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Fantastical Creatures


SKU: FC78 ISBN: 978-1-57281-637-4 Author: D. J. Conway Artist: Lisa Hunt Card Size: 2.75" x 4.75" LWB Pages: 71

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Fantastical Creatures Tarot

By Jewel


Published by U.S. Games in June of 2007, The Fantastical Creatures Tarot by D. J. Conway and Lisa Hunt, was the fourth Tarot collaboration between Ms. Conway and Ms. Hunt.  The inspiration for this deck comes from ancient mythologies and folklore.  Creatures that Ms. Conway notes as beings that fall somewhere between humans and Gods, “a kind of middleman of the astral realms.”  I was very excited to purchase this deck because I am fascinated by magical creatures and am quite fond of the Shapeshifter and Celtic Dragon Tarot decks. Unlike previous decks by this team, this deck did not include a companion book.  Being unfamiliar with many of the mythologies and creatures presented in this deck I was really at a loss and could have used one.  Instead I was left to research these creatures and myths on the internet as needed and as a result ended up disagreeing with many of the cards based on what was written in the “little white book” (LWB).


Ms. Hunt’s water color paintings are as beautiful and magical as ever.  They draw me in and transport me inside the cards, which is great for intuitive reading and meditation.  The colors are deep and vibrant.  The card images are framed in intertwining branches that hint a Celtic feel to me.  Outside these frames is an extra 1/8” cream colored background.  Though beautiful, this results in the images being a little too small for my taste.  I would have preferred these cards to be borderless all together.  At the bottom of each card is a scroll containing the name or number and suit of the card in black lettering.   Equal attention and detail is given to the Major and Minor Arcana so the deck is seamless artistically which is always a plus in my book.


As with all D.J. Conway/Lisa Hunt decks I ran into Ms. Conway’s suit elemental correspondence preference of Wands/Air, Swords Fire, which throws me for a loop.  I learned and prefer the Wands/Fire, Swords/Air correspondences.  As noted in my review of The Celtic Dragon Tarot, the elemental correspondences of these suits is one of those long held Tarot debates.  I want to address this debate in a very simplistic way for the sake those to whom this elemental debate is new, or are confused by it, that might read this review.  There is a basis for either set of correspondences (Wands/Fire, Swords/Air or Wands/Air, Swords/Fire).  If you think of it from a practical point of view swords are forged in fire, and tree limbs (often used to represent wands) do blow in the wind and if you think of magic wands well you swish them through the air, so I do get it.  It is logical.  The flip side, Wands/Fire Swords/Air comes from the passion expressed in the Suit of Wands which ties it to Fire, and the communication, intellect, and thought represented by the element of Air which is sharp like a sword.  So, one set of correspondences is logical while the other is metaphorical.   Granted, that is how I keep it all straight, but Ms. Conway gave a more sophisticated explanation based on magick in Chapter 1 of The Celtic Dragon Tarot Companion Book “This association has always made more sense to me than the reverse, since Wands are primarily a mental ritual tool and Swords are an energy of action tool.”  Neither is right or wrong, and both have validity, it all boils down to personal preference.  How do the Wands/Air – Swords/Fire correspondences throw me off?  Well, I end up seeing a blending of both in both suits and it muddies them for me.  I use elemental correspondences when reading and apparently, I am not mentally ambidextrous when it comes to this!  With this particular deck I happened to just ignore the suit all together and rely on the element Ms. Conway assigned.


The deck is comprised of 78 cards, 22 Major Arcana, and 56 Minor Arcana.  I found about less than half the cards to even remind of the RWS, so it was like looking at an art deck for me.  I guess this can be attributed my lack of knowledge about many of these Fantastical Creatures, but even when I looked them up to learn more about them I was often left scratching my head.  There were some cards I could immediately recognize from the RWS, but not enough to make this deck user friendly to me.  So, let’s move on from my issues and discuss the structure of the deck.  Two Major Arcana card names are changed:  The Hierophant becomes The High Priest, and The Devil becomes Chains.  Strength is at position 8 and Justice at position 11.  The Minor Arcana (numbers 1-10) and somewhat follow RWS system but other times had a different meaning all together.  The Court Cards follow the traditional RWS naming, Page, Knight, Queen, King.  Aside from the gorgeous art, what I like the most about this deck is the two extra cards that come with it that have key words to help me understand what the intended meaning is.


The cards are typical Llewellyn card stock of the day which is a little bit thicker than that of their decks today.  I have no problem with the card stock then again, I am not overly fussy about this either.  After years of riffle shuffling and such they have held up very well, they do not stick nor clump. The cards measure about 4.75” x 2.75”, a good size for most sized hands.  The backs of the cards are cream colored with a circular golden-brown design with a mythical creature head repeated found times, a serpent of some sort.  The card backs are reversible, and since no reversed meanings were provided in the LWB my guess is that like with the Celtic Dragon deck it was not designed to be used with reversals.   I say, if you want to use reversals go for it!


The deck comes with a 71-page LWB written by Ms. Conway, which to me fell right into the stereotype many Tarot readers have LWBs … they are gobbledygook and relatively unhelpful.  With each card it does give you a paragraph on the Fantastical Creature, a Divinatory Meaning, and Magickal Uses.  To really work with this deck I need more context in regards to the creature of myth or legend than what is provided.  Maybe I am just picky, but that is my opinion of the LWB.  The deck did come with a beautiful glossy spread sheet that includes some information on Reading the Tarot Cards and Suit/Element/Realm correspondences which is very helpful.  It includes 5 spreads:  The Expanded Celtic Cross (11-cards), Present Life Changes (5-cards), The Pyramid (6-cards), a Decision Layout (9-cards), and Changes Layout (5-cards).


I am not saying this is not a Tarot deck, or that it would be better served as an Oracle deck, I am just saying I just didn’t get it.  I did daily draws with this deck for over a month which I enjoyed, but I found myself often in disagreement with the author about the card meaning.  It actually ended up frustrating me.  I also did a few readings for friends.  When I read for them I just read what I saw in the images, used some basic numerology or hierarchy combined with the element and image to guide me to an interpretation.  When I tried corresponding the cards to the RWS I just got headaches so I stopped that.  The readings were OK, but I felt so much was still left on the table.  Had I really been able to draw on the lore behind these creatures I think the readings could have been much better.  This is not and never will be one of my reading decks.  That is not to say it does not have its uses for me however.  I think this deck would be great for meditation and writing because the art is beautiful, and the creatures are fascinating.


I would recommend this deck to people who like to meditate with Tarot and Oracle cards, fantasy writers, those with extensive knowledge of ancient mythology and folklore, and intuitive readers who just like to read images and do not rely ascribe to established Tarot systems (i.e. RWS, Thoth, Marseille) to get to their interpretations.  If you look for traditional esoteric systems in Tarot this deck really does not have them, so I would pass if I were you.   If you really depend on what you have learned or memorized from other Tarot systems your keywords will not always match, so not a deck I would recommend to beginners because there is no book that will help you understand what is going on.  There is no nudity, mermaids wear bikini tops and the Naga a shirt.   Aunt Fifi really likes the art and could look at the deck for hours, but she would rather we play a game making up stories with it than get a reading.

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