I can’t say that I am a true fan of fantasy art, but I am a true fan of fantasy artist Lisa Hunt. With the publication of Fantastical Creatures Tarot she distinguishes herself as having designed and published four complete Tarot decks. Three of her four decks, including the new Fantastical Creatures Tarot, are collaborations with Pagan author D.J. Conway. My very favorite Lisa Hunt deck is her only solo Tarot project, Animals Divine Tarot.
Fantastical Creatures Tarot is a deck of mythical beings with a magickal purpose. D.J. Conway has a wonderful theory of mythical beings, which she first presented to the Tarot community in the Celtic Dragon Tarot. She suggests that beings of myth and legend truly exist on a different plane than our own, and that we can tap in to their power, and use it in our own magickal work. I think that is something that most of us intuitively knew, or at least hoped, as children, but it took D.J. Conway to put it in to words.
I don’t always agree with D.J. Conway’s Tarot interpretations. Perhaps I am too rooted in my own Tarot understanding to accept the new traditions that are being spearheaded by the dynamic duo of Hunt and Conway.
As with Hunt’s other decks, the backs of the Fantastical Creature Tarot cards are reversible, and sport a version of what is now a Hunt trademark, a circle design with a Celtic feel. However, there are no interpretations for reversed cards included in the booklet.
Unlike Lisa Hunt’s other decks, Fantastical Creatures Tarot is published by U.S. Games, Inc. While I respect all the Tarot publishers, U.S. Games has a longstanding reputation, and it is nice to see Lisa Hunt appear in this catalog.
The deck is presented in U.S. Games’ new and attractive premium packaging. In the package is a very nice lay-out sheet, also designed by Lisa Hunt, which offers two specifically created spreads for use with Fantastical Creatures Tarot.
Another unique and welcome addition is that the two extra cards always included in every Tarot deck are printed, front and back, with a Quick Reference Guide to the Cards. This is a simply brilliant use of space that is usually wasted, although I find myself shaking my head quizzically at the key phrases listed for some of the cards. For instance, “Unpleasant Events” for Major Arcana 11, Justice, makes no sense to me. Likewise, Major Arcana 17, the Star, is “Success against Opposition.” Who or what, exactly, opposes the light of the Star? The LWB (Little White Book) offers no enlightenment here.
The LWB does, however, pack quite a punch in a small amount of space. My favorite part is that each card is given a mythical description of the image, a divinatory meaning, and magickal uses. There is no doubt that Fantastical Creatures Tarot is meant to be a potent magickal tool.
The cards themselves are a standard size at 2.75" by 4.57," and completed with a glossy finish. The cardstock is of good quality. The Major Arcana is traditionally ordered and named, except for the Hierophant, which is the High Priest, and the Devil, which is Chains. These changes were also made in Hunt and Conway’s Celtic Dragon Tarot, so I suppose we could call this a new Tarot tradition. The court cards are also traditionally named as Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings, and are particularly beautifully drawn. While in some Tarot decks the court cards are sort of boring and non-descript, the court of Fantastical Creatures is alive with sentiment and symbolism.
The suits are also traditional, being Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles. The elemental associations include Wands-Air and Sword-Fire, which does give me a bit of a problem. The solution I developed with Celtic Dragon Tarot is to find the commonality between Air and Fire, which includes attributes like inspiration and Yang energy.
Another thing I like about Fantastical Creatures Tarot is that the icon of each Minor Arcana card is shown at the top of the card, above the border of vines. This is a really nice touch, and will be very helpful to beginners.
The artwork of Fantastical Creatures Tarot is exactly what we have come to expect from Lisa Hunt, in other words, gorgeous! Each card is illustrated with a mythical being. These beings come from many world cultures, and it is nice to see them together in one package. There are dragons, gnomes, unicorns, mermaids and creatures from Greek mythology. There are lesser known (at least to me) creatures like my favorite, the Vegetable Lamb, who graces the Four of Swords. There are Gods and Goddesses from many cultures. One of my favorite deities in the deck is the lovely Yemaya, who is the Six of Cups. I was disappointed, however, that the booklet did not say why she was chosen to be the Six of Cups. Maybe too, I have a wee bit of an issue with my patroness Yemaya being lumped in with faery-tale creatures. I am sure, though, that this is meant to elevate the faery-tale creatures, rather than denigrate the deities.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Fantastical Creatures Tarot is that, when viewed with its three predecessors, it gives us a full view of Lisa Hunt’s vision of Tarot. By removing the beautiful Animals Divine from the mix, we can see as well the contribution that D.J. Conway has made to Tarot. Looking at these visions, and, dare I say it, new Tarot traditions, will give Tarot scholars a lot to talk about for years to come. Indeed, the body of Tarot as a whole is forever changed by Lisa Hunt and D.J. Conway.
All ruminations aside, Fantastical Creatures Tarot is an important addition to anyone’s Tarot collection, especially those who honor the Tarot as a tool of magick and meditation, as well as divination. It will be especially well loved by those who, as children, saw the faeries and the gnomes hiding in the garden.