Deck Review, Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: Wild Wisdom of the Faery

Deck: Wild Wisdom of the Faery Oracle
Publisher: Blue Angel
Writer: Lucy Cavendish
Artist: Selina Fenech
Overall Rating: 5/10

image (c) Blue Angel. Cards shown are: Lift the Darkness, Acorn’s Invitation, Star Dust, and Into the Woods

Cardstock: They’re pretty flexible and smooth, but the cards are nearly too large for me to shuffle. They measure about 5.5″ tall and 3.75″ wide (or 14cm x 9.5 cm). Still, I manage to get them mixed up well with a combination of shuffling methods. The deck box is a two part hard case, which so far is holding up well.

Artwork: The artwork appears to be mostly traditional media, but the artist’s website says that she often begins with watercolor or acrylic, and then adds a little more in digital form afterwards. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m generally a sucker for watercolors. A lot of the art is pretty “twee”, almost all the fairies have wings, and while there’s a range of sizes (from tiny to human-sized), there’s not much by way of diversity of body shape or skin tone (mostly femme, white, thin, and wearing filmy clothing). The cards also have the name and keywords written over the image, despite the rather large border, and the contrast isn’t great on a few of them.

Book: The booklet pretty large, about 170 pages, though the beginning is a bunch of New Age Fairy Nonsense that sees Them as mainly benevolent (if tricksy) nature angels, and says that all the stories of bad luck and negative encounters are a product of Church propaganda. For example, they define the Unseelie Court by saying: “not so fond of humans, as they feel we have been very harmful. Most of the Unseelie’s [sic] have ‘given up’ on us. ‘Tis up to us to prove them wrong.” Yeah okay, I guess maybe kelpies eat people because they… littered? Sure, okay, let’s just ignore several centuries of living belief and practice. [/sarcasm]
The booklet does include a few interesting spreads, though I still can’t advise invoking the Fair Folk or asking them for divinatory advice on your life situations, the way it recommends.
The descriptions of the cards themselves have a few paragraphs of description and then a few paragraphs each of divinatory meanings and reversed meanings, which is always helpful. The cards all have their number on the top border, so you can flip through the book to find them, but they aren’t in alphabetical order.

Likes: I like the general art style, though I wish it depicted a more diverse cast. I also do actually really like the amount of information the booklet gives for each card, because as I’m learning a new deck I really like to figure out what the writer and artist were both thinking, so I can better understand their symbolism, and build that into my intuitive readings. I do also like it when there are a couple of keywords on the card when it’s an oracle deck, because with those there’s no set of meanings like there is with tarot, lenormand, or runes.

Dislikes: Basically the entire introductory section in the the book. And the lack of diversity. And the borders, and how the keywords aren’t well contrasted. The size of the cards.

Overall Recommendation

TL;DR: if this one goes missing or gets water damaged, I probably won’t buy a new one. A lot of my clients seem to like the artwork, but I never use this one for my own personal readings unless I can’t use something better. I bought it a while back because it was pretty, but this one really is a bit too twee for my tastes. The Faery Forest Oracle by Lucy Cavendish again, but with artwork by Maxine Gadd, is a bit less twee, and I find that they work okay together, for better rounded answers. The Wild Wisdom of the Faery Oracle sugarcoats like a candy store, so if you’re looking for a very gentle deck with a sunny disposition and cute artwork, it’ll probably serve you well, but I think a fair few of my readers will be put off by the twee.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: The Everyday Tarot

Deck: The Everyday Tarot
Publisher: Running Press
Writer: Brigit Esselmont of Biddy Tarot
Artist: Eleanor Grosch
Overall Rating: 7/10

image (c) Running Press. Cards shown are: Five of Swords, Death, and King of Wands

Cardstock: The cards are smaller than normal tarot cards, closer to poker card sized, and it can be a little awkward to shuffle all 78 of them. The cardstock is of good quality, though, not too slick and not too rough, and the printing is very vibrant. I find the borders not too distracting, and the gilded edges are a nice touch.

Artwork: The artwork is tricolor (white, gold, and purple) and combines flat white, luminous gold, and a watercolor textured purple. The images are done mainly with the human figures in silhouette, and a sort of minimalistic theme overall, but they’re recognizable to those familiar with the Rider-Waite-Smith system, and have enough intricacies to be beautiful, rather than boring.

Book: The booklet is about the same size as the cards and 87 pages long. It has a short paragraph for each upright and reversed meaning for each card, which is a pretty good amount of information, but does not contain a list of keywords. Somewhat unusually, there isn’t any more information on the majors than there is on the pips.

Likes: It’s pretty straightforward, like a minimalist version of the RWS, and therefore an easy deck to read for anyone used to that system. I really do like the artwork, though I wasn’t sure about it at first. It grew on me.

Dislikes: I was somewhat surprised that the deck didn’t contain the two lists of keywords that are listed on the Biddy Tarot website! And the cards are somewhat awkward to shuffle, as I mentioned above. I also don’t really like the box. It’s a magnetic clasp wrap like the cover of a book, with no top or bottom, but there’s a clear plastic case for the cards that’s rather flimsy, and to get the booklet to stay in, it has to be inserted in a slot in the cover. I’ll be moving this one to a knit bag, probably.

Overall Recommendation

I think in a different carrying case this would make a very good travel deck. I think it would make a good first deck for new readers, if combined with the resources on the Biddy Tarot website. It occupies a niche in my collection somewhere around “neutral-pretty”, and may make a good in-person reading deck, though because of the pandemic I really haven’t been doing that lately. I’m glad I own it, but this is not one of the ones I’d buy again immediately if I misplaced it.

Deck Review, Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: The Vintage Wisdom Oracle

Deck: The Vintage Wisdom Oracle
Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc
Writer & Artist: Victoria Mosely
Overall Rating: 8/10

image (c) US Games Systems. Cards shown are Release and Ancestors

Cardstock: They’re maybe a little thicker than I would like, considering the size of the cards. They measure 5.5″ tall and 3.75″ wide (or 14cm x 9.5 cm). My hands can’t riffle shuffle them very easily, but I manage with a combination of shuffling methods. The deck box is a two part hard case, which holds up well.

Artwork: The artwork is mixed media, using old photographs and paintings as the base, onto which the artist has added embellishments, both physical and digital. I really enjoy the dreamlike quality of it, and some of the base images are recognizable to me. (At least one of the cards is a Waterhouse painting.) If the art doesn’t speak to you, though, that would probably knock a whole point off my review.

Book: The booklet pretty large, 75+ pages, with 5-8 paragraphs describing each card and its meaning. The cards are all in alphabetical order which is a really nice feature, and makes it easier to look up a card. It also includes five example spreads at the end, and instructions for laying the cards.

Likes: I really like the artwork. It matches the card titles pretty well, and also most of card titles are pretty straightforward: Abundance, Adventure, Ancestors, Awakening, etc. This deck lends itself well to intuitive reading.

Dislikes: I would have liked the cards a touch smaller for easier shuffling. Also, some of the cards have more Christian symbolism than I prefer, despite the deck in general being very new age neutral.

Overall Recommendation

This is my go-to deck for messages from Ancestors, partly because it’s so easy to read intuitively. But as with some of the others I’ve reviewed, one’s enjoyment of the art will make or break this deck. If you don’t like the art style, if it doesn’t speak to you, it will lose most of its magic.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: The Mini Tarot of Pagan Cats

Deck: The Mini Tarot of Pagan Cats
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Writer: Magdelina Messina
Artist: Lola Airaghi
Overall Rating: 8/10

image (c) Lo Scarabeo

Cardstock: It appears to be Lo Scarabeo’s regular cardstock, so these are pretty sturdy despite being only 3 inches tall. They’re semi glossy and not too hard to riffle shuffle once you get used to the small size. The box is a little beat up, however, because this is the deck I usually take with in my purse.

Artwork: The artwork is pretty Rider-Waite-Smith inspired, except with cats. The art style is pretty realistic, and reminds me of some children’s books, with pretty detailed foregrounds and backgrounds that are either more sketched or just a solid color on a lot of the cards. Most of the cats are realistically proportioned and in natural poses, even when they’re depicted engaging in more human or fantastical activities.

Book: The booklet is in English, Italian, Spanish, and German, so each card has barely more than a phrase or a few keywords. I definitely would not recommend anyone using it as a main interpretation aid, unless they’ve already studied the tarot in depth and are using it as more of mnemonic aid. The booklet also contains one suggested 5-card spread.

Likes: I like the artwork; I think it’s cute. There are certainly a lot of pagans who like cats, and it’s somewhat easier not to project unconscious biases of race or gender accidentally when intuitive reading, because there aren’t human figures (although some of the titles are still gendered: The Empress, The King of Pentacles, etc). The small size is a plus, since I can carry it around with me, though Lo Scarabeo has quite a few decks in their catalog that are this mini size.

Dislikes: I think the booklet is basically useless, and could have been written much better than it was, even including the space constraints, but that’s really my only dislike.

Overall Recommendation

Obviously you’re not going to love this deck if you don’t like cats, but otherwise I think it’s a pretty good travel deck for anyone who’s a seasoned reader and familiar with the RWS system. The artwork lends itself well to intuitive interpretation, but has recognizable RWS imagery. There’s also a regular size edition of this deck, though I haven’t looked at that one in person, which may work better for those who want cards in the standard size, instead of the mini ones, which measure 3 inches x 1.75 inches.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: The Numinous Tarot

Deck: The Numinous Tarot
Publisher: self-published, Numinous Spirit Press
Writer & Artist: Cedar McCloud
Overall Rating: 10/10

image (c) Numinous Spirit Press

Cardstock: It’s pretty thick without being too stiff, and has lovely gilded edges. So far it’s holding up very well to moderate usage for the past year or so. It feels pretty good to riffle shuffle, and the cards don’t stick much but they are pretty glossy.

Artwork: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a deck with artwork this representative. Age, race, ability, gender, size – the artwork is truly diverse. Some of the cards don’t have people on them at all, and those are all gorgeous as well. The attention to detail here, and the patterns on everything from the floors to the clothing, are very impressive. It’s a riot of color!

Book: This deck comes with a full paperback guidebook, not a LWB, with each card in black and white. The Major Arcana have about two pages each, and the Minors just one, but there’s a lot of material here, from descriptions of the scene itself, to keywords and thought-prompting discussions of both upright and reversed meanings. The language is pretty gender-neutral throughout, and the meanings are immersed in themes of social justice and healthy boundaries. The writing style is very accessible.

Likes: I love the diversity of the artwork and how queer it is, from depictions of gender-non-conforming folks, to the subversion of traditionally gendered tarot cards. Instead of Page, Knight, Queen, King, we have Dreamers, Explorers, Creators, and Mystics. The High Priestess becomes The Diviner, The Empress is The Nurturer, The Emperor is The Founder, The Hierophant is The Visionary. They are all still numbered for easy recall. Also, The Devil has been aptly renamed The Shadow, Judgement is now The Awakening, and McCloud added a 23rd Major, called The Numinous (whence the deck title). Suits have been renamed as well, but follow the traditional elements: Candles for Fire, Bells for Air, Vials for Water, and Tomes for Earth. The deck is at once tarot radically reimagined, and also familiar to students of the Rider-Waite-Smith system.

Dislikes: I think my only complaint is that some of the artwork is a little inconsistent, with some cards feeling more polished and some more sketchy, but there might be an intentional pattern to that seeming inconsistency.

Overall Recommendation

If you want a radically accepting queer-friendly deck that has truly diverse representation, you need this deck. I’ve been bringing it to pagan events just to show people! And for an indie deck, it’s really not very expensive. The artwork is very evocative, and is perfect for either a collector or an intuitive reader. It may take a little longer for students of the RWS system to get used to than the sort of decks that simply copying RWS imagery with cats or the like, but it isn’t an entirely new system and I found the transition fairly easy.

This is also my deck of the month for my Patreon for June, in honor of Pride Month!

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Tarot of the Hidden Realm

Deck: Tarot of the Hidden Realm
Publisher: Llewellyn Books
Writer: Barbara Moore
Artist: Julia Jeffries
Overall Rating: 10/10

image (c) Llewellyn Books

Cardstock: It’s supple and very shuffly, but doesn’t feel like I could tear it quite as easily as some of the other decks I’ve reviewed.

Artwork: I LOVE the artwork! The facial expressions are clear and the backgrounds are detailed. There’s plenty of symbolism for intuitive reading. I also really like that these are borderless!

Book: This deck comes with a full paperback guidebook, not a LWB. I like the book – there’s plenty of detail in it to jive off of without it feeling heavy handed. The writer describes the activities of the people in the art, too, to clarify some of the artwork and symbolism. There’s a whole chapter in the front if you’re new to divination, and a chapter in the back with a few spreads.

Likes: Um, Everything? I especially like that this deck is Fairy Themed without being really twee. (Spoilers: most Fae aren’t twee.) I also like some of the renamed Major Arcana (like Life Renewed, depicted above, to replace the very Christian “Judgement”). By far my favorite part is really just the amazing artwork, though!

Dislikes: Ummmmmmm a couple of the cards have artwork reminds me of a celebrity who may have been used as a reference and it’s a tiny bit distracting? That’s a bit of a reach, though. Otherwise… There’s no tuck box, just a large box that fits the book, so I had to find a bag for the cards to keep them in, because the original cardboard bit wasn’t going to keep the cards undamaged, long-term. I really can’t think of anything major.

Overall Recommendation

Now that I own this deck I am astonished that I let it linger on a wishlist for so long! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite decks, and probably my new go-to when dealing with any random personal spiritual nonsense in my life. If you like the artwork you might need this.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Radiant Rider-Waite-Smith

Deck: Radiant Rider-Waite
Publisher: Currently published by US Games Systems, Inc; original deck was published by William Rider & Son in London in 1909
Writer: originally the companion books, The Key to the Tarot, and the revised The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, were written by A.E. Waite.
Artist: original artwork was by Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith; has been digitized and saturated for this deck.
Overall Rating: 6/10

Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot, published by US Games Systems Inc

Cardstock: A little thin, maybe, but pretty standard for US Games. Nothing to write home about. Nice and wiffly but I would bet they’d show wear if I used them more often. Especially those stark white borders!

Artwork: The symbolism is super heavy – everything from the color of the robes to how many stars is pretty much on purpose. So if that’s your thing, more power to you. Besides the Pictorial Key there are dozens of other books about RWS symbolism. I’m really not super fond of Smith’s human figures, though. They all seem a little doll-like to me, but that seems to be her style so it’s more a matter of my personal dislike than her lack of talent.

LWB: It has decent descriptions of the majors but only a few keywords for upright and reversed for other cards, and those seem a little sparse or overly simplistic. I haven’t read the Pictorial Key so I’m not sure how well it compares, but I did buy one of the aforementioned several other books, so I use that instead. (Because, no, I do not have all the zodiac stuff memorized and some of the color symbolism is different from my own understandings.)

Likes: If you want to read tarot books, it helps to have this deck because a lot of them are about this one in particular. Also, a lot of other decks use this same imagery, turned into dragons or elves or cats or whatever. It’s useful if you want to understand the history of tarot divination, too.

Dislikes: I really dislike the Kabbalistic symbolism because I have Feelings about goyim using it. But I think if you’re unfamiliar with that it is easy enough to just ignore and gloss over. I also don’t like how the human figures’ faces have very little expression – I have a few other decks with very expressive artwork and that vibes a lot better with my intuitive reading style.

Overall Recommendation

I really got this deck so that I could start to go “deeper” into the tarot and then I found out that the zodiac stuff and the alchemical symbolism just really don’t jive as well with my reading style. I’m an intuitive reader, not an intellectual reader, and that’s too much conscious analysis. So this is sort of a fall-back deck, more of a collector’s piece than something I use often. Some of my clients like it, though, because it’s recognizable. Ultimately, it doesn’t jive well with me but I would recommend it to newbies or anyone who likes the depth of symbolism.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Egyptian Tarot

Deck: Egyptian Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Writer & Artist: Silvana Alasia
Overall Rating: 5/10

Cardstock: The cardstock is Lo Scarabeo standard, which holds up pretty well and isn’t too flimsy. The sides have a tendency to scuff over time, but I’ve used this one for years and it’s holding up well.

Artwork: The artwork is all Egyptian themed, with figures (some of which are recognizable) for the court cards and majors, and pips for the number cards. There are also quite a few hieroglyphic inscriptions, but alas I cannot (yet?) read those. I like the art style and faux papyrus texture a lot more than I like the ragged black borders.

LWB: It’s in five languages, so each card has barely more than four keywords, and none of the art is explained. I’ve heard there is a longer guidebook but so far I haven’t been able to get my hands on it. For general meanings, the LWB is pretty useless, and it doesn’t clarify much of anything about this particular deck, either.

Likes: It’s very Egyptian. I needed something Egyptian, and this is some of the best Egyptian tarot art on the market.

Dislikes: It took me a long time to learn to read with this deck, because it’s not RWS-based and it has so little information. I think it might be Thoth-based but I’m not familiar with that system and I’m not sure. Also, those borders are really high contrast, which draws the eye too much,

Overall Recommendation

If you’re familiar with multiple systems of tarot, or if you can get your hands on the elusive guidebook, this could be a really great deck for anyone who works with Egyptian deities. If you can’t find the guidebook but you’re willing to put in a lot of work, OR you are better than I am at recognizing deities in art and reading hieroglyphs, it could work okay for you. I cannot recommend it to tarot beginners, though.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Shapeshifter Tarot

Deck: Shapeshifter Tarot
Publisher: Llewellyn
Writer & Artist: DJ Conway, Sirona Knight & Lisa Hunt
Overall Rating: 6/10

Card images (c) Llewellyn

Cardstock: It’s somewhat flimsy, but very springy to shuffle because of that, and the high gloss makes the cards slide against each other smoothly. It doesn’t have any nicked edges, but in the five years I’ve owned this deck it’s never been one of my go-to choices, so it hasn’t seen as much usage as some of my others. I’m not sure how it will hold up under heavy usage.

Artwork: The art is heavy on the blue/green/yellow part of the spectrum, and the images are soft watercolors with no hard outlines. The art almost looks a bit washed out in comparison to the dark blue borders. In keeping with the theme, many of the cards have figures that appear to be in the middle of shape-shifting, with animal imagery overlaying human figures. There’s also some implied nudity, so be aware of that.

LWB: The little white book is pretty useless if you’re looking for actual card meanings. The Majors each have a short paragraph, which is helpful, but the pips and court cards have 3-5 words and that’s it. I’m glad that we have more information for the Majors, though, considering they renamed almost all of them (Sorcerer and Sorceress for Magician and High Priestess, Mother and Father for Empress and Emperor, Circle for Wheel of Fortune, Shapeshifter for Hanged Man, Rebirth for Death, etc). They also added three cards: The Double, The Journey, and The Dreamer. The LWB also includes a couple of original spreads, which is nice.

Likes: I’m partial to air wands and fire swords, so I like that about this deck. I also generally find the artwork evocative, which helps considering how sparse the LWB is. I also like that the court cards are all depicting figures from Celtic mythology, and that these are clearly labeled in the LWB. For example: Gwydion and Arianrhod are the King and Queen of Wands, and Lugh and Brigid are the King and Queen of Swords.

Dislikes: I’m not really sure that the shapeshifting theme is really strong enough to carry this deck, and not all of the mythology choices for the court cards make sense within this context. Brigid, for instance, is depicted as shapeshifting into a wildcat of some variety, which seems an odd choice to me. I think transformation might’ve been a better theme, and would have given them a little more artistic leeway.

Overall Recommendation:

Overall I’m kinda lukewarm on this deck. If the idea of shapeshifting really resonates with you and you’re an intuitive reader, it’s probably perfect. If you’re looking for a deck that draws from Celtic mythology, you’re probably better off looking for something else. I like it, and I’m going to keep it in my collection, but I think it’s going to remain a deck I only use occasionally.

Deck Review

Tarot Deck Review: Fantastical Creatures Tarot

Deck: Fantastical Creatures Tarot

Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc.

Writer & Artist: D.J. Conway, Lisa Hunt

Overall Rating: 8/10

IMGP2636

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.

 

Overall Recommendation:

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.