The Twilight Realm: A Tarot of Faery has 78 cards of fairies and the fae, painted in luminous colour on a relatively unusual black background. The set has a full 224-page companion book by the artist to accompany the cards.
“Twilight Realm – A Tarot of Faery” follows the traditional 78 card structure, using traditional card titles for the Major arcane, with Strength at VIII and Justice at XI. The suits are entitled Wands, Cups, Swords, and Rings (Pentacles). The suit of Rings is in deference to Faery Rings. Note: The suit of Wands is associated with Air in this deck, and the suit Swords with Fire. This change was based on the fact that dwarves craft swords using the element of Fire, while sylphs that inhabit the air are most likely portrayed with wands. The Court card titles are King, Queen, Prince, and Page.
The theme for this deck is that of faeries, and the world they inhabit. It is meant to be used as a vehicle that allows us to connect with the faery realm – for us to talk to them, and for them to talk to us. The imagery in this deck represents different types of faeries, some of which came to Wilder in dreamtime, and some of which came to her in a waking state. Some were created from faery lore to represent the type of faery that Wilder felt was appropriate to represent a specific card.
The deck and companion book come in a hard cardboard box, with a magnetic lift top. The top is opened using a short piece of ribbon that is attached to it. I love these boxes – kudos to Schiffer for using them, and for the lovely imagery on the covers. This cover is pale lavender, with a black background on the left hand side, and an image of the Empress.
The 176 page companion book has a short introduction, discussing the background of the deck, followed by templates for a Three Card Spread, the Star Spread, and the Elements Spread. Each card is presented with a black and white image, upright and reversed meanings, and the story behind the faery element that is represented. For instance, the Fool is Hobodie Wort, a little person with no fear, and completely in control of his own actions. Strength is a beautiful Unicorn, while the Hermit is represented by a solitary faery.
The cards themselves are 3 ½” by 5”, and of heavy card stock. The backs show a black border, and a black background to a center graphic of latticework and small flowers, with a circle of small flowers in the center. The backs are reversible. The card faces show a black outer border, with a thin, color coded inner border. The Major arcane show only a wide black border, with the card number, in Roman numerals, and the card title in gold at the bottom of the card. Swords show a red border, Cups a light blue border, Wands a light lavender border, and Rings a light green border. For the Pips (the numbered cards), the number and suit are in text at the bottom of the card, in the same color as the border. The Court cards show the card title and suit at the bottom of the card, in the same color as the border.
The artwork varies between reality for the majority of the human figures, with a fantasy background, and fantasy figures in other cards, making use of pastels against a black background, The Fool is an adorable little figure, his hands braced on a rock sitting alongside a river, his feet high in the air and a smile on his face. The Ace of Cups shows a lovely white lotus floating on a black background. Death really drew me in – we see a female figure, in a lavender cape, walking out in the elements, lightning flashing around her and a dark castle behind her. The Chariot is driven by a goblin, who has managed to harness two faery dogs to a wagon.
The Magician to me is a somewhat sinister figure, sitting in his red robe, with an owl behind his right shoulder, and a quarter moon in the night sky. His left hand rests on the hilt of a sword, while his right hand rests on the table. The Lovers shows the story of Undine, a water nymph who became human and fell in love, then forfeited her life when the man she loved chose another over her.
I found this to be quite an interesting deck, one t hat would appeal to those wanting to learn more about faery lore, as well as those interested in fantasy art. I would not suggest it as a beginners deck, but it certainly would work as either a reading deck for someone who already knew the Tarot, and for journey work with the faery realm.
© Bonnie Cehovet
Drawn in colors that are as vibrant as those surely found in the etheric dimension of the faery, Beth Wilder has created an artistic tarot that works very well with those who are already conversant with standard tarot symbolism. In addition, readers are drawn into that alternate world, the twilight realm, where the spirits of the earth may meet us—we of the third dimension. The intimacy of knowing these denizens of the other world proves that Beth Wilder has seen, heard and spoken with the self-same faeries. And this experiential connection has helped her to construct a tarot about the faery, and one that can bring seekers to wisdom that is both earthly and spiritual.
The companion book is delightful in bringing stories of faery folklore, from around the world, and which are blended into the interpretation for each card, whether minor or major arcana. Well organized and user-friendly, the 176 page book offers three simple spreads and, something I always find quite valuable—the reverse meanings for every card are also given. Black and white images of each card are displayed on the left, and the text of meanings is on the facing page. A fine line of color frames the border, and the colors match the four suits, with a fifth color for the major arcana. The card backs show a symmetrical ring of flowers; it’s so helpful to have a card back which doesn’t tip off the reader as to how the card is oriented in upright or reverse.
Strong and passionate feelings are aroused with these images--all the better to help jolt our humdrum life via the slap of the master’s hand. From blissful mermaids to cavorting nymphs to mischievous dwarves and even a grim banshee; we cannot hide from the mirror which reflects our own journey. I feel that I can trust these cards of the Tarot of Faery to tell the truth. And isn’t the truth what we’re all seeking anyway? I recommend the Twilight Realm for the seeker, the finder and the lover of life—including those who appreciate that the faery folk are close by, merely awaiting our thought, our belief in their companionship…let the communication begin.
Thomas Freese: How long had you used tarot until you decided to make your own deck? And which tarot decks were most influential to you in general?
Beth Wilder: I was given my first tarot deck in 1987 by a good friend I worked with, and I really liked it, but I was not that well-versed in how to really use it. Around 1995, I was given a second deck by another friend, but it was not until about 1999 that I met Jennifer Wilson, who has an immense collection of decks, and she got me wanting to collect them for the artwork, although I still knew relatively little about how to actually use the decks properly. I decided to make my own as a learning tool -- I thought that by making the cards myself, I would learn about the meanings individually, and they would stick with me better. I have come to realize now, though, that the study of tarot is a continuous learning process, and there will always be more to discover.
At the time I created my deck, I cannot say that any particular decks really influenced me. I love fairies, especially the artwork of Brian Froud. My designs, however, were inspired by looking at the sliding glass door of our house at night, when I was a child -- everything looked pitch black, but the reflections were ghostly. To me, it was like looking into another world, and I tried to capture that with my drawings.
Thomas Freese: I understand that you view the faery folk as very real and not just folklore. What unique offerings do the faeries contribute to us? And how can we connect with faery help and wisdom, both through the Twilight Realm and in general?
Beth Wilder: I believe the fairies are rather like spirit guides that are there to help and teach us. The thing is that we need to be attuned to them and listen to what they have to say. And I don't mean that we always have to physically see or hear them; I think it is more that they can speak to our hearts and souls, and we have to be open to that. Sometimes, a thought may pop in your head, or a sweet smell wafts by -- these are just an example of ways I believe they try to communicate with us and get us to pay attention.
Thomas Freese: I love the way in which you weave your own thoughts, beliefs and dreamtime revelations into the card meanings (as well as the artwork images). Did you feel any hesitation in revealing your cherished notions in this publicly offered venue? Did you choose to leave out certain experiences or stories, and if so, would those other experiences appear in a future book or oracle?
Beth Wilder: I'm glad you appreciate that. Actually, there was a lot of hesitation there, not because I did not want to share anything, but because I did not feel others would be interested in my personal experiences, when they were bound to have had many of their own. I must say, I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the reviews I have seen that comment on how they like or can relate to my experiences; that means so much to me. I left out a lot of experiences, mainly because I only tried to use what was helpful to me as far as particular card meanings were concerned. I am not sure if I will ever make another deck, but I would not hesitate to use other experiences, if they were relative to the project.
Thomas Freese: There seems to be a variety of faery elements shown, that is faeries of the air, water, fire and earth. But perhaps the proportion, to me, seems lower for faeries that live inside the earth. Had you thought about having more inner earth nature beings, such as goblins or trolls, and scenes from inside caves or etc?
Beth Wilder: Actually, I hadn't realized that, and it's kind of surprising, because I associate more with the earth element. There is a goblin in the Chariot card -- and it is based on one seen by me and at least three other people. And I have several cards with dwarves in them. The thought of a troll had not even crossed my mind, but it would have been great to use.
When I made the cards, I would sit for hours, or days, trying to think of what would go best with each meaning. Some ideas just popped up, and others were rather forced. I was mainly making them for myself at the time, though, and a few friends who wanted a copy, but they were submitted and published a few years after I completed them, so they were not originally created with the intent that they be published. What is there is simply what came to me at the time, when I was making the deck to be something that I, personally, could understand.
Thomas Freese: Since the Twilight Realm was published four years ago (in 2010); would you recommend any updates for the use of this deck? Are there other spreads you may frequently use for these cards in addition to the three given in the book (three card, star and elements spread)?
Beth Wilder: Like I said earlier, learning about tarot could be a lifelong activity, and the more I learn, the more I would incorporate into a deck. The one I made is fine for what it is—the fairies coming through to say what they have to say, I guess by using my own experience. I really adore the people who comment that they love using my deck and that it works very well for them, but in all honesty, there is very little symbolism in my deck, and with all I have learned, I have come to rely on the symbolism in decks. Which is really ironic, because I used to hate symbolism; but as I've aged, I have learned so much more about it, and it is invaluable to me. The medium I used really prevented any excess images in each drawing, because the black paper was small (9"x12"), and the pencils had a mind of their own on that paper, and often acted more like crayons. I see now why so many people use computer programs to create cards, because so much can be added on to them in layers.
Unfortunately, my deck is extremely limited in symbolism, so I am really glad that messages still come through it so well. I really do not use spreads too much. I ought to, but I typically draw one card at a time (preferably, I let it fall or jump out of the deck) to answer specific questions. At times I use various spreads -- I really like using some of the spreads out of Edain McCoy's book, Past-Life and Karmic Tarot. It takes me quite a while to do a full spread, because I tend to research every card.
Thomas Freese: What positive comments have you heard regarding people’s experience with the Twilight Realm? Do you think you might ever create another deck?
Beth Wilder: I have read several positive comments about how "down to earth" and "real" the cards are. That makes me happy. And I am so grateful to the people who took the time to do such nice reviews for me.
I have all kinds of ideas for other decks, but it is such a time-consuming process, that I doubt I will do it again. I am deeply indebted to Schiffer Publishing for putting out my deck, though, and to all those who bought and enjoy it. I hope it always brings truth and joy to everyone who uses it.