Deck: Fantastical Creatures Tarot
Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc.
Writer & Artist: D.J. Conway, Lisa Hunt
Overall Rating: 8/10
Cardstock: Not too bad. One of the cards tore slightly about halfway down the side like the third time I ever shuffled the deck, but besides that, there’s no damage after about 4-6 years of moderate usage. (I’ve had this deck for about 10 years but for the first five I barely used it, and a few years ago I bought a ton of new decks and stopped using it for about a year.) The backs are a sort of ivory-beige and there is some discoloring from repeated handling, or possibly they weren’t quite uniform to begin with? Shuffling is fairly easy, and the coating is still intact and slick.
Artwork: The art is very vivid, super evocative, and perfect for intuitive readings. The backs allow for reversals. The color palette tends toward blues and greens. The cards have rather wide and decorative borders, and the images fill the entire inside with detail. The original artworks are referred to as “paintings” in the LWB and to my inexpert eyes it looks predominately like watercolors. The human figures are well proportioned. The aesthetic feel is generally of temporarily suspended movement, a snapshot of a larger world.
LWB: The book is pretty helpful. Its main strength is in the explanation of the fantastical creature chosen for each card and a tidbit about their mythology and the symbolism in the artwork. That is the longest paragraph, and following it is a short paragraph about the divinatory meaning (upright only), and a few lines about potential magical uses of the card. For example, 7 of Pentacles: “Use to convert negative energy into positive energy, which will attract good fortune.” All three paragraphs are longest for the Majors, of a medium length for the court cards, and shortest for the numbered Minors. The book does not include any suggested layouts. Also, it is important to note that this is a Fire Swords/Air Wands deck. I prefer that elemental association, but some people find it counterintuitive.
Likes: I love the general feel of the artwork, and I love how it feels to read with this deck intuitively, based on the artwork and what catches my eye about the card. I find that the deck is happy to read with reversals, and it tends to give gentle and encouraging answers, which is useful in a lot of situations but might be too wishy-washy for an “only” deck.
Dislikes: I’m really not crazy about the color choice for the backs and the borders. I’m also a little put-off by some of the fantastical “creatures” being deities (Morrigan, Manannan, Neptune, Anansi, Kali Ma, Yemaya), although some of these are court cards which makes a certain amount of sense. I’m a lot more bothered by “creatures” (again, often deities) drawn from closed traditions (Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent, Iroquois Atahensic, Nahuatl Quetzacoatl, and depending on one’s perspective, this also includes Anansi and Yemaya). There are also quite a few from semi-closed traditions, like Hinduism, Shinto, and African Diaspora Religions. (Some people consider ADRs fully closed, as mentioned above. I know and respect black practitioners of both viewpoints, and it’s not really my business so I don’t have a firm opinion.) On a completely separate note, I’m also not crazy about how the fae are depicted and described, because it’s very New Age: they’re extremely helpful and benevolent tiny spirits.
Despite a few misgivings, I generally recommend this tarot deck to beginners and advanced diviners alike, especially anyone who likes to read intuitively based on artwork. I really can’t say enough how much I like the artwork, and the photo above doesn’t quite capture the wealth of detail in the cards. I’ve been working a bit more with this deck lately and I think it may become my go-to for in-person tarot readings because of the ease of interpretation. It’s available for about $20 on Amazon which is about average for a deck like this, by a major publisher.