Deck Review: Animal Tarot Cards

Friday, 10 November 2017

I try to remain impartial when I'm planning a deck review, but will admit that I wasn't sure about Animal Tarot Cards* when they arrived for review from Hay House. Mostly because of the writing (and wording) on the cards, which I find distracts from intuitive reading. However, I had never used any Virtue/Valentine decks - despite them being the most widely available in this part of the UK - and I was curious. Plus, Radleigh Valentine seems fun, and this new deck has cute illustrations by Dan Craig. We'll talk about the 'Doreen Virtue Issue' later, but first let's look at the deck.

On first impression the cards themselves are just as expected. They are in a typical Hay House two-part box and are the same size as their other decks, although I am becoming accustomed to the larger-than-standard-tarot-size and it's not an issue for me. The card stock felt a bit more flexible than The Good Tarot (my only other Hay House Tarot) but they are actually the same weight (4.1g per card) so perhaps it's the finish, or the vibes that makes them feel different. I'm not sure. 

The Majors (purple) and individual suits are colour-coded and named after the seasons - Wands are Spring (Burgundy), Cups are Summer (Teal), Coins are Autumn (Green) and Swords are Winter (Navy Blue). I can't connect those colours to either the seasons or the traditional suits, but maybe I'm missing something - if so, please leave a comment. Justice and Strength are positioned at numbers 8 and 11 respectively and several of the Majors are renamed (eg Unity, Ego, Release, Balance). 

The backs of the cards show an enlarged detail from the Queen of Spring - a Persian Cat on a golden throne. She is also on the box. For readers who do not like to read intuitively, there is explanatory text on the front of the cards which would be good for beginners. The Court Cards include character keywords along the top as well as the titles and a description. The descriptions are quite faithful to the 'traditional' card meanings, but always with a positive spin. 

The almost 200-page accompanying mini booklet includes an index, guidance on using the deck and a few spreads (one card, three cards, Celtic Cross) and then has a double spread for each card with keywords plus a more detailed explanation of the meaning, together with a black and white thumbnail of the illustration. It also mentions the reason for the particular animal choices. Although the suits are indexed in the front of the book, they are not in seasonal order - Spring, Summer, Winter, Autumn. I suppose this has been done to have a Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles ordering, but I'm sure I won't be the only nature-lover to find it quite bothersome.

The interpretations of the most challenging cards in the deck are framed in a positive way, for example Nine of Winter (Swords) is the Sea Lion. This is an extract from the book:
The uplifting message behind the sea lion is that your worries and fear are simply unfounded. The challenging message this card brings is that by focussing on the negative, you're making yourself unhappy and therefore giving power to that which you're afraid of. Stop worrying and just breathe!
That actually ties in very nicely with an earlier post I wrote about Thoughts, Air and Swords.

Before I go on to talk about the way the cards read, I have to mention the elephant in the room - this is a new TAROT DECK by Doreen Virtue who recently denounced Tarot after becoming 'Born Again' (see 12m31s on this video). This has been big news in the online 'New Age / Spiritual' community for the last few months so you can search online quite easily if you want to read more, or if the linked video has been taken down by the time you read this. I asked Hay House a few questions about the implications of this a little while ago, and am still awaiting a response. I'll come back to update the post if I get a reply.

While it's understandable that many of Doreen Virtue's (ex-)followers are upset about this, especially if they have spent a lot of money on products or training related to her Tarot offerings, I do not feel personally insulted by her decision to turn to Jesus or to stop using Tarot. I am not religious (spiritual - yes, religious - no!) and as far as I'm concerned, Virtue can believe whatever she wants. So it wouldn't stop me using these cards now that they are here, but I can totally understand why some people might feel uncomfortable about the situation. I suspect that her name will be removed for subsequent print-runs (on the website, it is listed as a deck by Radleigh) but again have been unable to confirm this with Hay House at the time of writing. 

However, there is something that bugs me. Precisely because I'm not religious, I avoid 'religious' decks - Animals seemed a safe bet, yet there IS a fair bit of "God" on the cards. As an example, "Focus on the fact that God loves you and always has the highest intentions for you.." is written on the Five of Summer (Cups). I can't help wonder if this was worded to appeal to her Christian followers prior to Virtue's public denunciation of Tarot, but maybe that's my cynical side coming through. I much prefer Gabby Bernstein's references to the 'Universe' or Colette Baron-Reid's 'Spirit', which feel so much more inclusive. (Review of Colette's Postcards from Spirit to follow.) I realise it's all just semantics - it's referring to the same thing - but I am not a Christian and the language feels biblical which creates a disconnect for me.

With all that said, let's look at how it is to read with these cards. 

With the writing on the front and not a huge amount of symbolism, I don't find a great deal of room for interpretation. What you see is pretty much what's written on the cards so I thought I would hate reading with this deck as I pulled the first few cards... only to be pleasantly surprised. After shuffling the deck thoroughly, I drew the Ace of Autumn and Eight of Autumn. If you click on the image above, you'll be able to read the message.

Following a serendipitous meeting and a conversation, when I pulled these cards, I had booked onto a Reiki course and was obsessively reading various books about it, so these really were spot on. I have used the deck for various daily draws and three-card readings since then, and the cards have ALWAYS been perfect for the situation.

Using them, I realise that sometimes - especially when looking for insight into something that's personal -  it's quite liberating when there's not so much room for interpretation because you can't be biased or second-guess your intuition.

So, on reflection, although this wouldn't be my first choice I have to say that I can see the appeal of this deck. It would be great for someone who is curious-but-nervous about Tarot, or who is making the move from Oracle cards into Tarot - it certainly feels like it bridges the two. As long as you're happy with the 'God' references, the seasons being reordered, and one of the authors denouncing Tarot, it's actually fun to work with!

The deck is available to order from Hay House or anywhere books are sold (ISBN 978-1-4019-5121-4). 

*Deck kindly provided for review by Hay House UK. All opinions are my own and unbiased. Amazon affiliate links are included in this post. 

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