Shapeshifting is the taking on of animal identity during trance. The Shapeshifter Tarot is a beautifully mystical and expressive deck from a very talented artist, depicting a system with its roots in Paganism and European shamanism.
Tarot Deck - 81 Cards - Llewellyn 2002
To say that this deck is breathtaking would be a gross understatement! The illustrations are closer to reality than reality is - which is the whole point of this work. Anyone can shapeshift - it is an honor and a privilege to share the energy of All Of Our Relations. All three of the ladies that took part in the creative process are pictured on the back cover - as shapeshifters! What a unique and special thing that these ladies allow their readers to see, literally, who they "are".
The background of this deck is specifically Celtic shapeshifting from the point of view of coming from an old European background. The idea behind shapeshifting is posited in this book as being the connection between people, animals and nature. In shapeshifting, one takes on the specific characteristics, traits and talents of a desired animal to accomplish a specific purpose, and for a limited amount of time.
The "manner" of shapeshifting is discussed in the accompanying book, as an aid to the process. Breath, intention and respect for the work being done are paramount here. The Seeker must know very specifically what they wish to accomplish, and they must place a very directed form of intention behind the act.
Having worked with shapeshifting before, I found the explanations given to be coherent and easy to follow. There is magick here - a magick that is readily available to all that wish to access it.
On to the cards. They are average card size (2 3/4" by 4 3/4"), and on good quality card stock. My only complaint - they are quite slick! The backs are dark blue, with a gold Celtic knot motif in the center. A card in the reversed position would not be noticeable until it was turned over.
Both the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana have a 1/4 inch dark blue border around the cards, with a fine white inner border surrounding the illustration on the card. The element is listed in fine white lettering across the top for the Minor Arcana, with the card number and name in slightly larger, heavier white print on the bottom. The Major Arcana has the card number and name in the slightly larger, heavier white print along the bottom.
The Major Arcana have been renamed, as follows:
1 The Fool - Initiation
2 The Magician - Sorcerer
3 The High Priestess - Sorceress
4 The Empress - The Mother
5 The Emperor - The Father
6 The Hierophant - Knowledge
7 The Chariot - Power
8 The Lovers - The Lovers
9 The Hermit - The Seer
10 Wheel Of Fortune - The Circle
11 Justice - Nature
12 Hanged Man - The Shapeshifter
13 Death - Rebirth
14 Temperance - Balance
15 The Devil - Choice
16 The Tower - The Serpent
17 The Star - The Star
18 The Moon - The Moon
19 The Sun - The Sun
20 Judgment - Transcendence
21 None - The Double
22 None - The Journey
23 None - The Dreamer
24 The World - Oneness
Actually - all of the cards in this deck have been renamed. On of the first things that I do with a new Tarot book is turn to the back of the book to check out the charts and spreads. The charts in this book are simple, easy to follow and easy to understand. There are separate charts for the titles for each card and for the keywords.
There are five new spreads presented here - specifically for working with this deck. (Please note: This deck may easily be used for traditional Tarot readings with traditional spreads.) My favorite spread is the "Finding Animal Helpers" spread. The cards are set out in two straight lines of five cards each. The upper five cards represent the five "primary" animal allies for this time period in your life. The second line of five cards are the "secondary" animal allies for this time period in your life. These helpers will change as each of us experiences growth in our lives, and may be there for a specific time period, or even for a specific project. Personally speaking, I see this as a marvelous support system, and fully intend to use it as such.
If you are interested in shapeshifting, or even with simply working with animal allies, I highly recommend this deck. It is meant to be worked with as a tool of personal growth, and exhibits many levels of understanding and wisdom.
© Bonnie Cehovet
There are three main themes in this visually lovely deck. The public theme is that of the shamanic practice of shapeshifting. The authors present this in a way that gradually draws you into their world view and seduces your imagination. They start with the thought that shapeshifting is a holistic view of the earth and its inhabitants. They draw the users into animals, birds, sea creatures and even vegetation and the stones themselves. After presenting examples of how you could experience what it means to be an otter, an owl, a whale, and to feelings of oneness with water and the earth itself, they then gently introduce of the idea of shapeshifting as a form of reality.
The cards do not represent a mere clever artistic device. They are founded on the second theme, the pantheon of Irish/Celtic Gods, Goddesses and that way of reading life on many levels. This background holds the deck's images together and gives it a real strength and coherence. I found myself being drawn more and more into the stories in words and images. The power of the ideas belies the watercolour loveliness of the images on the cards.
The third main theme is the cycle of life and death, of past life and future life, of rebirth and past and future knowing. The flowing of the forms is a mirror of the flowing of time and the changes. This third theme strongly underlies the new layouts that were designed for this pack. The layouts do not need to be read in this way, and I found them striking and very revealing. The Standing Stones layout most clearly draws on this world view, and the others also act to draw you forward and back to see where your present is flowing from and towards.
From a practical point of view, the cards are easy to shuffle, not always true of Tarot decks, and they were the right size for my hands. I tend to prefer Swords to be associated with Air, but having read the book and used the deck, this does not give any difficulties. The explanation of the Sword/Fire union works well, and the suit carries the theme without any awkwardness.
I found the court cards easier to use than usual. Not what you would expect from a user with no knowledge of the Celtic pantheon. The authors gave enough of their stories to fill out the ideas they represented without going overboard with details. In the court cards the ideas came together well.
Adding cards without traditional tarot equivalents will generally cause some dis-ease among users. The Double, The Journey and the Dreamer didn't resonate with me but they may with more work.
13, Rebirth, is a stunning re-interpretation of the Death card. I re-read the accompanying passages several times, and was dazzled by their vision of it.
The artwork is of uniform quality, and the images are very able to draw in the eye and mind for mediation or intuition. I like the deck more and more as I use it. The book, it seems to me, is essential and I find it hard to imagine effectively using the deck without it. Overall, it is an excellent deck and book and forms a pathway to study and understanding.
Browsing through the stunning art of Lisa Hunt in the Shapeshifter Tarot reminds me of the infinite possibilities and journeys we have before us. Using Celtic Shamanism as a guiding force for its symbolism, this deck is powerful and inspirational, and I am sure will become one of my most-used tools.
Each card shows a human shapeshifter emerging from or merged with an animal, the earth and the environment. All manner of animals, real and mythological, grace the natural landscapes where the rocks have faces, and where every tree, plant and stream is alive with message and meaning.
Alive is what best describes this deck for me. To be alive is to undertake a journey of change and transformation; to shapeshift in very real ways in our everyday lives. This would be a wonderful deck to use for questions and guidance about change and spiritual growth.
I laid the cards in a series of 3-card spreads, asking specific questions about direction. Using the key words and my intuitive response to the images, I felt I had obtained an accurate series of readings. My reading of the text confirmed my own perceptions in most cases. However, for me this wasn't of major importance. I was concerned that the cards would bring inspiration and spark my intuition, and they did.
The full length book in this set is also a really useful tool as it talks about the symbolism of each card and relates those symbols to the traditional tarot card. (There are a few extra cards added to the major arcana which are not directly related to the 78-card tarot we know, but they do add extra dimensions to the Shapeshifter deck.) The book also includes some new spread aimed at looking at life direction, finding animal totems and guidance, and personal issues. I didn't try these spreads, preferring my own 3-card method to begin, but I was interested in the Polarity Spread which involves consciously choosing the cards you like and dislike, rather than relying on randomness. That's for another time. I highly recommend this deck.