The Fairy Tale Tarot

By Andrew Harris

I am honored to introduce to you a wonderful and valuable work, Lisa Hunt's Fairy Tale Tarot and accompanying book Once upon a Time. I was immediately excited to see the completion of this extensive undertaking. I personally hold the Fairy Tale as the highest literary genre and my only trepidation about the Fairy Tale Tarot is that it would not live up to my lofty expectations. I’m very pleased to say that like the tales from which it was woven, this ambitious work delights, surprises, and transports me, exceeding any possible expectation because it is true to the source of meaning and creativity from which stories and Tarot both spring. This is a very fresh and pure drought right from the source. The lively art gives this impression from the start and reminds one during subsequent readings and viewings of the magic and wonder of Tarot, stories, and Fairy in a way that is so immediate and pure that this deck has a unique power even amongst Tarots. The book is a treasure, too. In it the fairy tale from which each image is drawn is retold by the author, followed by a description of "Symbols and Meaning." This bounty of tales is valuable in itself, and while many of the cards are immediately recognizable as scenes from familiar tales, Hunt has sought to include a variety of tales from different cultures and places and I presume most readers will find many new discoveries within. This will be a valuable tool for anyone to make discoveries within themselves, whether familiar with the tales or not, because of their role and function in our lives as pure archetypes. Hunt's insight and effort to correlate the cards with stories is amazing, and I appreciate her perspective that these are her interpretations but they don't exclude others. She encourages the reader to hold their own interpretations and not let her voice be authoritative, but her choices and insights certainly ring true for me. I feel like whenever I discover a new Tarot that really speaks to me, it can open a whole realm of greater understanding of the Tarot. I'll admit mine is somewhat limited to begin with, but what more joyous and fun way to delve deeper into meanings than with stories so magical and familiar - even the ones we have never heard, yet still have that dreamlike archetypal kinship with us.

I was happy to take Hunt's advice and turn to the cards before reading the book; they are just so charming and pretty. I still can't quite shake the comparison to Beatrix Potter illustrations because of the colored pencil medium, but mostly because one of the first cards I saw was the Two of Wands depicting the Country Mouse and City Mouse. Other pictures reminded me of classic Disney artwork. Most of the subjects are human but a number of animals make appearances or star on certain cards (Puss in Boots is the Mentor or High Priest and the King of Swords is the Raven bringing light to the world from Inuit mythology.) Although there are many bright and cheery cards, some are dark in tone and serious in subject, though not sinister. I am very impressed by the artwork. As an artist myself, I am often put off by even one image of a "funny-looking face" or incorrectly proportioned figure in a Tarot deck, and I know how hard it is to avoid that occasionally, but in this deck all the faces look good and right, and more than that, they all have a lot of personality and immediately convey unique qualities. Everyone looks real, with genuine emotion, and the faces are reminiscent of people you know, yet it all still has that light and fun quality of colored illustration, like the pictures in a classic children's book. The emotion and personality of the faces is striking, but they don't overshadow the rest of the image, everything is engaging and well crafted, from colors to backgrounds to composition. One detail that might not show up in reproductions are the faces that appear in the mist and rocks and trees of some cards. Each truly gives a window on a magic world, a snapshot that conveys Tarot meaning but also leads to a whole story.

Thanks to Hunt's research and retelling, these stories are all in the book. Almost three hundred pages of stories. Each card is depicted in black and white with the title, story, and culture of origin, and keywords of association. Then the story is told followed by a paragraph pointing out symbols and suggesting meanings. The last few pages give three spreads and a bibliography. The introduction is short but effective to elucidate the appropriateness of rendering a Tarot in Fairy Tale images and the unique opportunities this genre provides.

 Lisa Hunt's love and appreciation for Fairy Tales is evident throughout this masterpiece. It is in no way a dilution of Tarot for a young audience as people have foolishly tried to dismiss Fairy Stories. Just last week, I read a strong refutation of this mentality: Tolkein's essay on Fairy stories, Tree and Leaf, and it prepared me to be impressed by anyone who would dare to make a Fairy Tale anything, especially a Tarot which by definition includes everything. Lisa Hunt met the challenge in the only way possible, with that love and reverence and fear of the Fairy tale world that is needed to gain admittance to its mysteries and reveal them to the listener or reader or viewer in this case. I suspect she gained the favor of the Faries with this work and I bet they helped out, which I mean as the highest compliment. It is a magical work.

Logistically, it is an easy deck to use. The images speak volumes and include hidden secrets for later discovery, the stories bring so much more richness to understanding, and it is easy to use. The cards are somewhat slick but with smooth resistance and have no trouble staying in a stack (they won't slide off without a good push). There are no borders on them, each image fills the card, but there is a scroll at the bottom with the name and for the Major Arcana, numbers too. The back is very nice, an off-white field with a double-key and vine-swirl design in brassy-looking green that is symmetrical and therefore reversible. The dimensions are 2.75 in (7 cm) by 4.5 inches (11.6 cm) and the corners are rounded. The book comes packaged with the deck and a mesh bag - if sold separately I would recommend seeking out the book as well since it is such a rich resource. If you are expecting and wishing for a real Tarot and real Fairy Tales, this deck is like a ring with 78 different fancy tinkling keys to let you in to the Fairyworld and open its wonders for you. Enjoy! 

All submissions remain the property of their respective authors. 

Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2009

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