The Victorian Fairy Tarot has 78 borderless cards combining the feel, detail and flower lore of the Victorian era, and the magic and mystique of the fairy realm. It's appealing, readable and very consistent in art across the whole deck.
Faerie Court and Elfin Throng,
Unto whom the groves belong,
And by laws of ancient date
Found in scrolls of Faerie Fate
Stream and fount are dedicate
Wheresoe’re your feet today
Far from haunts of men may stray,
We adjure you, stay no more
Exiles on an alien shore,
Bit with spells of magic birth,
One again make glad the earth.
A.E. Waite ~ Introduction
What an incredible deck! Gorgeous, borderless art, combined with a lovely sojourn into the world of fairies. And … the backdrop is one my favorite era’s … the Victorian era! We get the flower lore of the Victorian’s, with the magic that is the fairy realm. Beautiful, tasteful art, combined with careful research and clear, concise writing. Very representative of its time.
The 78 cards are accompanied by a 253 page book entitled the “Victorian Fairy Companion”. The cards follow traditional lines, with the following Major Arcana cards being renamed: Magician/Conjuror, High Priestess/Seeress, Hierophant/Vicar, Lovers/Fairy Bride, Strength/Fortitude, Wheel of Fortune/Wheel of Time, Justice/Magistrate, Hanged Man/Hanging Fairy, Devil/Goblin Market, Tower/Burning Oak, Star/Stars, Judgment/Awakening, World/Worlds. Fortitude is VIII, Magistrate is XI.
The four suits are: Wands/The Spring Court, Cups/The Summer Court, Pentacles/The Autumn Court, Swords/the Winter Court. The Court Cards are entitled Page/Herald, Knight, Queen, and King.
What impresses me about this deck is its sense of reality. Weatherstone notes that the Victorians believed that there were many doors into the Fairy world. One of them was into a world that was very much like our physical world, and this is the one that is represented in this deck.
The companion book gives some basic facts about fairies, as well as the structure of the Tarot. There is a table that lists the traditional titles for the Major Arcana, along with the titles used in this deck. Weatherstone discusses how to use the cards, including reversals (although this deck was intended to be read upright). Each Major Arcana card is presented with a black and white image, the card number and title, and a short quote. There is a discussion of the card, and how the card would fit into a reading. “In a nutshell” gives basic upright keywords for the card.
The Pips (numbered cards) and the Court Cards are presented with a black and white image, the card title and suit (or number and suit), a short description of the card, how the card would fit into a reading, and basic upright keywords. Each Ace carry’s the emblem of that Court (suit): the emblem for the Ace of Spring is the cherry plum tree, the emblem for the Ace of Summer is the water lily, the emblem for the Ace of Autumn is the apple, the emblem for the Ace of Winter is the icicle.
Note: throughout the cards Victorian flowers are mentioned. At the end of the companion book there is an appendix that lists flowers, and what they stood for in the Victorian world.
Spreads that are presented include: “A Fleeting Glimpse of Fairy” (One Card Reading), “The Herald’s Welcome” (A Seasonal Spread), “Titania’s Dream” (a seven card spread), and “The Dance of Happiness” (an eight card spread).
The cards are 2 3/4" by 4 1/2", of sturdy card stock. The backs show bluebells against a white background, and are not reversible. Bluebells are mentioned in both the Fool and the Worlds cards as being a sign that you are entering the fairy world!
The artwork in this deck is incredible – consistent throughout, highly detailed, and beautifully presented. It doesn’t hurt that there are no borders, which for me is a huge bonus! (So much easier to enter!) The Seeress is seated at her crystal ball, opening herself to receiving visions. The King of Spring shows an individual with a sense of humor, rejoicing at the world around him. The Queen of Winter is gorgeous – dressed in white, seated on her throne. She understand silence, and when to keep her thoughts to herself!
The Moon shows a fairy lady dreaming under the full moon. Here we see moonflowers and mystery! The Seven of Autumn shows s fairy winemaker, checking his product from the previous year. The Two of Spring shows a fairy lady, sitting in a tree sketching the first birch tree catkins of the spring. The Ace of Spring shows a beautiful cherry plum branch, with what appears to be a kite caught up in it.
The Hermit (one of my birth cards) shows a fairy Hermit in studious retreat in his library. His owl companion keeps watch on a branch outside, The fairy Vicar, seated amongst the roots of an oak tree, offers spiritual teachings to his congregation. The fairy Emperor is standing, posing for a formal portrait in his throne room. With him are two of his many children.
The fairy world is a lovely world, where we can gain insight into the challenges of life, while receiving gifts of spiritual wisdom. I would not hesitate to offer this as a choice of decks for a reading to a client of any age or background. It speaks to all, and offends none.
© Bonnie Cehovet
The Victorian Fairy Tarot is the single most beautiful original tarot deck I have ever seen. When I first went through the cards, I was so overwhelmed that I had to monitor my own breath.
Decades ago, when I purchased my first tarot deck, I never thought that I would become a collector. I'm a devout Catholic, for one. As a creative writer and a teacher of anthropology, I am fascinated by tarot as an art form and as an expression of humanity's wrestling with the big questions. I love comparing how different decks treat the themes encapsulated in a given card. Tarot decks offer mini voyages into the human mind, perception, interpretation, communication, morality, soul, and heart.
As much as I love tarot decks as reflections of human depth, I am often less than taken by the aesthetic qualities of tarot art. It often isn't quite as good as the art in, say, illustrated children's books or in advertising. There is an overabundance of kitsch: willowy goddesses very unlike the real life Pagans one meets at neighborhood potlucks, and romance-novel, cover-model gods. Everyone tends to be a twenty-something, with few children or old people. A notable exception is the excellent Druidcraft Tarot which includes saggy breasts on grey-haired queens and large bellies on balding kings. All too often in tarot decks nature, for all the neo-Pagan stated embrace of it, is a vague blur of green, with again the Druidcraft Tarot a notable exception, depicting as it does recognizable plants.
The decks with really good artwork tend to take pre-existing art by celebrated artists and repurpose that art for a tarot deck. One example: the Lo Scarabeo Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights. That deck uses the exquisite Orientalist artwork of Leon Carre. These cards are eye-poppingly gorgeous, but Carre was not painting for Tarot, so sometimes the relationship between the card and its meaning is vague. Kat Black has taken medieval and Renaissance art to make her collage decks, the Golden Tarot and the Touchstone Tarot. Both decks are among the most beautiful of tarot decks.
Okay, enough about other decks. Back to the Victorian Fairy Tarot. This is the finest original art I've ever seen on a Tarot deck. It is every bit as good as the artwork you might see in an award-winning children's book. Lunaea Weatherstone, the deck's author, dedicates the book to "The spirits of Arthur Rackham and J. M. Barrie." J. M. Barrie was the Victorian children's author who wrote "Peter Pan." Arthur Rackham was a Victorian children's book illustrator. Victorian tarot author and illustrator Lunaea Weatherstone and Gary A Lippincott – your reach did not exceed your grasp. Your work is every bit as fine as that of your heroes.
I identify real species of birds on these cards, real plants, real dilemmas that the natural world presents. The seven of spring – the deck's analogue to the seven of wands – depicts a farmer trying to shield his grain from birds. This is an intelligent and apt illustration of the seven of wands' concept – struggling and succeeding in spite of significant odds. There's a very believable Norway rat stealing milk on the seven of winter – the seven of swords. Temperance depicts fennel, wormwood, and absinthe, all as recognizable as they would be in a field guide. For all of his realism, Lippincott conveys nature's magic, as well. This is the natural world as it looked to you through the enchanted eyes you had as a child.
The deck honors the "Victorian" component of its name, as well. The Emperor looks a bit like Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, with his mustache, muttonchops, and butterfly wings. Okay, the butterfly wings are an added delight, and not historically accurate. The Hierophant is a Vicar, delivering a sermon to English country folk. The nine of spring is a Victorian eccentric occupying his cabinet of curios – skulls, pressed plants, botanical drawings, feathers. One thinks of Victorian explorers like Charles Darwin who traveled the world collecting artifacts. The Major Arcana card 8, Strength, is meant to convey, strength, yes, but a certain kind of strength, the mastery of self that a woman who tames a lion exhibits. In the Victorian Fairy tarot, card 8 is a barefoot, grey-haired lady. She is surrounded by beautifully realistic honeybees, a wicker hive, and clover. She exhibits her strength by stroking one of her charges as if it were a pet. A beatific smile crinkles her aged face. Lippincott's use of light is entrancing. The Hermit card is an old man reading in his oak tree house, lit with the golden glow of a lantern. A grey and white owl, perhaps a saw-whet owl, perches a bit back, out of the light, in the grey gloom. I am warmed by, and drawn into, this image.
But wait! There's more! The minor arcana cards are every bit as sublime as the majors. And even more. When I go through a new deck, I rapidly discern that some cards were just not worth the price of admission. I assess decks as fifty percent worth it, or sixty. This deck is one hundred percent worth it. Every card is lovely and intellectually provocative. Every interpretation is worth a pause, worth some thought. Lippincott's use of color is masterful and authentic; this is the palette of the Victorian era. The deck never strays from its theme; it never strikes discordant notes that make you question what a given interpretation is doing in this deck.
Lunaea Weatherstone's texts combine a bit of fairy
whimsy, a bit of Victorian history or culture, and a bit
of sound common sense. Each major arcana card is
preceded by a quote from a Victorian author. Every card is
followed by a pithy "in a nutshell" summation. Wands are
spring, cups are summer, pentacles are autumn, and swords
are winter, and that scheme works beautifully.