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Tarot Reflections

  February 15, 2004

Review: Tarot of the Animal Lords
Tracy Hite, ATA Treasurer, Networks Manager

Tracy began her own Tarot journey while recovering from her first son's birth on New Year's Eve, 1996. She tried to study on her own for nearly a year, picking up what she could from books and websites, but she had a lot of trouble piecing everything together. Through membership in  the American Tarot Association, she met the contacts and gained the expertise needed to gain her certification as a Certified Tarot Master.

Tracy uses a variety of decks to gain a fresh perspective on problems, or to point out ideas or issues she might not have considered otherwise. She admits that she can't predict the future, but does believe that working with the cards can help "move life forward."

Tracy is honored to serve as Manager for both the Free Reading Network and the Free Tarot Network. She also volunteers as Treasurer of the ATA and webmaster of the Comparative Tarot site.


Tarot of the Animal Lords was one of those "love at first sight" decks for me. From the first time I saw a card last fall, I had to have this deck! I was overjoyed to receive it as a gift a few weeks ago, and it was well worth the wait. When I first opened them I had thought my deck was misprinted, but on closer inspection I found that what I'd thought were scratches and ink splotches were there to add an old-world / medieval feel to this charming deck.

The box describes Tarot of the Animal Lords as "A spiritual mirror that makes us reflect on the nature of the world." Unlike the Animal-Wise Tarot's simple creature photos or Shapeshifter's spirit-melding of man animal beast, these Animal Lords and Ladies are primarily human figures with animal heads (and sometimes tails, wings, or clawed feet). As might be expected, some combinations work better together than others. The Four of Pentacles for instance struck me as particularly odd-looking, but I can see the card's typical miserly interpretation reflected in Ant's storing food and supplies for the winter.

This deck seems to be largely based on the Rider-Waite format, although as with most Lo Scarabeo decks Justice (Barn Owl) appears as Key 8 and Strength (Mongoose and Snake) is Key 11. The cards are all labeled in the margins, which in this case is a good thing. Tarot of the Animal Lords varies enough from "standard" decks that it's not always clear from the images alone which card - or even which suit - is which. The pip suits (Aces through tens) are marked with small animal icons at the upper left of each card.


The court cards (Knave, Knight, Queen and King) bear somewhat traditional suit symbols, as well as more integrated animal symbols than the other minors.

While the booklet only lists a couple of keywords for each card (with reversed suggestions in italics), it does at least name the animals, which in some cases was the only way I could identify them. Animal Lords is one deck which could benefit greatly from a companion book, to explain the basic traits of the animals and explain why each one was chosen. Some images are more intuitive than others, like the Lion Emperor or the Bat Hanged Man. Others, like the Panda mother and child on the Nine of Pentacles, leave me wondering.

My favorite card from this deck is the Seven of Swords. The booklet describes it as "Discretion, important secrets, resolving ideas, subterfuge, conflicts, shady deals." Two reptilian (snake) men in robes are having a secret meeting in a cave, appearing to be conspiring together but each holding a dagger behind his back. One whispers to the other with his tongue out (speaking with a forked tongue). This pair of cunning creatures really brings home the sneakiness of this card for me.

I asked the deck what message it held and drew the reversed Six of Pentacles. An Elephant strongman shakes an apple tree, raining fruit down onto two waiting monkeys below. The booklet lists the reversed keywords for this card as "lack of scruples, corruption, loss of money." Huh? Okay, time to skip the booklet and go with my own impressions. The elephant seems to be doing all the work here, while the monkeys sit around just reaping the rewards. Can't monkeys climb trees? They could just as easily go up to get the apples themselves and toss some down for the elephant. Wait a minute, apples are often symbols of knowledge ... that's it! Don't just take someone else's work (like the booklet) for granted, really turn these images around and fetch their meanings for myself. It sounds like good advice for learning the Animal Lords or any other new deck.

Tarot of the Animal Lords is published by Lo Scarabeo, with art by Angelo Giannini. ISBN 073870447-4


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