I am not the sort of person who usually likes the lighter Tarot decks on the market (lighter in mood or in color); I am also not the sort of person who ever buys a Tarot deck without having researched it and read thoroughly its reviews on aeclectic.net. However, I bought the Mystic Faerie Tarot deck and book set by Linda Ravenscroft and Barbara Moore on total impulse (before I realized it was a full moon!) and I could not be happier with my purchase.
First let me say that the colors on my printed set are richer by far than the washed-out colors I see in the scans on this site. Don't get me wrong, the art is watercolor after all, but the scans to me look to be overexposed, and the card art is stunningly beautiful. The borders are gold ink, which I thought was a really nice touch.
The box seems pretty solid for a folded paper tarot box, but I don't know yet how it will hold up over time. The gold organza bag for the cards is lovely and the perfect size--not so small you can't properly draw it closed or easily get the cards in and out; not so big the cards shuffle themselves around or get bent in it. The size of the book was a very nice surprise--I hate having to flip through the tiny booklets that come with most decks, and they're a pain to keep open when you're trying to read them. The Mystic Faerie Tarot companion book is the same size as the big box the whole set comes in, I would guess (but haven't measured) about 8x5 inches. It's a sturdy paperback with a nice, shiny, color-printed cover, and the text inside does not require a magnifying glass to read. Each card is printed at fully size or nearly full size before its accompanying text in the book, but they are all in black and white.
This purchase was a bit of a leap of faith for me, because (like I said) I hadn't heard of the deck, read reviews, or researched it at all, and the pictures on the box only showed major arcana cards, so I was a little afraid that the minors might not be fully illustrated. It felt right, however, so I bought the set, and was beyond pleased to find that not only are the minors fully illustrated with scenes, they might be my favorite thing this set has to offer. Let me explain.
Each suit of the minor arcana is designed around a faerie tale specific to that suit. The suit of Wands (represented by actual wands) tells a tale of enterprise, two faeries who embark on an adventure in search of a phoenix; the suit of swords (represented by rose thorns) tells a story of a magical blue rose and the faeries who care for it; the suit of cups (represented by water lily flowers) follows a nymph and an elf (two fae of different races) through their trying romance; and the suit of pentacles (represented by actual pentacles) follows a fae woman who, unable to find her village after getting lost in the forest, starts over on her own and is befriended by mice. The four stories do not all have strictly happy endings, which I did not expect from a faerie deck, but they do all have pretty much universally applicable morals, and they can be applied to the world of humans realistically. Sometimes it seems as if the meaning of a minor lines up with the Rider-Waite meaning of that minor, but I do not think this is the case across the board.
What this faerie tale layout means for the minors is that, because they are essentially illustrations to a story, they will be pretty difficult to read if you have not read (or do not remember) the faerie tales; happily, the stories are short, sweet, and easy to read. What I'm saying is you SHOULD read this companion book cover to cover, and you should do so before trying to read with the cards, which is not something I recommend with most companion books (or booklets, rather).
The concept of the deck as a whole, and the artist & author's stated reason for creating a faerie tarot deck is roughly this: the fae are in perfect balance with nature, which is (or should be) our goal as humans; but we are humans, not fae, and that is not something we can ever completely achieve. However, the fae can teach us what the ideal is, and how we as humans can come closer to achieving that, how we can live in better (if not perfect) balance with nature. This concept is incredibly well executed.
As the daughter of a doctor and a scientist, I have days where I begin to feel skeptical even about the Tarot (these days are rare and this always goes away, but still, they do come). It speaks to the quality of the concept and execution of this deck and book set that not once in my reading of the book or the cards did I feel the least bit silly taking and giving advice from faeries.
Now for the majors. The majors are also beautifully illustrated in rich watercolor and exquisite detail. There is a Priestess instead of a High Priestess, a Priest instead of a Hierophant, and The Hanged Fae instead of The Hanged Man. The meanings in this deck are slightly different than traditional Rider-Waite, so DO read the book first, but they make an immense amount of sense and will be easy to remember. My favorite cards from the majors in this deck are Strength (numbered 8, not 11), the Tower, The Moon & The Sun, and Judgement. This deck's Strength rides a dragon, which is related to the dragon in the story for the suit of wands. In this Tower, the structure is being taken over by nature in ALL directions, and the book offers one of the best explanations for the Tower I have ever read. The Moon & Sun have a beautiful parallel structure (both are represented by women fae whose hair becomes the orb they represent, and the book offers a beautiful explanation for this parallel structure that may change the way I read with other decks. The same sort of parallel structure thing happens with Priestess and Priest, and it is also really well done). I feel that the Judgement card in this deck is particularly strong because of the description offered with it in the book--judgement is a card that has always been difficult for me to relate to on a personal (rather than a bare mathematical understanding of the meaning), but this book makes it easy. This is the case for the whole deck--the cards are stunningly beautiful, and the book makes them ten times better by fulfilling your other four or five senses so that the meanings are forever linked in your imagination and memory. The slight twists on traditional card meanings which make them more appropriate to the world of the fae make them, I think, more relatable to me as well.
The court cards use Knave instead of Page, so you have: Knave, Knight, Queen, King. These run very true to traditional tarot meanings with each suit governing a particular part of human experience, and each rank possessing a certain level of maturity and experience in that realm.
The introduction to the book provides a really good basic understanding of Tarot and even introduces a few things that were good for me to hear again. At the end of the book are included a few original spreads, and I am especially interested to try Acorn to Oak (designed to show the best way to accomplish a goal) and the Birthday Sunflower Spread (meant to be read yearly and provide a general overview).
Overall, I highly recommend this deck for children and tarot beginners (the symbolism is easy to understand and really well explained in the accompanying stories and descriptions, and the stories will make learning the tarot easier and more fun) as well as for more experienced readers looking for a refreshing new perspective on tarot.
I wrote this review for its original appearance on Aeclectic.net