The Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot is a whimsical, non-traditional deck, the tarot imagery has been recreated as a mix of fairy tales and the natural world. The card art is animated and vital and the deck as a whole approachable and friendly.
This deck came to my attention when one of my Tarot e-lists started talking about it. Actually - it was used for the reading of the day - and the scans were out of this world! I had to check out the artist, her site, her work - everything! It was time well spend - pure energy of Grandfather Sun into my day! Poppy Palin is an author and illustrator who has written on her personal experiences as a psychic. She is also a professional tattooist, teacher and lecturer. And, IMHO, a lady with a great deal of insight into life in general and the Tarot in particular.
I do not usually connect with high energy decks - they tend to put me off. But this one is so whimsical, so carefree - it makes me laugh, it makes me want to pick it up and work with it some more - it is magickal! The deck, "Waking The Wild Spirit", and the accompanying book, "Stories Of The Wild Spirit", provide a wonderful walk through the Tarot.
"Waking the Wild Spirit" takes the format of connecting with the wild - in the form of nature, the elements and our own wild, instinctual sides. Ms Palin sees the cards as a way of connecting with the animal, plant and spirit beings around us, and of living in the "now", of being aware of our acts and their consequences. The Major Arcana represents archetypal human experiences, while the minor arcana represents things of a day to day, physical nature.
The book "Stories of the Wild Spirit" is exactly that - a series of stories about the wild spirit within each of us. Each Major Arcana card is presented with a black and white scan and a story, from the cards point of view, taken from myth, childhood fantasy, faery tale and legend. There are no keywords, no reversed meanings - just a wonderful story that makes one think.
Each Minor Arcana card presents its voice in a shorter version, and in a manner that supports the Major Arcana. They speak in what Ms Palin terms a "briefing".
From the book:
The Peace Keeper (Spirit of Air) (King of Swords):
I have the authority to build bridges between nations and forge links between people. I have a grasp on vapor, for peace cannot be quantified, only felt. It cannot be held, only discussed. I am the Keeper of a concept, the one who spreads an idea of how it could be if we listened ... really listened, as if we were one another, as if we felt the empathy that makes us walk, albeit briefly, in another's shoes. I am he who seeks a solution, he who needs to complete a mission to bring peace to all.
I let my understanding of peace spread out around me wherever I go. I am the representative of no one man, only the messenger and the intermediary of a Way of Being. I advocate accord, reconciliation and compromise, in the name of unity, for the purpose of strengthening our connections to all things and one another. I share my words of kindness, I divulge my methods of constructive discussion, and I pass on the information, which I know has forged solutions that have worked for others.
I never give up on my peace talking, and I will not abandon the need for someone to stand at the center of arguments and disputes, for I am a solid, stable form, and invite others to bounce their ideas an opinions off of me. I am friendly and open, hiding nothing, walking with Spirit and talking honestly , from the heart. People feel my inner peace, and they know that I am not out for my own ends. All I desire si to see the concepts of harmonious cooperation discussed calmly, with a mixture of compassion and logic. My ideas are always tempered by consideration for others. My aim is to bring together the rational and the imagination, to blend them into a seamless way of interacting with others.
Let us all contribute to the peace process with our honest communication, and may we never give up the will to achieve peace on earth.
I only have two quibbles with the book: one is that while each of the suits has a chart for which card is which (all cards and suits in this deck have been renamed), the Major Arcana has no such chart. The other is that the traditional names are not given on the same page as the "retitled" card.
The deck itself is quite nice at 3 1/4" by 4 1/4", on glossy, quality card stock. The backs are busy, but done in pastel colors with two sets of figures facing each other in the center, each with arms outstretched. One would not be able to discern a reversed card until they turned it over.
The face of the card has a 1/4 inch white border, with a color coded border containing black triangles with symbols in the four corners. Spirit of Air (Swords) is coded yellow, Spirit of Water (Cups) blue, Spirit of Earth (Pentacles) green and Spirit of Fire (Wands) red.Each Minor Arcana card carries the suit name and number of the card on the top, and the retitled name on the bottom of the card. The Major Arcana contain the number and retitled name on top, and the spirit on the bottom.
The scenes are done in pastels, and have an "other-worldly" quality to them. The Seven of Earth (sub-titled Journey) shows a figure in a jacket, wearing heavy boots and carrying a walking stick moving through a forest. The Wandering Minstrel (The Fool), subtitled Free Spirit, shows a Joker-like figure jumping through space, his dog beside him, pack on his stick over his shoulder, reaching for the sun. The Healer (The Hermit), subtitled Wise Counsellor, shows a figure seated at a table, working with a light coming from behind him, holding his hands over some type of bowl, with a cat at his feet and a white bird over his head.
There are two extra cards to this deck, each presenting different a manner of reading the traditional three card spread. I find this a very nice addition to the book/deck presentation.
The cards are evocative, and follow the intent, if not
symbology, of traditional Tarot cards. I find this a lovely
deck, easy to use, but perhaps not for beginners. I
recommend this as a working deck, as well as a deck for
meditation and study.
Created wholly by Poppy Palin, the Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot is a celebration of nature and life. There is a freshness and lightness to this tarot deck, with its natural, magical and mystical cards that blur the boundaries between human and nature-sprite. Drawn with a Pagan, Celtic flavour, this is a lively tarot deck of nature and the wild. Pixies, faeries, humans, and characters from fairy tales leap out from the cards. There is a strong sense of movement and animation in the art, which is detailed and full of life but never busy.
Palin wished to create a different way to learn to use tarot, a contrast to the rote memorisation of lists of keywords approach. Every card has been reworked to strengthen the links between the image and its meaning, so there are more visual cues for interpretation. The majors are 'essences from fairy tale and childhood fantasy, myth and evocative legend'. The traditional titles have been replaced with more descriptive words, so that the deck could be more accessible to beginners, and not just the tarot-learned. The minor's suits are simply Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Unusually for tarot, but in keeping with the visual reinterpretation of this deck, the minor cards rarely feature the tool of the suit.
The tarot cards and book set is packaged in the usual giant but flimsy cardboard box of the Llewellyn deck-and-book set. (This is one deck I would have liked packaged with its own bag!) The companion book is substantial and, as you might imagine, has no keywords, astrological associations or correspondences alongside the picture of the card. Instead, the expansion of the card's meaning in text is immediate and personal, written in first- and second- person dialogue. Palin tells the story of the card in a conversational style, asking blunt questions and giving advice in the honest but kind manner of an old friend.
This is a warm, approachable tarot that welcomes you and gives straight advice. It's definitely not a stiff, regal tarot that demands to you work hard to uncover its esoteric secrets. Palin has worked hard to create that is unlike any that have gone before - and she has succeeded. If standard tarot has become a little boring and routine, pick up the poetic, evocative Wild Spirit Tarot and see it in a new light.
I had been awaiting the publication of this deck for months before it eventually came out I am a big fan of Poppy's writing and artwork, and to see both encompassed in a Tarot deck and book set seemed like an answer to my prayers! When I got the deck, I found that I wasn't to be disappointed. Poppy's artwork is at its finest in this deck, with the cards looking like 78 miniature masterpieces. However, it is very noticeable that the Major Arcana are probably better done than the Minors, with the Majors having more symbolism to convey the meanings, and the Minors relying heavily on keywords. Looking at the illustrations of the Minors often does not reveal the meaning of the cards very well.
The Major Arcana titles are all changed, and help convey the meaning along with the images, which are, whilst having a more Pagan feel to them, fairly recognisable. The titles used in the Wild Spirit Tarot are:
Fool - Wandering Minstrel
Magician - Cunning Man
High Priestess - Wise woman
Empress - Mother Nature
Emperor - Lord of the Wild
High Priest - Interpreter
Lovers - Soul Mates
Chariot - Hunter
Strength - Natural Force
Hermit - Healer
Wheel - Dance of Life
Justice - Hooded One
Hanged Man - Silence
Death - Rebirth
Temperance - Inner Child
Devil - Fiddler
Tower - Lightning Tree
Star - Source
Moon - Mother Two Moons
Sun - Sky Dancer
Judgement - Transformation
World - Reaper
As you can see, these titles have a very Pagan theme, often using Pagan concepts such as Mother Nature, and Lord of the Wild. All the Majors have keywords on them, and a boldly coloured border. This border is one of the weaknesses of this deck, as it often makes the cards look too cluttered and the colours do not complement many of the cards at all. Despite this however, the Majors are stunning. Just by looking at the images one can gain meaning.
The Minors also have the same type of border around them, coloured depending on their suit. The suits themselves are elemental, with Swords becoming Air, Wands becoming Fire, Cups becoming Water, and Pentacles becoming Earth. This is not distracting, and it adds to the rather Pagan and eco-friendly feel of the deck. Considering that one of the themes of this deck is Nature and humankind's relationship to it, I feel the suit change is very apt. Another possible weakness of the deck however is that quite often the meanings of the Minors are changed. For instance, Three of Air (Swords) which is usually heart-ache and emotional pain, has become 'Freedom Flight'. Such changes make the deck difficult to work with at first, especially if you are used to the more traditional meanings. These Minors have keywords on them just as the Majors do, but I often find myself relying more on these keywords than on the actual pictures, die to the fact that the Minors do not convey meaning very well. I found this detracted from my usual practice of reading 'intuitively', so instead of 'saying what I see', I found myself having to apply the keywords to the querent's question. Often however, these keywords do not convey meaning either, so I also found it difficult to apply those keywords to a reading.
The Court cards' titles have not been changed at all, and the Courts are one of this deck's strong point They are all very expressive and each figure in the Courts is doing something which conveys meaning. For instance, the Page of Water (Cups) is a fortune teller, with a crystal ball and a three-card Tarot spread on a colourful piece of cloth. I found it very easy to read these Courts, and indeed, this is one of the few decks which can boast easy to understand Court cards!
The backs of the cards are breathtaking to say the least. Not only are they reversible, a pro for those who use reversed cards, but they are beautiful. Very earthy, with Nature spirits, plants, leaves, and insects, in stunning colour. Shuffling this deck is an absolute pleasure, as with each shuffle comes a mini-waterfall of colour! It is hypnotic and beautiful, creating the right state of mind for a Tarot reading.
The book that accompanies the deck is in a class of its own, and it is distinctively different from any other companion book I have ever read. It does not give the divinatory meanings of the cards, nor does it describe the symbolism of the cards specifically. Instead, Poppy writes in what many have called 'Magical Fiction' style writing in role as the figures in the cards, directly addressing the reader, and often telling the reader their story to illustrate the concepts within that card. From this, it is up to the reader to apply meaning. At first, I was doubtful of such an approach, and being used to lists of keywords and meanings it is hardly surprising! However, when I finished reading the book, I realised that I knew so much more about the concepts within the cards than I did before. I realised that I had been relying too much on remembering lists of meanings, and not trusting my intuition enough. Poppy writes in an amazingly engaging and imaginative way, drawing the reader into her stories, which is a big help when attempting to convey meaning. Often, the reader finds themselves empathising with the characters in the cards and the feelings and thoughts they are describing Something not often found in a Tarot deck companion book!
Poppy's approach to describing the cards is innovative,
unique, and welcoming. Her writing is splendidly
evocative and descriptive, and one can gain alot from just
the book alone.
Overall, this deck is admittedly
difficult to use at first, and many who prefer the
traditional meanings and imagery in the Minors may not
appreciate this deck at all. However, for those who want a
deck with a more eco-Pagan feel to it, the Wild Spirit
Tarot is perfect.
I really enjoy working with Tarot decks with a Pagan leaning probably because the way I read relates more to the images that to any “meaning” ascribed to the cards. I've always worked that way so I'm attracted to colour, symbolism, action and feeling. Consequently, I found Poppy Palin's Wild Spirit Tarot really wonderful to work with.
The cards are vibrant and alive with imagery and are very obviously designed by someone with a strong connection to world of the Elves, Fairies and people of the land. The four suits are called, simply, earth, air, fire and water. All of the images are strong in Pagan sensuality and spirituality and a joy in the world and in life.
The accompanying book is interesting. Unlike many books which give the divinatory meaning of the cards, each card has a story attached to it and the book is in fact called, Stories of the Wild Spirit. The stories are much longer for the major arcana cards, but are, I think, designed to provide food for thought rather than simply tell fortunes.
Because the cards are substantially different to other decks, I decided to spend a couple of weeks acquainting myself with them, so each night did a reading for the day using three cards which I then removed from the pack. I did this for a week and found that the cards gave me much food for thought. That of course is what we should expect from a deck. Divinatory meaning is all very well, but I think we really need to do that work for ourselves, using the cards as a starting point but not a be-all and end-all of the process. If, however, I was looking for a deck to 'tell' me things, I'd say the Wild Spirit deck is successful.
For people who, like me,
enjoy working with Pagan and Faery imagery, and who
don't mind giving some thought and personal
interpretation to readings, I'd highly recommend this deck. For
those who like a more formal or traditional style of
deck, you can have some fun with the Wild Spirit Tarot
and maybe break out of the boundaries a little!
On first sight I recognised Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot as a lively and colourful storyteller’s oracle, and indeed the accompanying book is titled Stories of the Wild Spirit.
As the author emphasizes, this was never meant to be a traditional tarot deck. There is no unifying mythic theme (such as in Celtic or Norse decks), no astrological or kabbalistic symbology. Those looking for an adapted version of Rider-Waite (as many modern tarot decks are) will be disappointed. While the Wild Spirit deck keeps the 78-card structure, the suits are named only by their element and a keyword, and the Major Arcana have been radically re-imagined. Though some of these cards bear echoes of traditional decks, Poppy Palin’s inspiration comes from nature, earth-based peoples and the fey realms, depicting forces and influences much older than Waite or 15th century European tarot images. They reach to the fairytale-loving child in all of us, when our imaginations ran wild and we could embrace many worlds in one.
The book may frustrate readers who want clear-cut, succinct cues to interpretation. You’ll find nothing like ‘a tall dark older man with money’ or ‘a long journey by water.’ Instead, each card bears the story of a fictional person, a part of our inner selves, or a step on our spiritual unfolding. This is an oracle deck that would appeal to readers gifted in intuition and imagination, or those who want to develop these faculties. Some reviewers have suggested that the Wild Spirit Tarot is not a good beginner’s deck, but I see it as a wonderful deck to get the intuitive juices flowing.
Apart from a few minor missteps, the art work is masterful. To my eyes, the busy checkerboard background in Rebirth visually drowns the main figures. In a few cards (Nest and Hovering) figures slip off the edge of the image to rather awkward effect. But otherwise the art is consistently pleasing and eye-catching, and with equal emphasis on the Major and Minor suites. Faces look like real people one might meet and the animals, birds and fey folk are lovingly delineated. The back design of this deck is an attractive organic mandala, mirror-imaged to conceal reversals.
Personally, I have no problem with the changes to the Major Arcana. To me, the young spirit rising from a pair of old boots perfectly expresses Transformation, as the 20th card is called. And of course the traditional Devil is a Fiddler, whose music is irresistible even if (or because) it flirts with danger. It also teaches us to laugh at our foibles and the serious-faced world. Source, card 17, goes beyond the usual interpretation as hope and wish-fulfillment, to express reconnection with the Divine within, and with each other. My favourite card of all is 6, Soul Mates, in which both lovers look directly outwards including the reader in their embrace.
The book and deck set have recently been reprinted,
but in limited edition. The book itself has been
rewritten and redesigned. If this you’re after this set, you
might have to snap it up or search for it second hand.
It well deserves a wider re-issue.