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      Ark Animal Tarot & Oracle Deck

      The Ark Animal Tarot & Oracle Deck is unique in a number of ways, with the most prominent reason being that it is a 100-card deck (with options of getting additional cards) which is comprises 78 tarot cards and 22 bonus oracle cards. The interpretation of the tarot cards is based on the Rider-Waite system, however these cards have been designed in such a way that they can also be used as oracle cards. This deck was designed to be a diverse tool. The list of applications given on the back of the companion book are:


      -Tarot readings

      -Oracle Readings & Daily Inspiration

      -Shamanic Readings & Healings

      -Meet & work with Spirit, Totam, & Power Animal guides

      -Cartomancy

      -Playing Cards



      The cards are beautiful and vibrant in color with a glossy finish. They are quite large, which is great for immersing yourself into the spirit of the animals but also challenging for handling and riffle shuffling. Each card is mostly just a large image of an animal with a background of the animal’s habitat. There aren’t anyRWS symbols that one might see in the tarot cards, therefore I find it very difficult to read the cards without the companion book. The cards do have a few keywords/phrases, so perhaps once I have become more familiar with each animal’s description in the book then the keywords will become easier for me to rely on. So far, I haven’t found them to be sufficient to complete a reading.
      My reliance on the companion book has not been a problem for me, though, because it is truly a joy to read each and every entry in the book. Each card gives a detailed description of the animal with a major focus on the spirit meaning. A lot of times the description talks about history, mythology, or stories from other cultures that involve the specific animal. In addition, the tarot cards provide a clear enough description for the reader to make sense of why some animals were chosen to represent certain cards. You can truly feel the authors’ love for animals in this deck.

      I have used this deck for both tarot and oracle readings. For tarot, I simply remove the 22 bonus cards. When I use the deck for an oracle reading, I use all 100 cards. There is so much depth and energy to each card that I find that this deck is quite powerful even with single-card draws. But it is also quite fun to draw multiple cards or use a spread and see how all of the animals relate to each other.

      I simply adore this deck and would highly recommend it to any tarot or oracle reader who loves animals!

      Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot

      The Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot is a tarot deck designed for magick. The artwork and descriptions are integrated with magick and the deck itself can actually be used as a magickal tool. The deck has some similarities to the Rider-Waite-Smith system, however there are several notable differences, too. First of all, and probably most obvious since magick is the main focus, much of the symbolism is different since it is inspired from ancient Pagan mythos and witchcraft. The second major difference is that the suits don’t all align with traditional elements: Wands are Air and Swords are Fire (Cups are still Water and Pentacles are still Earth).

      I wanted to get this deck almost immediately after I first started learning tarot. What drew me to it wasn’t the magickal component, but rather the diversity. It felt more real to me to see a deck with images that had people of varying skin colors, orientation, etc. I eventually got the deck after I started feeling more comfortable with tarot. I loved the cards so much that I would just sit there and keep looking through the whole deck. Even though there are some fantasy elements to the deck (with creatures, magick, etc), it felt very real and energetic.

      The deck comes with a companion book which I feel is a bit lacking. The book starts off with a general overview of tarot but fails to really provide a good introduction for this specific deck. Each card has a colored image in the book with a description, reversed description, and magickal uses (Major Arcana also have divinatory meanings). The descriptions are poor in that they are just a list of keywords or phrases that one can associate with each card. This would be fine except for the fact that there is also no description of the magickal symbols in each card. I am not familiar with what many of these symbols might mean, therefore it leaves me relying heavily on only key phrases and I feel as if I am not quite capturing the full meaning of the card.

      As a result of the poor descriptions in the companion book, I have found this deck to be challenging to learn to use. It’s not impossible, it just takes a little extra time. Surprisingly, the difference in suits and elements (Wands = Air and Swords = Fire) did not bother me much. I would recommend this deck to anyone who does have knowledge of ancient Pagan mythos or magickal symbols. If you do not have that much knowledge of these things but are still interested in the deck due to the diversity of it, I still would recommend it but will warn that it will take some time to get used to.

      After owning this deck for a few months, I have found that I will use it only occasionally for tarot readings. Instead, I am more drawn to use it with tarot-inspired creative projects. I have not used the deck as a magickal tool, therefore I cannot make any remarks about that aspect of this deck.

      Mystical Shaman Oracle Deck

      The Mystical Shaman Oracle Deck is a “blend of mystical and shamanic wisdom” that is inspired by multiple ancient traditions and practices. It is a 64-card deck that covers a range of ancient symbols. When consulting the cards, you connect with Spirit through these symbols. Some symbols are more familiar to the average, modern person (such as Fire or Moon) while other symbols might be more abstract (such as The Spiral or The Corn). The deck was designed to use reversals, so each card has two ultimate interpretations. The “Essence” of the card remains the same, however whether the card is upright or upside down will determine whether Spirit is giving you an “Invitation” (a message that offers a gift or call to action) or “Medicine” (a message the touches upon something that needs work or to be improved upon).


       
      When I purchased this deck, I wasn’t necessarily seeking out an oracle deck but I somehow stumbled across it while browsing the internet. I instantly fell in love with the artwork and could not stop thinking about the deck. I felt so much energy and inspiration from the preview of cards that I saw so I knew I had to get it. Upon arrival, I was slightly disappointed because the actual cards weren’t quite as vibrant in their color as the pictures on the internet suggested. There was a slight dullness to them. The card-stock was also very thick, making it difficult for me to shuffle at first. Despite this, I still felt connected to the deck and continued to use it. I found that the artwork remained profound to me and I eventually got the hang of shuffling the deck. If anything, the thick card-stock is nice because the cards have proven to be durable over time.


       
      The deck comes with a small companion book. The pictures of the cards in the book are in black and white, but that doesn’t bother me because it is in the cards themselves that I look for energy and connection. The explanation of eachcard is separated into three parts as I mentioned above: “Essence,” “Invitation,” and “Medicine.” The descriptions are typically concise yet always complete. I have never been left with a feeling of confusion or wonder on what more a card might mean.


       
      Overall, I absolutely love this deck. I don’t typically go for New Age things, yet the artwork drew me in and I am happy it did. The blend of traditions and practices might not appeal to many, and I can totally understand that. But I think it is still worth giving a shot because the messages are all pure, motivating, and genuine. I use this deck in a number of ways such as drawing a card for an overall theme of a tarot reading, looking for a message of the week, seeking inspiration when in a challenging position, and so much more. It is powerful as a stand-alone yet flexible to use with other tools such as tarot. The fact that this deck is the result of a blend of traditions is what I think makes it so applicable and adaptable to a variety of uses.


       
      And did I mention the artwork is gorgeous?!

      The Magical Dogs Tarot
      By Jewel – March 11, 2020
       
      The Magical Dogs Tarot, by husband and wife team Mickie and Daniel Mueller, was published by Llewellyn in September of 2018 as a deck/book set. In addition to this deck, Ms. Mueller has also illustrated The Mystical Cats Tarot, The Well Worn Path and Hidden Path oracles, authored the Voice of Trees: A Celtic Divination Oracle, as well as a couple of books for Llewellyn.  There are no humans in this deck.  Overall, we are seeing the Tarot from a dog perspective, which is great being that there are very few dog Tarot decks as compared to the plethora of cat decks.  I purchased this deck because I love dogs and did not own a dog themed deck, but this deck has really blown me away.  It is so much more than I ever thought it would be.  I usually have to work with a deck for a month or so to get a good enough feel for it to write a review, but this deck in many ways was like coming home to my pups.  There is an emotional honesty and warmth to this deck that is very hard to describe, the simplest way to say it is that it is pure dog magic.
       
      The art of this deck is simply beautiful and purposeful.  Every detail contributes to the meaning of each card, from what the dog is doing, to each element in its surroundings.  Every part of the card supports the meaning and can be used in the interpretation.  It is very easy to become the dog as you gaze into the card and understand what it is feeling and/or experiencing.  The watercolor paintings are rich yet soft and easily transport you into the scene.  A few of my favorite aspects of this deck are that the dogs are not anthropomorphized, it is borderless, and that the same attention to detail and quality were given to the Major and Minor Arcana.  The card titles are contained in a small gold metallic ink scroll with black italic lettering at the bottom each card which blends in nicely without detracting from the imagery.  It is evident that a lot of thought and care went into the creation of this deck, and that Mickie and Daniel love and understand dogs and their magic.
       
      The suits are divided into four different types of dog packs, based on “the more primitive realm of the arcane canine, with its emphasis on a deep connection to nature…” Elemental pack or suit correspondences are your traditional Sea/Water, Fire/Fire, Sky/Air, and Earth/Earth.  Here is what the companion book says about the suits or packs:
       
      Fire Pack (traditional suit of Wands): “Fire pack watchwords are expansion and energy.  These canines are associated with primal forces, spirituality, and inspiration.  Ever seeking to expand the borders of spiritual knowledge, they are great wonderers and explorers, not just of the physical realm but of the mind and the depths of the soul.”
       
      Sea Pack (traditional suit of Cups): “Emotions and instincts are the domain of the sea pack.  They can be wise counselors, as they are gifted in intuiting of feelings and in navigating the complexities of relationships.”
       
      Sky Pack (traditional suit of Swords): “Power, force, and conflict embody the sky pack’s world.  They are generally nomads, dogs of the wild places, who are perfectly at home under the open sky and do not shy away from danger.  Independent creatures, these dogs often forge only temporary alliances to meet their immediate goals.”
       
      Earth Pack (traditional suit of Pentacles): “The earth pack primarily concerns themselves with matters of the physical world.  They are a practical pack, wise in the ways of business and trade, in the knowledge of growing things, and in determining the times of sowing and harvesting.  They are lovers of hearth and home and the material possessions that adorn life.”
       
      The imagery of the Major Arcana is quite different from the RWS but very reflective of it.  Some of the Majors names have been changed: The Magician becomes The Mage, The Hierophant becomes The Shaman, The Hanged Man becomes The Seer, The Devil becomes The Trickster, The Star becomes The Dog Star, and Judgement becomes The Call.  Strength is at position VIII and Justice at XI.  The Trickster card in this deck focuses on the Coyote and freedom which is a deviation from the Traditional Devil card, but works really well in this deck.
       
      Though a significant amount of the imagery is quite different in the Minor Arcana cards 1-10, because we are dealing with dogs and what dogs do, they do follow the Raider-Wait-Smith (RWS) system and connections can be easily made.  The Court cards elude to pack structure and their leadership role within the pack.  Kings are Alpha Males, Queens are Alpha Females, Knights are Guardians, and Pages are Puppies and are the cutest things ever!  The Alpha Males are the top dogs or leaders of the pack, the Alpha Females fulfill a similar role but in a more nurturing way, the Guardians are action oriented, and Puppies are symbols of inexperience and/or youth.  Similar roles to your traditional Tarot Court cards so not a stretch to understand.  In a sense I think this pack structure actually makes the Court Cards quite easy to understand and follow, so a beginner would not have any problem with these.
       
      The cards are your typical Llewellyn size (4.65” x 2.3/4”) and card stock, though they do feel a little more “buttery” when I riffle shuffle them than other Llewellyn decks.  Maybe it’s the card stock, or just the warm and fuzzies this deck gives me.  Who knows?  I am not fussy about card stock so I like them, but some people feel the card stock is a bit thin.  Personally, I like it.  The card backs remind me of an Ocean Jasper crystal with its blues, rust, and gray banding, and has two mirror image leather shields with a paw print in the center.  Overall the backs have a Native American vibe to them.  The shields have four charms hanging from the bottom of them that correspond to the four elements or suits.  The backs are reversible, and this deck was designed with reversals in mind.  The shield motif with the paw print in the center is repeated in the Aces of each suit, but with charms corresponding to the pack it is representing.
       
       
      The deck comes with a 206-page companion book, titled The Magical Dogs Companion, written by Mickie and Daniel.  The writing is clear, engaging, and you can tell these authors love and understand canines and Tarot.  Unfortunately, the book is not full color.  I would have loved to have had full page, full color, glossy pictures of these cards along with their corresponding text as Llewellyn has been doing with their companion books, but alas one cannot have everything.  The Introduction really sets the tone of the deck, from the prehistorical bond between humans and canines to the structure of the deck, and how to use and care for it.  I really love how the Introduction was laid out and presented.  It made me want to jump right in and join these packs.  The next section of the book is the Major Arcana “Dogs Deep Wisdom” and covers each Major Arcana card providing a description of everything you see in the card and its symbolism or meaning.  The description is followed by “Paws for Thought” which ties in the description to traditional tarot meanings and some keywords.  Lastly there is a “Reversed” section for each card and some keywords for the reversals.  The third section of the book is the Minor Arcana or “Dog Packs.”  Each pack or suit section starts with its Call of the Pack which describes the pack, who they are, the dynamics within the pack, what drives them, and ties these nicely into tarot suit correspondences.  The same format used in the Majors is used with the Minors.  The Fourth section is on Spreads and includes three canine themed spreads:  The Paw Print Spread (5 cards) which is good to get the lay of the land; The Guardian Spread (7 cards) good to watch your borders and protect your territory; and The Hunt Spread (3 cards) to get a quick overview of a situation.  At the end of the book there is an Appendix in which they share some of Mickie’s sketches and give a short explanation of the sketch.  This book does not delve into Tarot History, numerology, or go in depth on how to perform Tarot readings, but it does give a nice overview in the Introduction and it is focused on using this particular deck and companion book.  I actually really like this companion book.   Like a dog it is friendly and unassuming but a great companion.
       
      This deck has the heart of a dog.  In readings it is honest, and understands harshness and tenderness.  The readings just brought out so much emotion in me.  I have laughed and had tears well up in my eyes.  I did not expect that.  I would start reading and my heart would just flow.  The imagery is powerful and will take you deep inside your heart and pull out things you did not even know were there.  I released things in readings that I have held back from writing in my journal when reading with other decks, I just could not help myself.  This deck brings out so much honesty and compassion at the same time.  It brought out in me those feelings I have when I am hugging my Shih-Tzu, true raw and real emotion.   The Magical Dogs is not “fluffy” by any means, and does not sugar coat anything either, but there is that empathy and sense of unconditional love that you can only get from a dog.  It fosters courage and resilience, playfulness, and gratitude for the simple things in life.  It is a reliable and trustworthy companion that you can count no matter what.  This is a deck I will treasure and one I will turn to often, particularly in difficult or troubled times.
       
      This deck is a true delight.  It is deep and oozes with canine spirit and magic.  It is so easy to understand and relate to.  If you are a dog lover, and like Rider-Waite-Smith based decks then do not pass this one up.  I would recommend The Magical Dogs Tarot to all levels of experience with the Tarot despite that it is dogs and has changes to suits and Majors.  The book provides any guidance needed to successfully use the deck.  The tie into the Rider-Waite-Smith is there, just stripped of esoteric symbolism.  The archetypes remain clear.  I would recommend this deck to intuitive readers, empaths, and those that take a psychological approach to Tarot.  If you are looking for a racially diverse and/or gender balanced deck, there are dogs of all sizes and kinds.  If you are looking for esoteric symbolism this is not a deck for you.  Would I read for my dear aunt Fifi with this deck?  Absolutely, she loves dogs and will, without any Tarot knowledge, be able to pick up a lot from the cards and participate in the reading.  I would be comfortable using it in readings for persons of any age.  There is nothing offensive in this deck, and it is a great deck for squeamish querents, especially if they love or can relate to dogs.
      Forest of Enchantment Tarot
      By Jewel – March 4, 2020
       
      Forest of Enchantment Tarot, by Lunea Weatherstone and illustrated by Meraylah Allwood, was published by Llewellyn in October of 2019 as a deck/book set. The deck is based on our journey through the dark forest like characters from fairytales.  You enter the forest, walk the path, face the trials and challenges that lie within the forest, and come out the other side changed by the experience.  Each reading is a new journey and a personal fairytale in the making.  As noted in the companion book introduction “The forest is part of the human psyche.”  It is a dangerous and exciting place, a place that can contain terrors and gifts, “…it is a place you pass through to get somewhere else.”  The deck does not reference any specific story but is inspired by forest tales and you will recognize some familiar tales such as Little Red Ridding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Arthurian legends, and The Frog Prince to name a few.
       
      The deck is populated by witches, wizards, faeries, elves, dwarves, animals and mythical creatures.  The art of this deck is simply beautiful, and the images draw you into the forest.  The watercolor paintings are rich yet soft and the images carry an aura of mystery and magic.  A couple of my favorite aspects of this deck, aside from the theme, is that it is borderless and that the same attention to detail and quality were given to the Major and Minor Arcana.  The card titles are contained in a small gold metallic ink scroll with black italic lettering at the bottom each card which blends in nicely without detracting from the imagery.  The scenes all take place in forest and will remind you of fairytales, fantasy books, and folklore.
       
      It is evident that a lot of thought and care went into the creation of this deck.  From the renaming of the suits from traditional cups, wands, swords and pentacles to what you will actually find within the Forest: Visions, Spells, Challenges, and Boons respectively. Elemental correspondences are your traditional Visions/Water, Spells/Fire, Challenges/Air, and Boons/Earth.  The majority of the Majors have been renamed as well to go with the theme of the deck, and will be covered in a the next section of this review.  
       
      The imagery of the Major Arcana is quite different from the RWS but reflect aspects of the traditional RWS meanings.  As noted above many of the names of the Majors have been changed:
       
      The Fool becomes The White Heart,
      The Magician becomes The Enchanter,
      The High Priestess becomes The Wisewoman,
      The Empress becomes The Green Mother,
      The Emperor becomes The Forest Lord,
      The Hierophant becomes The Oldest One,
      The Lovers retains its traditional name,
      The Chariot becomes The Faery Wind,
      Strength retains its traditional name,
      The Hermit retains its traditional name,
      The Wheel of Fortune becomes The Enchanter’s Wheel,
      Justice becomes The Huntsman,
      The Hanged Man becomes Suspension,
      Death becomes Black Shuck,
      Temperance becomes The Forge,
      The Devil becomes The Liar,
      The Tower becomes The Folly,
      The Star becomes Starlight,
      The Moon becomes Moonlight,
      The Sun becomes Sunlight,
      Judgement becomes The Council of Animals, and
      The World becomes The Wide World.
       
      Though the variations seem great, when you start working with the deck you quickly understand that they are a translation of the RWS to fit the context of the theme of deck without really detracting from traditional Major Aracana meanings.  In addition with the change in names of the “scary cards” (Death, Devil, Tower, Hanged Man) it can make the deck quite suitable for squeamish querents.  The renaming makes sense and works very well.  I particularly like Temperance as The Forge as it gave me whole new perspective on the delicate balance implied by this card. 
       
      Though a significant amount of the imagery is quite different in many of Minor Arcana cards 1-10, they do follow the Raider-Wait-Smith (RWS) system.  Where the deck deviates from this system is with the Court Cards in naming and slightly in meaning. Kings are Keepers, Queens are Weavers, Knights are Seekers and Pages are Children.  Again, as with the Majors the renaming of the Court Cards is very appropriate in carrying over theme.  In addition, as a whole I think they would be helpful to beginners in understanding the nature of the court card ranks. It breaks them down into levels of maturity and energy, and where there focus lies.  From the companion book:
       
      Keepers “are exemplars of their suits, often acting as teachers or guides.  Keepers are protective, wise, experienced and in command, they are all Wizards, each a master in his own sphere of expertise.”
       
      Weavers “are the initiating spark, the muse, the catalyst, the push out the door that leads to glory.  Weavers bring out positive qualities in others, whether through nurturing or by judicious application of tough love.”
       
      Seekers “have a quest to fulfill, and the quality of action is common to all four seekers.”
       
      Children “are changing all the time rather than being set in their ways, and they tend to get into predicaments more than other people cards.  Some are careless, some foolhardy, and some are just curious.”
       
      The cards are typical Llewellyn card stock, which many consider a bit flimsy, but I find it thin but of good quality and great for those of us who riffle shuffle.  They do not stick nor clump. They measure about 4.5” X 2.75”, a great size for all sized hands.  The backs of the cards have a mirror image of an owl sitting on a branch at night, the moonlight is at the center of the backs of the cards and are reversible though reversed card interpretations were not included in the companion as Ms. Weatherstone does not use reversals.  Based on this fact, I would like to point out that the deck was not designed with reversals in mind though they can be used.
       
      The deck comes with a 228-page companion book, titled Your Path Through The Enchanted Forest, written by Ms. Weatherstone.  Her writing is clear, interesting, and engaging.  The book is full color and glossy, with a full-page colored image of each card.  Gotta love that!  The Introduction starts out with some information about The Forest and what it represents, followed by sections on:  Tarot Basics including The Forest Journey: Major Arcana which speaks to the renaming of the Majors, and Forest Tales: Minor Arcana which talks about the renaming of the suits; Care and Feeding of Your Deck, about deck care; Frequently Asked Questions that focus on beginner level questions such as the best way to learn tarot, should one memorize meanings, should one read for oneself, etc.; How to Use Your Cards: this section gives some tips on learning to use or becoming familiar with a new tarot deck, how to use the “Closer Look” section on each card, using reversals, and shuffling.
       
      The second section of the Companion book focuses on The Forest Journey (Major Arcana).  Each card includes a description, a meaning at glance (keywords), and “A Closer Look” which includes something specific found in the image for the reader to look at more closely.  The third section of the book is Forest Tales and is about the Minor Arcana cards 1-10.  Information about each card is structured as it is in the Major Arcana but the descriptions for each card is shorter.  Section four of the book is titled Forest Folk and is about the Court Cards.  Again descriptions, etc. follow the template set forth in the Majors but like the Minors the card descriptions are shorter than in the Majors.  The Final section of the book is titled Spreads and includes the following spreads:
       
      Your Day in the Forest (1 card) – your basic daily draw.
       
      The White Heart (2 cards) which is a variation of the previous spread using 2 cards.
       
      Breadcrumbs and Moonstones (up to the reader how many cards) – this spread is designed to help you decide strategies showing what works and what doesn’t.  The deck is divided into two piles: breadcrumbs which are the strategies that won’t work, and moonstones which will work.  It is a progressive reading and the reader can choose from 2 cards to as many cards as they want.
       
      The Owl’s Advice (6 cards) for situations where you need more information.
       
      Shining Eyes, Creeping Feet (9 cards) this reading to help one gain clarity when scared or stressed.  First you find something that represents something you fear or are stressed about in the situation, then you go back and find something that encourages or gives you hope.  This spread really ties into the overall theme of trials and gifts found within the Forest.
       
      The Council of Animals (1 to 12 cards) this spread is on getting advice from an animal counselor.  Each of the 12 animals on The Council of Animals (Judgement) card has advice for you in a particular area.  You can council with all 12 or however many or few you wish.
       
      Lastly, pages 209-228 are pages for you take notes if you like writing in your books.  This type of thing is totally wasted on me, but I am sure there are some that will like that.  There is no bibliography or appendices.
       
      I found my readings with this deck to be profound.  I felt like I was in the Forest of Enchantment, on the path, and part of a personal fairytale.  The imagery of the cards was gripping during the readings.  This is a very atmospheric deck and theme is executed beautifully and completely within the tarot structure which is not an easy thing to do.  Nothing feels forced or like a stretch.  The messages are straight forward and perfectly represented in the imagery on the cards.  I really enjoy using this deck when I am at odds with something in my life and not sure how to move forward.  The readings helped give me a sense of direction.  This deck is not “fluffy” or childish.  It does not shy away from harsh realities.  It puts you up close and personal with your issues.  This is a deck I will use and enjoy for many years to come.
       
      This deck is a true delight, full of mystery, magic, choices and options.  I love how it just transports me into the Enchanted Forest to face my trials and challenges with thought and prudence.  The deck is gender balanced.   I would recommend to all levels of experience with the Tarot despite the changes in the Majors and Court Cards.  The book provides any guidance needed to successfully use the deck.  The tie into the RWS is there, just stripped of esoteric symbolism.  The archetypes remain clear.  I would recommend this deck to intuitive readers; fans of fairytales, fantasy and folklore or persons who like themed decks; writers; and readers that enjoy delivering the readings as stories.  If you are looking for a racially diverse deck this one might disappoint, unless you count species diversity as the deck does include humans, elves, dwarves, animals and mythical creatures.  If you are looking for esoteric symbolism this is not a deck for you.  Would I read for my dear aunt Fifi with this deck?  Absolutely, she loves the atmosphere of the deck and how it places her in her own story.  There is nothing I would consider offensive in this deck, and there is no nudity.  I would be comfortable using it in readings for teenagers and adults.  I would also not hesitate to use it when reading for squeamish querents.
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