Deck Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: Mystical Wisdom

August 14, 2017

Mystical Wisdom is an uplifting card deck by Gaye Guthrie, intricately illustrated by Josephine Wall and published by US Games Systems, Inc. The cards offer guidance from angels, fairies, mythical creatures and animal spirits.

The Cards
The 46 cards measure 3.75" x 5.5". With cards of this size, I am unable to riffle shuffle them comfortably in the usual manner. But luckily, the cards are flexible enough to riffle shuffle vertically. This is so important to me, because I live for riffle shuffling.

The cards are borderless on three sides (yay!) with bottom borders of various colors throughout the deck. The bottom border features the card name and key phrase. The backs are a soft antiquated pink/purple with a reversible design. There is a copyright marking on the lower right edge of the backs, so they are not entirely reversible. The cards are not glossy, but there is a slight sheen to them in the light.

The cards and booklet are housed in a strong and sturdy cardboard box with cutouts for ease in lifting the top off.

The illustrations are very intricate, colorful and busy. When first going through the deck, I thought it was going to be way too chaotic for me to read with. And I still can't see myself using this deck for big multi-card spreads for this reason. But for single card pulls or very small layouts, the amount of detail in each card is wonderful. Some of the cards are less busy than others, but most of them have a lot going on. So for a single question, there are so many places for your intuitive eye to fall on. There are many layers to the answers you will receive.

The majority of the cards are concepts such as Resilience, Illusion, Intuition, Money, Letting Go, etc. There are also seven animal (both real and mythical) cards (Dragonfly, Owl, Dolphin, Dove, Peacock, Unicorn, Dragon) in addition to an Animal Bond card. There are two Archangel cards: Raphael and Gabriel. I do wonder why only two of the Archangels were included, and why these two were specifically selected. There is also an Angel of Miracles card.

Two cards I really like in the deck are titled Seven Heavenly Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins. I'm a sucker for very specific opposites in decks, and these are such an interesting and unique inclusion.

There is a "Children" card that I find limiting. The book has a 4-sentence description of this card, along with the key phrase "Know that your children are protected" and mantra "My children are happy and safe". The card lets you know that God and the angels are protecting your children. What about people with no children? There is no alternate, metaphorical meaning given for this card. When decks include a card like this, exclusive to a certain group of the population, I scratch my head a bit.

All the main characters in the deck are women. The only men are found in the distant backgrounds of some of the cards, as side characters.

The illustrations are packed with dream-like fantasy elements. You will find unicorns, mermaids, a winged centaur, a young man with antlers, a deer/bird hybrid, a dragon with dragonfly wings, fish with butterfly wings, fairies, and a leprechaun (?), just for starters. You'll also see Victorian age London, romantic Renaissance scenes, fantasy nature elements, an Oscar (Academy Award) statue, castles and spiral staircases (love a spiral staircase!). There is just so much to see and explore in these cards. I love that you can definitely find the unexpected within this deck. From a distance, the cards look a bit similar to one another, but you will be delighted upon closer inspection on the surprising details you will find.

The beautiful illustrations and colors transport you into another world. A surreal place where your intuition can work wonders if you let it roam free.

How it Reads
My first reading with this deck amazed me. That morning, I had asked another oracle deck how I could change my relationship with money. I received cards that told me to stop believing I had to conform to society's rules about money. I needed to shift my mindset and allow myself to know that nonconformity and originality can be attractive to the energy of money. That night, I took the Mystical Wisdom deck out for the first time and simply asked what I needed to know. I drew the cards Money and Originality. They gave me the exact same message I received earlier that day from another deck! Down to the same exact words that had come to me! I was blown away.

For my second draw, I pulled a single card and drew the gorgeous Illusion card. In the card, I saw the message that "something is not as it seems" and that unveiling this truth would be of great benefit. I saw that the illusion might be difficult to penetrate, as it had been something I viewed as a part of myself. The mirror image in the card is actually not a mirror image! The lady's face looks forward, while the mirror image is turned more to the side. In this, I saw that when we identify with an illusion, we often can't see it.

One day I drew the Good Fortune card and I received a wonderful package in the mail, and also very exciting news via email. The card hit the nail on the head that day!

The next day I drew the Choices card, and I absolutely was faced with a very difficult decision to make that day. This card helped me make the right decision, because it reminded me to make the right choice for ME. I was very grateful for drawing this perfect card for the day. I did as the card suggested.

The day after that, I drew the Children card, which says my children are protected. And wouldn't you know it, the decision I made with the help of the previous card's message (it involved my kids) resulted in a situation that blew away into nothing, and everything worked out for the best. Another spot on card!

Then, the next day I drew the Choices card again. And again, I had a decision to make that I was going back and forth on. I was trying to be lenient and kind, resulting in letting someone treat me like a doormat. So when this card appeared, I remembered to make a decision that was right for me, so I did. And less than two weeks later, the situation ended up turning out in my favor as a result of standing up for myself.

The day after that, I was still fretting about my decision. I was still worked up about it, worrying whether my action would result in justice. I drew the card Letting Go. I had to laugh at this point at how accurate this deck was for my life. The card told me to let the situation go, and expect the best to happen. So I did. And it did.

I had Archangel Raphael come up one day to encourage me to heal my negative thoughts, something I can always, always use a reminder of. The Gratitude card showed up the next day, which I felt went hand in hand with Raphael's message the day before.

So as you can see, the card pulls I did with this deck were eerily on point. They were super helpful and a true blessing for me that week. I made actual choices based on the guidance from the cards and I was rewarded with positive outcomes in every instance.

The Book
The 64 page booklet is a stapled book (no binding) with a thick, glossy cardstock cover. There is a Table of Contents listing the cards in alphabetical order. There is a two-page section on how to use the deck. Then it jumps right into the card meanings. I love when booklets don't beat around the bush, and get straight to the meanings.

Every card has its own page. At the top of the page is a small, cropped section of the card image, in black and white. The full card is not shown. Beneath this is the card title and key phrase (also listed on the card itself). Next is a paragraph on the card's meaning. The meanings are very uplifting, inspiring, motivating, and empowering. At the bottom of the page is a mantra specific to each card. For example, the mantra for the Good Fortune card is "I trust in the magic of life to fulfill my desires.".

At the end of the book are a few spreads:

  • Single card reading
  • 3-Card Spread (for the beginning, middle and end of the week)
  • 4-Card Spread (Past, Present, Future, Outcome)
  • 12-Card Celtic Cross Spread (yes, 12 card, not 10 card)

The booklet ends with a page each dedicated to the author and illustrator, and two blank pages for notes.

Final Thoughts
This deck is beautiful, but it is so much more than that. There are surprises at every turn in the imagery. I am delighted with the sheer magnitude of variety in the illustrations. The cards have an energy that I was able to click with effortlessly. If there is something specific I am dealing with, the cards will address that exact situation with guidance that, when followed, always leads to my highest good. If it is a day with not much going on, it will give me a general piece of advice that lifts me up and makes me a better version of myself.

I personally will continue to use this deck for single card draws myself. There is enough to go with in a single card that I feel pulling more might make my readings feel rushed, murky and less complete. Using this deck, I prefer to engage fully with one card at a time, unless another question spawns from that reading.

I thought this deck might be just a bunch of pretty pictures with no substance. I couldn't have been more mistaken. I was shocked to find how amazingly the deck read for me, how it addressed my specific situations with incredible precision and true wisdom. I am so grateful for the paths it led me on during the time I worked with it exclusively, and that I was wise enough to trust its guidance.

Deck: Mystical Wisdom Card Deck, by Gaye Guthrie, illustrated by Josephine Wall, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

Deck Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: The Darkness of Light Tarot

July 13, 2017

The Darkness of Light Tarot is visually stunning self-published tarot deck by Tony DiMauro. The premise of the deck is that there is always balance between light and dark. There is always a bit of light in the darkness, and darkness in the light.

The Cards
The cards measure approximately 2 3/4" x 4 3/4". The backs are reversible and feature a horizontal image of two wolf heads. The cards have a light sheen to them. The borders are black, a brilliant choice, as white would have given such a different feel to this deck. The titles are set along the top border. One of the unique aspects of this deck is in the titles. The Majors are titled in Italian (for historical and personal reasons), and the Minors in English.

The card stock is okay, but not the greatest. It shuffles very nicely and comfortably, but after my very first (riffle) shuffle, there was already some chipping. After a couple weeks with it, it is already showing wear and tear, with many of the edges starting to come apart. I think cards with black borders tend to show wear more quickly. So the cards won't stay pristine for long. I'm not thrilled about this, but I happen to like the look of a well worn deck, and I think the style of the artwork in this deck lends itself to looking especially magical when worn.

One of my cards (the Ace of Cups) came with a printing error on the back, a white splotch at the bottom of the card. So if I were to fan out the cards, I would know that card was the Ace of Cups from the back. I don't generally fan out the cards in a reading, so it's not really an issue.

The cards come housed in a black matte tuck box. There is a warning on the website ( about opening the box. It is tough to open without danger of ripping the top, so you do need to open it carefully. The top of mine is warped now. The deck also comes with a nice cotton drawstring bag printed with the wolf design from the backs of the cards.

The order the cards come in is deliberately different from the way you may be used to. You will first see the Major Arcana, but then the suits move in reverse order through the seasons (Blades, Coins, Cups, then Wands) as though time were moving backwards. And in each suit, the cards are arranged alphabetically (excluding the numbered cards). So instead of Ace through King, you will have 2-10, then Ace, King, Knight, Page, Queen. One of the reasons for this ordering is because the artist wanted each suit to end with the Queen as the final authority, so instead of just switching the places of the Queen and King, he reordered it entirely. This way, among the numbered cards, Aces are "high", making it feel more aligned with the Courts than on the opposite end of the suit. This reordering also turns the initial power structure on its head, beginning with the King and ending with the Queen.

Ultimately, the reason for this reordering has to do with balance and opposites in nature, as with light and dark (the very theme of the deck itself). There will be more detailed information on this when the guidebook is released. The artist has very deliberate reasons for doing everything he does. It is astounding how much thought he has put into the execution of this deck, from start to finish. Even with something so temporary like the ordering of the cards, which will disappear as quickly as a sand castle, with the very first shuffle.

The cards are dark, and mostly blacks, whites and greys, with small splashes of color here and there. The most vibrant cards are in the Wands suit. The art style is different from any other deck I have seen. It was painted both traditionally and digitally. I am magnetically drawn to the knife painting style of the backgrounds. It's what first piqued my interest in the deck, while the rest of the artwork maintains my captivation.

The suits are named Blades, Coins, Cups, and Wands. They follow seasons different from what I am used to. In this deck, the correspondences are as follows:

Blades: Winter
Coins: Autumn
Cups: Summer
Wands: Spring

I am used to Wands (fire) representing the heat of Summer, and the Cups (water) representing Spring. There is a wonderful plus side of Wands being Spring in this deck... the coloring! The vibrant pinks and beautiful flowers of the Wands suit make this one of my favorite Wands suit of any deck. It is such a lovely vacation from the yellow and oranges you usually see in the suit. I don't use seasonal timing in my readings, so it doesn't make any difference to me where the seasons are applied. An interesting thing I learned was that the artist painted each suit in its corresponding season.

There are so many cards I want to discuss. The breathtakingly gorgeous Universe card is one of my favorites from any deck. The sash translates into: "All light will turn to darkness, and in all darkness, there is found light." The Chariot card is so fantastic. In most decks the Chariot feels ironically lifeless, dull, static and boring, despite its intended meaning. This Chariot has life in it, power, beauty, movement and soul. It has a story behind it. I love it.

The Magician is hot. I'll just leave that there, with my full gratitude. The beautiful Empress is designed after one of my favorite artists, John William Waterhouse. The Emperor and Hierophant are usually my least favorite cards in a deck (the ones I certainly relate to the least) and they came up for me together one day. They are both fascinating to look at. The Emperor is such an interesting character. He has to be one of my all-time favorite Emperors, if not my very favorite. I love his stance and the expression on his face. The Hierophant appears to have only one leg, and I don't know if that was intentional. Whether it is or not, I only see the shape of one leg beneath his robe, and I rather like that quirk. It leaves me wondering what his whole story is.

There are a couple cards where the person's face is washed out (Temperance and Page of Blades). I love this so much, but I can't say why. It lends a creepy atmosphere (Temperance much more so) which I am really drawn to.

The Five of Wands is absolutely beautiful to look at, but it doesn't give me the feeling of competition and fighting you usually see in this card, so it's one I struggle with. I am fascinated with the Six of Cups. It has a strangely eerie feeling to me, despite being a generally positive card. It gives me the feeling of a bittersweet happy ending to a psychological horror/thriller movie, where the kid is alive at the end, but has just gone through some seriously traumatizing shit.

The Eight of Cups is gorgeous, and the Nine of Cups is one of my favorite Nine of Cups ever. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but I just love this dude so much. He has a really chill vibe. He looks like if Dumbledore was a muggle.

The Four of Blades is brilliant, taking place at a gravestone. It is a card of rest. In this case, eternal rest. As rested as you get. The Six of Blades has a stunning gothic vibe. The Ace of Wands is beautiful, and the Ace of Coins is simple, yet I find it positively captivating.

I know the Three of Coins (showing three masked, caped men walking towards you) absolutely has a backstory that I am dying to hear. The Six of Coins has a similar feel. As if you've walked in in the middle of a movie, not knowing what you've missed. There are a lot of cards that beg further questioning, so many details left open for interpretation and I love that. I will discuss another example of this further on in the review.

There are some cards that I can't completely make out in the darkness of the image, and some where the dimensions seem off to me. For example, it is really hard for me to make out what the patch of snow is resting on in the Five of Coins. It looks like it is floating in mid-air. It comes across much more clear in the online images. Also, the left leg of the man in the Ten of Swords appears to be missing a calf. It looks like his thigh just turns into a very large foot at the knee. It must be an optical illusion I can't make sense of for myself.

I do believe I saw somewhere that the artist actually sculpted the faces for the Star, Moon and Sun cards. There are so many levels of fascination to this deck. There are several cards with a dog in it, and it appears to be the same dog throughout the deck, which I thought was a really cool touch. Also, the deck is filled with Easter eggs (hidden references). Among them, the artist promised a piece from art history in every suit, the Three of Coins being one of them.

The Pages and Knights are evenly gendered, each having two males and two females. At least, I assume there are two male Knights, as their heads are covered with armor helmets. And the Page of Blades has a blurred out face, but I will assume it is a male, to make sense of the gender equality.

The Page of Wands reminds me of an actor, but I can't place him. The Knight of Cups is simply wonderful, as is the King of Coins, both so unique and mesmerizing.

The Kings, I read on Tony's Instagram page, may be seen (up to your interpretation, of course) as the same man at different points in his life. I thought this was a lovely idea, and would have loved to have seen the same age/maturity progression with the Queens.

How it Reads
My first reading with this deck was a Mind-Body-Spirit reading that was on point. In the Mind position, I drew the Eight of Wands, which was indicative of the crazy pace of my monkey mind. And it is this card I drew that I want to discuss further. The Eight of Wands is a perfect example of a card that begs many questions, and is open to many interpretations. The man stands with a bow aimed, but the bow has no string and he has no arrow, though his arm is cocked, ready to let go. Is he practicing using visualization? Are those branches (wands) above his head going to be made into arrows? What about the string? Are the string and arrow invisible because Wands is the spiritual suit, and it is not about physical action, but unseen action? Has he already let the arrow fly, and it was so fast and powerful that it took the bow's string with it? Does he not have the necessary materials ready because everything has just happened too fast (great speed being a traditional meaning for this card)? There is so much that can be interpreted from this image alone.

I found that for my daily draws, most of my readings produced brilliant philosophical thoughts, rather than divination for the day. And as soon as I turned the cards over, I heard the messages in my head. One day I drew the Nine of Cups and Seven of Cups and I heard "If you could have anything you wanted, what would you choose? Now how about this? You can have anything you want. Just choose!"

The next day I drew the Hierophant and the Emperor, and like I mentioned earlier, I normally can't relate to either of these two guys. They are like white noise when they come up in readings for me. But I like their depictions in this deck, they feel more approachable than usual. The Hierophant appeared to be channeling divine wisdom, and his arm stretched out of the card towards the Emperor, who was backing away slightly like "You want me to do WHAT now?" The cards spoke to me of a power struggle, illustrating my need to either decide between two approaches to something, or to blend two approaches for a compromise, perhaps being open to bending my own rules a bit to allow for a new way of doing or seeing things.

One morning I drew two cards (Six of Cups and the Moon) right after waking up from a dream. The Moon card can represent dreams, and the illustration on the Six of Cups was so reminiscent of the dream I had just woken up from!

The next day I drew two cards, along with two oracle cards and they all read together beautifully. I always like to pair tarot decks with oracles to see if they play nicely with others, and this one did not disappoint. The tarot cards I drew were Strength and the Tower, and along with the oracle cards, the message I received was one that ended up being eerily relevant in the coming days. It was about the strength it takes to start all over from scratch, when you have come so far. Knowing you will be better off, happier in the long run if you start all over from square one, even though you might be so close to the (much crappier) finish line right now. The message was to follow the calling of the heart instead of following progress just for progress' sake. And it was one I really needed to hear in the coming days.

The day after that, I drew The Five of Blades and the Magician and had another wise message come through me that I wouldn't know I'd need until that night. And boy, did I ever need to hear it (along with the one from the previous day)! This pair told me, "When you feel like you are at an unfair disadvantage, remember your power. Reclaim your inner fire. You can turn anything around with the power of your mind." That evening, I had a major Tower moment (predicted the day before) and this two-card reading saved my spirit from being crushed. It kept me strong and inspired me to keep my head up and stay in my power. I am so extremely thankful for that. This was one of those important moments when the tarot really, truly made an impact in my life. And that sweetheart of a Magician came up for me again the next day, as a beautiful reminder.

I had another reading that incredibly echoed an epic reading I did with another deck the week before, confirming the importance of the message and the progress I was making.

I did a few more readings with the deck, and for daily draws, I would always get a piece of sage wisdom that I would hear in my head as soon as I turned the cards over. And in a reading with deliberate questions and spread positions, I would receive relevant information and smart advice.

In the eleven readings I have done with this deck before sitting down to write this review, I never once drew a Court card. So, amazingly, I can't comment on how the Courts read for me at this time. I can only say that they are gorgeous.

There is no accompanying LWB at this time. The artist is working on a book with a tentative release goal of Fall 2017. It will most likely be a free PDF download from his website, with a fancy printed copy for sale for collectors. I cannot wait to read the book. Having had several conversations with Tony, I know him to be a very detail-oriented artist, putting a tremendous about of energy into each card. I know the book will be extremely well thought out with meticulous detail. It promises to be a fascinating look at all the hidden details in the cards.

Final Thoughts
The Darkness of Light Tarot is an incredibly unique, artistic deck. It is outrageously beautiful and so pleasing to the eye. It is on the darker side, literally, color-wise, so I wouldn't think to grab it for a reading if someone needed cheering up. But I'm a fan of dark things, so I wouldn't hesitate to use it for regular readings. It feels mellow yet powerful at the same time, which I feel plays well into the deck's theme of opposites.

The artwork does stray from RWS a bit here and there, but I think it would be a fine deck for a beginner. There is a bit of nudity, and it has a mature feel to it, so it's not one I would use for kids.

This is a deck with artwork that calls to my soul. It feels good to look at the images, no matter what cards I draw. That is a rare thing for me. I love this deck with a passion... it is without a doubt one of the greats.

Deck: The Darkness of Light Tarot self-published by Tony DiMauro

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Heart of the Labyrinth

July 08, 2017

The Heart of the Labyrinth is a soulful tale by Nicole Schwab, published by female-forward Womancraft Publishing.

Maya's world is about to change irrevocably. Her health is severely failing her, while her career, family and very identity disintegrate simultaneously. She discovers something about her past which leads her to follow the callings of her soul, returning to the home of her ancestors. There she meets two people instrumental to her physical and soul healing. The characters' stories are eventually all woven together beautifully. The story oscillates between various lifetimes while Maya rediscovers her purpose and reconnects with the divine feminine within. The story is fiction, but rings true.

The themes in the book include earth-based physical and soul healing, the divine feminine, priestesses and oracles, old and new religion, deliberate creation, following your soul's calling, dreams and visions, reincarnation and past lives. 

Everywhere you turn these days, there is a new spiritual book popping up. So many of them are simplified and dumbed down to appeal to the masses. They are vapid and empty of quality, depth and real meaning. The Heart of the Labyrinth is not one of those books. It is a refreshingly smart, deep and rich read.

This book takes you on a journey where you can witness the beauty of a soulful connection between humans and the earth, as well as the detrimental effects when there is disconnection between the two. Many times during my reading of this book, I would pause for awhile to absorb the sentence I had just read, then I would re-read it again. It was a luscious reading experience.

For the first few days I would read a passage from the book, then draw a couple cards from my Haindl Tarot deck. The cards would directly mimic the passage I had just read, like magic. This synchronicity served to emphasize the importance of the messages in this book.

The Heart of the Labyrinth encourages you to listen to the call of your inner wisdom. To return to a consciousness that incorporates the power of the divine feminine. To return to the earth for healing and spiritual connection. It is not a self-help book, but a journey within, where you are sure to recognize parts of yourself throughout Maya's journey. It is a wonderfully refreshing spiritual book that shines apart from the rest. It reminds us that we all have the power within us to be what we want to be, to live up to our spiritual potential, to stand strong against earthly destruction and to recognize the connection between the earth's health and our own. This book helps to waken us up from the dream we are caught in. Living a life of mediocrity and conformity is not necessary or inevitable. The Heart of the Labyrinth will help you remember who you really are and the beautiful life you are truly capable and deserving of living.

Book: The Heart of the Labyrinth, by Nicole Schwab, published by Womancraft Publishing.

Deck Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Ghetto Tarot

July 08, 2017

Ghetto Tarot is a remarkable photographic deck by award-winning Belgian photographer Alice Smeets and a group of Haitian artists called Atis Rezistans who make art out of trash. The artists served as actors in the photographs and created the sculptures and collages (from found objects and materials) used as props in the images.

From the LWB: "In Haiti, 'ghetto' means a life in the slums. It means living without financial security. Yet 'ghetto' also means community, family, solidarity, strength and rich creativity. The Haitians are claiming the word 'ghetto' for their own. The word reached the island from overseas where it was associated with racism, poverty and exclusion. They liberate themselves of this unfavorable interpretation and are turning it into something beautiful. Their act of appropriating a cheerless world by altering its meaning is an act of inspiration."

The Cards
The cards are large, measuring slightly over 3 1/2" x 5 1/4". The backs are reversible. The mystical emblem on the backs stands for creative power, created by Yannick Dubois, who also drafted the whimsical font for the cards. The cards are matte with a light sheen. The card stock is nice and sturdy. The cards are a little stiff, and this coupled with the large size of the cards makes them a bit hard to shuffle, but they are of very good quality.

The cards and LWB come in a beautifully designed, sturdy box with a lift-off top.

The cards have a white border and inside this, a thin rough black border. I think it complements the photography beautifully. The Majors, Courts and Aces have a title at the bottom of the card (the Majors also have a Roman numeral) within a white border. The Minors are unnumbered and untitled. They do not have the added bottom border. (So this deck would not be a good candidate for trimming because the image area is larger on the Minors.) I love that the Minors have no titles or numbers! I feel like it really makes the images pop and stand out. The imagery closely follows RWS tradition, so if you are already familiar with tarot, you will recognize the cards at first glance. If you are a beginner, you can either memorize them or count the props in the cards.

The suits in this deck are a little different. Cups and Pentacles remain, but Brooms replace Wands and Machetes replace Swords.

I did notice that the Strength card is misspelled. It is spelled "Strenght" on the card, but spelled correctly in the booklet.

This deck may have my favorite Ace of Wands (Brooms) of all time. It is so extremely striking! There is a "wand" on fire in what looks like a metal trash can. The flames coming up from the can are magnificent! The Ace of Machetes is also very powerful and one of my favorites.

The Nine of Machetes is another favorite. It's one that when I look at it, it's hard to look away. I just want to keep staring at it. I am entranced by the juxtaposition of the cheerful pink color of the wall next to the bent over figure of the woman who we know to be having nightmares (whether real or dreamt).

The Star is so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes. Here is a real woman, with a real body, simple and stunning. This deck makes me feel things. These are real people. They aren't photoshopped to perfection. They shine in their natural perfection.

The Nine of Cups is very striking. The Ten of Cups is darling, with a family of four in front of a rainbow painted on a wall. The adults have their backs to us with arms around each other and the two children are holding hands. I absolutely adore the creepy doll used as the angel prop in the Judgment card. And I love seeing some of the props reused, like the plastic horse head used in the Sun card and the Six of Brooms.

The Four of Machetes is perfect, even down to the box he is laying on, which says "Fragile", a wonderful adjective for the frame of mind you are in when you have found yourself in need of that Four of Swords rest!

There are a few cards that are intentionally blurry. The Tower is my least favorite card in the deck because it makes me dizzy. I can't look at it for more than a second. I have an issue where I can't watch shaky cam movies, home movies or 3-D video games without feeling dizzy and getting sick. This card triggers that feeling in me, so unfortunately I can't physically look at it. A few of the other cards have smaller blurred areas which don't bother me.

The leg pose of the guy in the Seven of Machetes feels forced to me. It doesn't seem like a natural pose at all, even if one were slinking away.

The Seven of Brooms stands out to me because it looks more modern than the rest. There is something about the man that seems like he is slightly out of place in the deck. I don't know if it's his haircut, clothing, or what. It's not a negative thing, he just has a different, more modern, urban vibe to him than the rest of the characters.

The Five of Cups is magnificent, illustrating the sorrow amidst the squalor. It's a beautiful shot. "Beautiful" is a word that I find myself repeating over and over about this deck, and it amazes me because the photos are taken in a place of extreme poverty. But there is so much beauty in all of the images. It is extremely moving. I have never been so emotionally moved by a deck before.

The man in the Death card is dressed up as Baron Saturday. From the LWB: "Baron Saturday is the owner of the cemetery, lord of sex and death, master of magic and masons, protector from zombies and leader of the Guede (family of Haitian Voodoo spirits that embody the powers of death and fertility)." I love the Death card in general, I loved this card at first glance, and I love it even more now that I know the character it represents.

There are several cards with no people in them, each as interesting as the next. The Wheel of Fortune is a really cool chalk drawing of the RWS Wheel of Fortune imagery. The Devil is a sculpture of Baron Kriminel, a feared spirit in Voodoo (a murderer who has been condemned to death and is invoked to pronounce swift judgment). Very cool. The Moon features a mixed-material collage with the familiar RWS symbols. The Ace of Brooms I have already described (sooooo gorgeous!). The Eight of Brooms shows eight brooms, alternating heads and tails. The heads of the four broom bristles we can see are on fire. The Ace of Cups shows water splashing into a cup from up above. The Three of Machetes has three machetes crossed within a heart that has been drawn with chalk on the ground. The Ace of Pentacles has an industrial vibe to it, with a single pentacle inside some circular metal parts of some sort. And the only human presence in the Ace of Machetes is an outstretched arm holding the machete.

The Knights are all portrayed by the same actor, and the photos were done really creatively, each of the Knights riding a different method of transportation. The Knight of Brooms stands proudly and triumphantly on the hood of a Mack truck. The Knight of Cups sits calmly on a bicycle. The Knight of Machetes stands valiantly on the back of what looks like a truck turned into a bus. And the Knight of Pentacles rides a motorcycle.

The Pages are also all played by the same actor (a different actor than the Knights). I adore his cheeky attitude in some of the poses.

The Queens are played by three different actresses, with the Queens of Cups and Pentacles being played by the same woman. Likewise, the Kings are played by three different actors, with the Kings of Cups and Pentacles being played by the same man.

You will find many of the same actors and actresses appear throughout the deck.

I am absolutely astounded at the resourcefulness and creativity of the Atis Rezistans, creating props for 78 tarot images using found, discarded materials. It blows me away. This deck! I'm just flabbergasted!

How it Reads
My very first reading out of the gate with this deck had such amazing synchronicity. I drew the Eight of Wands and Six of Swords. I saw a quick getaway, a hasty retreat. I had been attempting to monitor my thoughts to see how much negativity and worry unconsciously seeps through (a lot, as it turns out). When I turned over these cards, I was reminded that when I check in, I am able to consciously and quickly retreat from worry and instead deliberately focus on what is going well, what my blessings are. Shortly after I did this reading, I turned to the LWB for the first time and read on the back cover: "...the Ghetto Tarot will guide you in changing your perception, turning negativity in your life into positivity while discovering the power of your own thoughts." !!!!! What incredible synchronicity! So right away, I had a connection with the energy of this deck.

That night, my daughter was going to bed and said good night. I told her to pick a card from my new deck before going to sleep. She drew the Four of Swords! The go-to-sleep card! Then she had a question and drew the Eight of Wands (one of the cards from my daily draw, above). Then she had another question and drew the Six of Swords (the other card from my daily draw!!!). The synchronicity with that first reading I did carried even further than I had anticipated! It was so magical!

Later on in the week, I also drew the Four of Swords at bedtime! This deck definitely recognizes and appreciates rest exactly when it is warranted!

My second day with the deck, I drew the Death card and asked what needed to die, pulling an oracle card for the answer. The result was something that actually, physically played out in my life that day, so it was spot on.

I did a reading using a shadow spread from the LWB which was astoundingly enlightening. It was long and personal, so I won't go into it, but it was incredibly insightful and brutally honest.

The next day I drew the Fool and the Magician. Yes, the deck was well shuffled. When I get a new deck, I shuffle until no cards are in order. So just a few days into reading with this deck, the Fool and Magician found their rightful places next to each other and appeared for me. That was the first day of Summer (Fool), and on the first three nights of each season, I do a magick (Magician) ritual. So those cards nailed my actions for that day as well.

The day after that I drew the Nine of Swords and Seven of Pentacles. I heard the questions, "What I can harvest from my darkness? What light can come of my shadow work?" Those were questions I was working on uncovering from my previous shadow reading with this deck. Also, I saw myself in the first card, worrying, and then the guy in the second card asked, "How's that working for ya?". Point taken.

The next day I drew the King of Machetes and Tower reversed. (I don't read reversals, but when this card came up, I knew to read it as the reversed meaning.) I was woken up early by the sound of a neighbor working on his deck with power tools (The Tower reversed can be building or rebuilding something, as opposed to something falling apart.).

One day I drew the Ten of Machetes and Ten of Cups and immediately heard in my head, "Turn that frown upside down!". The side by side imagery of those two cards was incredible. The Ten of Swords is obviously a frown worthy event, to say the least. And the Ten of Cups has a rainbow in the natural rainbow-shape of a frown, but the man and woman are holding up their arms, together making the shape of a smile. Such an uplifting daily draw.

Alice Smeets offers a free ebook download on her website ( about embracing your shadow side, among other things. One of the questions in the book was "What would I do with my time if I were a millionaire?". I answered with one word: Travel. Then a few sentences later was the prompt to shuffle your cards and ask, "What activity would make my life more blissful?" I drew the Two of Wands. And you know the first thing I saw in that card. The only thing I saw. The globe. The freaking globe! This deck is so magical, I am telling you. I decided that I wouldn't wait until I was a millionaire to start traveling. I would travel right here, in my area. I would look at my neighborhood as if I were a tourist. So I took my daughter to the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial because we have lived here for six years now and have never been there. So through this deck and book, I have already had a new life experience.

This deck reads beautifully, and even magically at times. It is so honest and upfront. It is always, always relevant. Amazingly so!

The 68-page LWB is the same size as the cards and is printed on really nice smooth paper. There is a Table of Contents followed by four pages of information on the background of the deck and artists. The next three pages include general information about tarot. Next is a section on "Tarot as a Healing Tool" in which the photographer/writer shares personal tidbits and viewpoints on creating our own reality.

There is an incredible 6-card spread included. I never use the spreads provided in LWBs. I always breeze right past them because they are usually either spreads I have seen a million times (past-present-future) or they are boring. But the spread in this LWB (Reveal Your Shadows) was so different, so brilliant, that I HAD to do it!

The spread is designed to reveal your most dominant suppressed shadow and how it affects various parts of your life (one of each of the suits) by reading the shadow aspects of the cards, as well as the suppressed light that can be revealed (reading the light side of the final card) when you fully embrace the shadow.

The book warns that you only do this spread when you are ready to confront your dark side, doing it in the company of a healer or therapist if you feel you need support. As I mentioned earlier, the author has a free ebook "Love Your Shadow Side" on her website to help you deal with the feelings that may come up when confronting your shadows, and how to embrace those feelings and love your shadow side.

There are two cards to each page. Each passage begins with the title of the card and key word or phrase. There is a small black and white photo of each card. Then there are brief meanings given for both the Light and Shadow sides of the cards, just a few keywords or phrases.

You can use the Light and Shadow meanings for your upright/reversed cards, or if you don't read with reversals, you can incorporate either/or based on your intuitive feeling at the time of the reading. When doing the shadow spread in the book, you will be prompted to read either the Light or Shadow aspects of the cards, based on their position in the spread.

Beneath the Light and Shadow meanings, you will find a small paragraph further discussing the card. You'll notice that the Light meaning doesn't necessarily mean "good".


Five of Machetes - Accept the limits of victory and defeat.
Light: Realization of limitations and restrictions, mind games, hostility
Shadow: Loss, defeat, failure, poverty, humiliation, fear
• Acknowledging my opponent's strength is not a weakness. Listen to yourself and stop thoughts from limiting your actions. Big ambitions need to be planned as well as small achievements.

Each card passage ends with the Actor and Artist names, when applicable. I love that this information is included for each card. Sometimes a little background information is given on the artwork or character in the card.

Final Thoughts
This deck is uplifting, raw, emotive and powerful. So powerful! So moving. There is beauty in every image, in the people, the upcycled artwork and the photography. The theme of the deck is turning negativity into positivity, as the Haitian artists have done with their found art materials. I am in awe of this incredible creation, this important contribution to the tarot world. This has been a pretty lengthy review, and yet I could still go on and on, discussing each and every card. I want every reader to have this deck.

I always work with a deck for a week before writing a review because I insist on knowing how it actually reads for me. I then file the deck away and move onto the next deck. I did not file this deck away. I had a very hard time not continuing to use it for my daily draws. I had to drag myself away. It now sits always within arm's reach, at home among my favorite decks.

Deck: Ghetto Tarot by Alice Smeets and Atis Rezistans

Deck Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Happy Tarot

June 25, 2017

Happy Tarot is an adorable tarot deck abundant with children and sweets, with illustrations by Serena Ficca, published by Lo Scarabeo.

The Cards
The cards measure approximately 2 5/8" x 4 3/4". They are the standard (awesome) Lo Scarabeo card stock, shuffling beautifully. The backs are reversible. The design on the back is a moon with black circle eyelashed eyes surrounded by stars and purple clouds filled with treats (candy and fruit) and a couple of owls.

The borders are are a light beige with no wording on them at all, only numbers and symbols. The Major Arcana have Roman Numerals along the top and bottom borders, which is redundant. I don't know why they felt the need to print the numbers on the cards twice. The Minors have regular (non-Roman) numbers on the bottoms and the suit symbol at the top (Candy Canes for Wands, what looks like an ice cream bowl for Cups, Swords and Pentacles). The Court Cards each have the suit symbol on the top border and the Court symbol on the bottom (What looks like an arrow or magic wand for Pages, a toy stick horse for Knights, a small crown for Queens and a larger crown for Kings.)

Before I got the deck, from the scans I had seen online, I thought it might be way too saccharine. Like I could feel my teeth ache from looking at some of the images loaded with candy, imagining the entire deck to be overly sweet. But when I had the deck in hand, I was surprised to find that it didn't feel that way at all. Sure, it is obviously a sweet deck, there's a lot of candy in the images. But there is enough otherwise going on in most of the cards so that it doesn't feel overly dripping with sugar.

Most of the cards feature kids smiling, often with wide open mouths, sometimes maniacally so (like in The Sun). Even the nudity in the deck is adorable, as the private parts are covered up by tiny hearts!

The Hermit, one of my favorite tarot cards, is my favorite card in this deck. The colors in it are so gorgeous! I love the darker, richer colors in the Eight of Cups and Two of Swords. I find the Eight of Cups really pretty. The clouds in the Aces remind me of the show Adventure Time, and all I can see when I look at the Nine of Wands is the face of Charlie Brown! The scene in the Seven of Cups is so cute, with a little girl and a cat on a beach looking at a window display of cups filled with treasures. And the old woman's face in the Five of Pentacles is so sweet!

The little figure sneaking away in the Seven of Swords is adorably wrapped up in a kerchief, the only part of the face showing is closed eyes. The Lovers card is hilarious, with the man jutting his stuff forward with a cheeky grin, hands on hips, "Look at me!" while the woman holds her hands up to her face in delight.

In the Five of Cups, I can actually hear the kid crying and whining. And in the Five of Wands, there is one kid that cracks me up. There is a group of kids fighting with clubs and this one kid has his mouth wide open, screaming, with his club in both hands over his shoulder, and you can tell he is just about to swing that thing around like a baseball bat to whack the other kid upside the head. But there is a kid he doesn't see behind him who looks like he will get hit with it first. It's just a really funny scene.

I love that the Nine of Swords is almost bare of sweets. There are nine plain wooden swords on the wall behind a little girl up in bed, with her hands over her eyes. Her blanket has roses on it. Her headboard has a purple swirl on it like a lollipop without a stick. And in her side drawer is a subtle package with a picture of a wrapped candy on it. So there is no crazy sweets-action going on here to detract from the drama of the card.

There are a couple of cards that feel off to me. The girl in the Nine of Pentacles has a face/head that feels like it is proportioned differently than the other characters in the deck, so it stands out to me. The nose of the girl in the Six of Wands looks unnatural to me, maybe because most of the characters don't have noses, and this one is really oddly pronounced/shaped. And the woman in the Ten of Pentacles, who appears to be a grandmotherly type, has a sort of warped facial expression in both the eyes and mouth, like she's had a stroke.

The Knights are each riding some sort of toy animal. The Knight of Wands is on a toy horse with wheels. The Knight of Cups is on one of those playground coiled-spring animals shaped like a seahorse. The Knight of Swords is on what looks like a patchwork plush horse. And the Knight of Pentacles is on a rocking horse. Too cute!

How it Reads
One of the first readings I did with the deck was a daily draw, and I drew the Seven of Wands. At the time, that card was my reminder to stay high vibe. To stand above my negative thoughts and keep them at bay. It was very fitting that the Happy Tarot bring up this card for me.

Another day I did a reading on a friend's erratic behavior, and I got cards that showed what was going on behind his feelings, and what I could do to be less affected by it. It was an extremely accurate and very to-the-point reading. The reading ended with the High Priestess, telling me to meditate and keep control over my own emotional reactions. It was a reading that this deck handled very well without sugar coating or being silly about it.

On another day, I was stressed out about having to do a ton of stuff to prepare for something I didn't want to do in the first place. I drew a card to ask for the best way to deal with it all. I drew the Nine of Cups, which told me to be happy no matter what. All is okay. Act as if it were just all going to be okay. So I did that, stopped stressing out and just went on with my preparations. As it turned out, the plans were canceled so I hadn't needed to stress out (or even prepare at all!).

One day I did a Mind-Body-Spirit reading on Instagram using this deck. I drew:  MIND: Wheel of Fortune (My mind is all over the place, like it always is.). BODY: Four of Swords (My body is getting just the right amount of rest. Like Goldilocks.). SPIRIT: Ten of Cups (Looks like my spirits are vibing pretty high and happy right now.). Just need to do some work on that monkey mind.

The last reading I did with this deck the week I worked with it was late at night. I asked what I should do with the hour I had left before bed. I drew a card then looked up and realized I didn't even have an hour left, it was already time for me to go to bed. So I looked down at the card. It was the Six of Wands which told me to be happy with what I had already accomplished that day. No need to do anything more. How apt! So then I asked if it would be better to go to bed then and there or stay up late (as I thought I had more time). I got the Five of Wands, which told me not to steal time from myself, but go to bed at a decent hour. (Well, decent for me, as I am usually up until at least 3 a.m.). Finally, I asked what I could do to make the next day a great day. I laughed when I turned over the Eight of Cups, which shows a little boy headed toward a sleeping moon. Go To Bed Already!!! the cards were shouting at me! Leave all the stresses behind, leave all behind, go to sleep and expect a great tomorrow.

This deck has read wonderfully for me for a great variety of different inquiries. It doesn't beat around the bush. I find that it always answers my questions quite directly and frankly. Ironically, I never received a reading that was sugar coated.

The LWB is 63 pages, with only the first 22 pages in English. The other pages are translations in Italian, Spanish, French and German.

The first two pages talk about the ways tarot cards can be used and inviting you to use this deck for fun and positivity. The next page is titled "Using the Cards" and tells you how to read the meanings, with a quick sample three card reading.

The rest of the booklet is devoted to the card meanings. The meanings do not address the card images. Each card is given a couple sentences of basic/standard meanings. What is interesting and different about this deck is that following each meaning, a sentence is given in italics, telling you how you can find happiness. Each of these sentences start with the words "You can find happiness...". I will give a few examples below:

Justice: You can find happiness through ethical behavior.
Moon: You can find happiness by paying attention to your dreams.
Two of Wands: You can find happiness in a thoughtful pause.
King of Cups: You can find happiness through detached compassion.
Nine of Swords: You can find happiness by facing your fears.
Ace of Pentacles: You can find happiness by welcoming prosperity.

I think this is such a great addition to this deck. I really like this unique added touch to the LWB.

Final Thoughts
This is a decidedly happy deck (the name is no joke), so I would definitely not pick this deck up to read about something super somber or serious or important. This is a lighthearted deck. One that I would use if I needed a pick-me-up. If I were feeling a little blah and wanted something to lift my spirits. Or if I were already in a really good mood and wanted a reading to reflect my frame of mind. This would obviously be a great deck to use with kids. It is also a great one to use for daily draws, or just for a theme for the day. It always gave me accurate and direct readings. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't get any fluffy readings with the deck.

In the middle of writing this review, I felt like I had used some form of the word "adorable" maybe a few too many times. Indeed, I had used it 7 times, so I had to go back and come up with some other adjectives. So if I were to sum up this deck in one word, clearly it would be ADORABLE!

Deck: Happy Tarot, by Serena Ficca, published by Lo Scarabeo, distributed in the US by Llewellyn.

Deck Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: Ancient Animal Wisdom

June 12, 2017

Ancient Animal Wisdom is an oracle deck that connects you with the energies and messages of African animal spirit guides. The artwork is by Jada Fire, and the guidebook is written by Stacy James and Jada Fire, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

The Cards
There are 38 cards in this deck, measuring 3.5" x just over 4 3/4". They have a light glossy sheen. The cards are sturdy yet flexible enough to shuffle vertically or horizontally. This is nice, because I like to shuffle taller cards horizontally. The borders are different colors, and appear to be assigned randomly, as opposed to grouping similar animals in the same color borders. The back design is not reversible, although at the end of the booklet, there is a small section on using reversals with this deck.

Each card has a number at the bottom and the animal's common name (sometimes at the top, sometimes at the bottom of the card). I would have thought that the title placement varying would be distracting, but I didn't even notice it until I sat down to write this review. But I did only pull one-card readings with this deck, so I can't say if I would find it distracting in a spread (though I really think it wouldn't bother me).

The deck and book come housed in a nice sturdy box with a lift off lid. My one complaint about the box is that it doesn't have the half-circle cut outs on the sides for easy lifting.

The deck consists of 35 animals, 2 trees, and 1 hybrid. The animals are varied, including land, water and air animals. There are insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds.

There are the African animals you are familiar with (elephant, giraffe, lion, zebra, rhino) and some more obscure ones (kudu, civet, lilac-breasted roller), and then there are some that make me smile because they make me feel like I'm in the middle of The Lion King (warthog, wildebeest, hyena). No meerkat though. There are many animals in this deck that I never even knew lived in Africa, so going through the deck was a learning experience.

One of my favorite cards is the Honey Badger. What a great inclusion! I absolutely love that it is shown in a fit of rage, in line with its reputation. It's an amazing card. The first word that came to mind when I saw it was "fierce", and when I looked up the card in the book, the keyword is "fierce"! So she really nailed that depiction in the image!

My three other favorite cards, art-wise, are Dik Dik (so sweet and striking), Giraffe (so pretty) and Chameleon (so whimsical and unique).

The hybrid card is titled Dugong Tiger. Oh... I so wish this had just been a Dugong card. My favorite animal is a manatee, and although a dugong isn't a manatee, it is the closest I have come in a deck. But alas, the Dugong Tiger image doesn't even show half a dugong! It is half tiger, half human. Why? I don't know. There is no mention in the book of why its title says Dugong, but the image is human. Even if it had depicted a dugong, I still don't understand the choice behind the dichotomy of these two particular animals. The card is about the balancing of extremes. While I can see some opposites in the two animals, I would've liked to have read a little about the animals and why they were chosen. And why it's a human on the card, with no dugong in sight. It is a confusing card on many levels. So I just look at it as balance or extreme opposites, and let the rest of it be a mystery.

The two trees in the deck are the Baobab Tree and Sausage Fruit Tree. I love Baobab trees, so I was delighted to see this included. And I had never even heard of a Sausage Fruit tree before! They are both gorgeous cards.

All of the cards are gorgeous! The artwork is whimsical and colorful, yet it does not feel childish. It is a mature whimsy.

There is one card that stands out from the others. The Kite (shown below) is mostly black and white, with color only in its eyes, beak, and star design above the bird (and border). I find this very striking.

There is something really special about this deck. There is an energy about it that is hard to describe. It feels different from other animal decks. It is the combination of the artwork that I love, the way the deck speaks and the messages it gives. It has that special something that not every deck has.

How it Reads
The first card I drew from this deck let me know we would be good friends. I drew the Black Mamba Snake. It felt very Scorpio-esque. The subtitle is Death of Old Ways. It reminds me of the Death card in tarot. From what I know, the Black Mamba snake is known to be the fastest and one of the most venomous and deadliest snakes. So the day I drew it, I knew that if there was change to be had, it would be better to get to it proactively and on my own terms rather than waiting for it to strike and bite me hard and fast! Not to wait until it became painful.

Then I spent a week with the deck, drawing a card each morning.

My week started with Warthog (Pumba!) who told me that it's what's inside that matters.

Next was the Nile Crocodile, reminding me to pay attention to my awareness.

The Gorilla reminded me to love.

The Baobab Tree thanked me for my offering (I literally donated the day before!).

The Gazelle advised me to release what was impeding my natural flow. The sacred spiral mentioned in the book also had relevance in my day.

The Baboon reminded me to connect with my primal spirit on a day that I was actually feeling very primal/tribal!

The Owl appeared to talk to me about my inner shaman.

The cards that appeared for me in my daily draws walked with me to show me how this deck is best used. None of the cards were divinatory in message. They were conversational and thought provoking. They would give me a spiritual area to focus on that day. They let me know where my energy would best be focused.

These animals weren't here to tell me what to do, or what was going to happen to me. They were guides. They told me how I could be my best self that day. How I could use my energy for my highest good. Where I could be of service to others. Where I would benefit from stepping into my own power. What a beautiful idea! It is really a very empowering deck.

The Book
The book is 48 pages and is the same size as the cards, so they fit nicely in the box together. The cover is glossy on thick card stock and it has binding, so it is a sturdy little thing.

The book begins with a title page, copyright page and Acknowledgments page. There are a few pages on general reading information.

I am confused about the inclusion of numerology in the booklet. The booklet's subtitle is "Messages, Meanings & Numerology". There are numerology meanings given for numbers 1-9, one one single page. I'm not sure why this is included, as it seems to have no bearing on the card meanings. The passage suggests that you do research into your own personal numerology, and to pay attention to the numbers you attract, as they might hold meaning for you. Again, I don't know what this has to do with the cards. There is one other reference I saw to numerology in the book, in one of the spreads, but it had nothing to do with the cards themselves. There is no reference to anything like maybe adding up the numbers on the cards until you receive a single digit number, then looking up the meaning of that number. So I didn't do this, and don't plan to. For me, this was a puzzling, irrelevant and superfluous page in the book.

There is a page explaining the local Zambian language of Nyanja, and how in each card description, the animal names are also given in the local language. Most of the animals are found in Zambia, but for those found in another region of Africa, the closest local language was used for the translation.

Pages 8-10 feature the Table of Contents (which I would have put at the front of the booklet for easier finding), with a list of the cards first and then the spreads. The cards are listed in order of card number. It would have been easier to find the cards if they were listed in alphabetical order. When you look at a card, you remember it's a Giraffe. You have to take extra time to find that it's number 5.

Next is the section with the card meanings. There is a paragraph dedicated to each animal. Each meaning begins with the animal's name, both in English and translated in its local language. Then a keyword is given. Beneath that is the meaning. No reversed meanings are given.

Some of the meanings incorporate a little of the animal's physical traits or characteristic behaviors. I find myself connecting better with the cards that do this, because I can understand why their meanings were chosen. I wish every card included this connection.

There is a page on shuffling and laying out cards and reading reversals. For reading with reversals, they suggest it means a resistance or imbalance with the card's energy, or "heading in the reversed direction".

The following spreads are included:

  • Intention Card (1 card)
  • Spirit Healing (card number varies)
  • Past, Present and Future (3 cards)
  • Tiger Dugong Balance (2 cards)
  • Four Directions (4 cards)
  • Gateway Spirit Guides Spread (2 cards)
  • Akashic Elemental Spread (5 cards)
  • Chakra Spread (8 cards)

The book begins its end with a passage blessing Ted Andrews and the Medicine Cards creators, Jamie Sams and David Carson, for inspiring this deck. There are a couple of pages about the author and artist. The booklet ends with four lined pages for notes.

Final Thoughts
This is a very unique and beautiful deck providing spiritual wisdom. It's definitely the prettiest animal deck I've seen. While there are a few things I would have changed about the book, the passages offer empowering and beautiful ideas to incorporate in your daily life. It's a wonderful deck to use as a spiritual guide. All the cards I drew were inspiring and motivational. I can see all of these animal spirits becoming old friends as you get to know each and every one of them. It's a deck that I can see people easily connecting to. I love using this deck - it feels very special.

Deck: Ancient Animal Wisdom, written by Stacy James and Jada Fire, illustrated by Jada Fire. Published by US Games Systems, Inc.

Deck Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Everyday Witch Tarot

June 02, 2017

Everyday Witch Tarot is a modern witchy tarot from Llewellyn by the popular author Deborah Blake and artwork by Elisabeth Alba.

The Cards
The cards measure 2 3/4" x 4 5/8". The backs are not reversible. I don't use reversals, so this doesn't hinder me at all. In fact, I prefer when backs aren't reversible, so I can easily see if any of them are accidentally reversed. And the back design is so cute! A blue background with yellow stars, a broomstick, black cat and witch hat. Simply adorable! The cards are very thin and super easy and smooth to shuffle. They are the same cardstock as the Vivid Journey Tarot, and they have that same sweet, fruity smell to them. Sometimes I'll just pause shuffling to smell them. True story.

The cards and book are housed in a nice sturdy box which opens like a book and closes magnetically. Inside the box is a cardboard recessed insert for the cards, with a ribbon attached to pull the cards out easily.

The cards are gloriously borderless. I find myself saying this more and more with reviews these days, and the excitement never gets old. I am honestly overjoyed each time. I am so grateful that these cards have no borders. I really hope this is a trend that continues. Maybe the publishers are watching us trim all of our decks and hopefully listening to our cries for borderless decks!

Before the deck was published, I saw a few pictures online and thought it was cute. Then I saw a few more, and thought maybe it was in danger of being a bit cheesy. But when I got the deck in hand, I was so pleasantly surprised to find that it was not cheesy at all. Okay, there are a couple cheesy cards. I'm thinking right now of the heart shaped bubbles in the Knight of Cups... but when that card came up for me in a reading, I didn't see it as cheesy at all. I liked it! I will elaborate more on that later when I discuss how the deck reads for me.

I love the striped tights and shirts and witchy hats. I like that it feels a little bit modern and a little bit old fashioned at the same time. I love all the colors used in the deck, both vibrant and rich. The fiery stripes and colors (red, orange and yellow) of the dress worn by the girl in Ace of Wands delights me every time I see it.

My favorite card is the Four of Swords. The colors are so deep and rich and the image is so beautiful. It's an image I would love to have blown up, framed and hung on my wall. And I love that it is the same bedroom shown in the Three of Swords. I adore that continuity.

I am also madly in love with the Eight of Pentacles. It is my favorite Eight of Pentacles from any deck, ever. The drudgery of the usual hard-working, nose to the grindstone image is replaced here with a lovely witch doing what she loves, what she is good at. She's not just out to make product. She's not just out to make a buck. She is making potions. It's wonderfully magical and witchy.

I really like the whole scene in the Four of Cups. Instead of being outdoors as this card usually is, there is a downtrodden man sitting at a table, head in hand, while a worried youngster tries bringing him another goblet. I like the artwork of all the things on the wall behind him, cat included.

The sad witch at the birthday party in the Five of Cups always reminds me of the song lyrics "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to". I like that the Seven of Cups actually shows someone's choices while at a shop counter. There were a lot of creative choices made in this deck.

The witch in the Ten of Swords is down but not all the way out. She reaches out for her broom for help while her assailant runs away. I like that you can see that while she is in a bad position, it's not over for her. The scene leaves you with a glimmer of hope. I find the image in the Six of Swords really beautiful. A young woman flies away on a broomstick with two cloaked figures. She's really pretty and I just love the starry, windswept atmosphere of the card. She has a bit of a Seven of Swords "sneaking away" vibe to her.

The Death card is unique. There is a masked, hooded figure with a sword. In front of him there is a cat toying with its kill, and a taut rope, about to break, just holding on by a thin string. You know he is about to make the final cut. There is a feeling of anxiety to it, knowing what is coming. It's not a static Death card. It doesn't feel like a noun card, as it usually does. Death. Here, it feels very much alive and in motion. The tension is palpable. There are two doors behind him, one closed, and one slightly ajar, emitting a yellow glow from within. The book says, "When one door closes, another opens." It's a very interesting Death card.

The High Priestess is a fortune teller with a crystal ball, tarot cards and runes. The familiar black and white pillars show up here in the form of melting candles. I love this card. The Hierophant isn't a scary religious guy. It's a female yoga teacher with two students. Lovely! And Temperance shows a witch doing yoga as well (tree pose). The Devil is in human form, albeit with a red spiky tail, offering money and ice cream to two kids on a bench. He has a handsome, very devilish look about his facial hair. My first thought when I saw this card though, was that it felt sexist, offering the money to the boy and ice cream to the girl. I'm sure it wasn't meant this way, it was just my knee-jerk reaction upon first seeing it.

The Moon is fabulous, with a black cat looking at its reflection in the water and seeing a panther. It's a wonderful symbol for the illusions this card represents. There's also the shadow of a witch flying on her broom across the full moon. I like how the woman in the Nine of Pentacles is just kicking back on her garden chaise with a book, glass of wine and treats. It gives the feeling of comfort while also being casual. And the King of Pentacles has himself a glass of wine and entire chocolate cake on a platter (minus a piece cut out). He knows how to have a good time, this one.

The Hanged Man is hung upside down, chained at the ankles to his broomstick. His wrists are also bound by chains. Both restraints have a lock, and the key is in his hand. He can set himself loose at any time, but chooses to take this time out because it is needed. I like that the Lovers card feels very much like an equal partnership. It doesn't feel like I'm just looking at a couple in love. It feels like they are on the same page, on the same path, with shared beliefs. It looks like they are lovers and friends. And while this should be a given in any relationship, I don't always feel that when looking at Lovers cards in other decks. This card feels less like 'man and woman' and more like 'human and human'. This equality is even echoed in the cats' tails symmetrically intertwined into a heart shape.

The Aces don't really feel like Aces to me. They are lovely cards, to be sure, but they don't give me the symbolic, instant recognition I like to have with my Aces. The Ace of Cups feels more like a Queen of Cups. And the Aces of Pentacles and Swords both feel like Pages. The Ace of Pentacles has a much stronger Page vibe than the actual Page. And if you put the Ace and Page of Swords side by side (see image below), they both look like Pages to me, and neither has an Ace vibe. They are both Pages to me. So that is something I would have to get used to in this deck. I prefer my Aces to stand apart as singular objects.

As a side note, I always think of the Robinwood Tarot when I see the Ace of Pentacles.

How it Reads
My first reading was very literal. I drew the King of Pentacles, who as I mentioned earlier in this review, holds a chocolate cake in one hand and a glass in wine in another. I drew this card on an evening when I was cooking for a male friend!

My next draw was the Empress, which I drew in conjunction with a card from another witchy deck. The cards went perfectly together, and referred to my unconditional love as a mother.

One day my son and I switched chores. I did his outdoor weeding while he cleaned up inside the house. He has a terrible medical issue where his own sweat makes him itch furiously. That day I did a three-card Past-Present-Future reading. The Ten of Swords came up as the past, referring to his painful and debilitating itching while weeding in the sun. The Three of Pentacles came up as the present, a perfect representation of working as a team. My daughter weeded with me, so it was literally the three of us working as a team, just like on the card. And the Magician was the future. A magical solution. I got to spend time outside (which I don't do enough) and my son didn't have to itch unnecessarily. A perfect reading on the entire situation.

I did a four card reading on developing healthier eating habits. The Ace of Cups told me what I already knew, that I love eating what tastes good, even if it's bad for me. When asking if a certain restrictive diet was the way to go, I got the Eight of Swords, which just showed me the restriction, and asked me if that felt good. (No, it didn't.) The girl's broom and hat are outside the swords. She's not fully her inside the swords. The restriction doesn't allow her to be her real self. When I asked if I should stay on my current path, I received the Chariot, which shows a gal at a crossroads. It was up to me to decide which path to take. But I needed to make a decision and commit. And the last card, for advice, was the Knight of Cups telling me that it doesn't matter so much what I put in my body, as how I feel when I do it (an Abraham-Hicks teaching). The Knight, with his gentle heart bubbles, was the exact imagery I needed to see, telling me to follow my heart. To make sure I feel good when I eat, no matter what I'm eating. That eating something that tastes gross, just because it is "good for me" isn't always the right path. And feeling guilty about what I eat isn't good for me. Trust in the vibes basically.

On another day, I did a three card reading, using this deck and two others, and it read seamlessly with the others, creating one single, coherent message.

One day I did something that I was a little apprehensive about. I stepped out of my comfort zone to help someone else. I was shuffling and cut the deck and saw the Strength card. I kept shuffling, and drew Temperance, which told me that I put just the right amount of effort and fairness into what I did. Then I drew Strength again! This told me that even though I was nervous, I did the right thing, and I had what it took to do what I needed to do. The Two of Wands came up after that, and without going into the whole situation, I can say that the imagery on the card was really relevant to the situation and a comforting finale to the reading.

One day I drew the Two of Swords, and got the message that sometimes you can see better with your eyes closed, using your intuition rather than relying on what your five senses are showing you. After all, the witch hit the bullseye with a blindfold on! But the book says the opposite. That the witch is being silly and needs to take the blindfold off to make the decision. For me, the book's interpretation didn't really match with the card's illustration. It made better sense for me and my inquiry when I went off the card's imagery and my intuitive response to it.

These cards feel so gentle and comforting. They feel like talking to a friend. A good friend who listens with genuine caring and responds in kind. That rare, true friend who you aren't afraid of telling your whole truth to, because there is absolutely no judgment. Someone you can trust to be completely yourself with, open and honest and raw, knowing they won't criticize you. I realize this might sound like an odd anthropomorphic observation, but it's truly how the cards made me feel.

This deck reads above and beyond what I had ever expected from it. I was really surprised by the level of understanding and comfort I received in readings.

The Book
The accompanying book is written by Deborah Blake, author of Everyday Witchcraft, The Goddess is in the Details, Witchcraft on a Shoestring, and many other popular witchy titles. It is 254 pages, with high-quality glossy paper.

The book begins with a 3-page Introduction with a brief background on how the author and illustrator came to create the set.

Chapter One includes a brief intro into tarot and a section about the deck and how to use it. Next is a section on How to Do a Reading which gives the beginner a few basics.

Chapter Two contains basic Q&A's (covering things such as signifiers, clarifying cards, reversals, etc.). This chapter also includes three spells for use with the tarot cards: A consecration spell for new cards, a cleansing spell for used cards, and a spell for a good reading. The spells require basic ingredients you probably already have around the house like crystals, salt, sage, candles, etc.

Chapter Three includes the Major and Minor Arcana card meanings. Each card has a full color image in the book, the same size as the actual card.

Below each card image is its title and a catch phrase. For example, the Magician says "The magic is inside you." Some of these phrases are funny. Like the Seven of Swords (page shown below) says "La, la, la... Nothing to see here." How funny is that?  And the Two of Swords says, "A. No, B. No, A. Dammit." I'm a sucker for cursing (however light) in a tarot book.

On the top of the next page, the card's title is repeated, with a brief message underneath it. To use the same card examples as above, the Magician's message is "You have all the tools you need to accomplish your goals." The Seven of Swords says, "I'm carrying this stuff with me - but am I running away or running to?" and the Two of Swords says, "You think you don't know the answer, but you do."

The first part of the meaning includes a bit of background on the card, and sometimes discusses the details in the imagery. The second part is "Things to Consider" and applies the card to daily life, with questions to ask yourself so you can fully immerse yourself in the experience of each card.

Following each card meaning, almost all of the Major Arcana cards have their own lined page for notes (the Fool and Lovers cards do not, which I assume was an oversight). The Minors do not include this. Although there are random lined Notes pages that pop up periodically in the Minors section, with apparently no rhyme or reason to their placement (a page appearing after the Ten of Swords, Six of Cups, Eight of Cups, Knight of Cups, Six of Pentacles, and Knight of Pentacles). I assume this was an editorial error, as the random placement doesn't make sense.

The book is written in an easy, conversational tone. It is very welcoming, approachable, down to earth and easy to read. Like the feeling I got from the imagery, the book feels like talking with a friend. I enjoyed all the passages I read. The book and deck, though written and illustrated by two different people, feels like a very cohesive set, carrying such similar energy.

Chapter Four includes three spreads (a one-card reading, three-card spread variations (past-present-future, situation/challenge/outcome, etc.) and a Celtic Cross). The book ends with a brief conclusion.

Final Thoughts
This deck is much deeper than first appearances might suggest. It has a comfortable, open and welcoming energy. You don't need to identify as a witch to connect with this deck. I am spiritual and magical and witchy, but I am not a witch. Whether you are or not should have no bearing on your relationship with these cards (unless you are one of those nutters who think all witches are evil, in which case you wouldn't be reading this review anyway, because tarot readers are usually grouped in that same sweet category). My point is that this deck is accessible to anyone, witch or not. There isn't even any nudity in the cards. It is sweet and kind and friendly and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Deck: Everyday Witch Tarot, by Deborah Blake, illustrated by Elisabeth Alba, published by Llewellyn Publishing.