a bunch of hard working folk set among the rocks and trees producing food and working at the anvils to develop coin.
The court cards are all quite youthful except for a grandfatherly King of Pentacles and a mature looking Queen of Cups. The intense concentration in the Knight of Wands and the woodland knowledge of the Knight of Pentacles is palatable. All beautiful characters to work with in the court.
Barbara Moore’s accompanying text is a great companion. We can always trust her to depict the verbal content well on any deck she’s writing for. This text is no exception.
This deck seeps into
your consciousness, like a long lost memory of a time
we all seem to romanticize. It offers us the
possibility of living close to the land and creatures and
depicts a humanity that does just that. Gorgeous, gentle
and vulnerable artwork that enchants and like silent
whispers calls us closer offering us the opportunity to
enter the Hidden Realm.