Newly published tarot and oracle decks arrive on Amazon, Etsy, crowd-funding platforms, and in bookstores every month. Today there are literally thousands of decks to choose from, including out-of-print decks as well as published ones. Reviewing a deck is a subjective judgement intended to help readers determine if they want to own the deck.
The critical review of a deck for AskAstrology involves looking at the quality and size of the cards, visual accessibility of the art, quality of the companion text of the deck, and potential usefulness in professional practice. This month I have chosen to review the Tarot of the Magical Forest by Hsu Chin Chun (author) and Leo Tang (artist).
From the Goodreads description:
Take a Tarot walk through an enchanted forest.
Throughout human history and across every culture, there have been legends, myths, and tales of talking animals. This delightful Tarot takes advantage of this by using animals on all of the cards, adding to the Rider-Waite-Smith symbolism that was already there.
The Major Arcana cleverly features sheep, lions, bears, pigs, hedgehogs, and kangaroos, adding a wonderful feel to the cards that is happy and basic. The Strength card, which shows a lamb and a lion nuzzling each other, has to be the sweetest version of this card ever. The Sun card shows a baby kangaroo in his mother’s pouch in a field of sunflowers under a huge sun happily waving a little red flag with innocent, blissful joy.
The Minor Arcana suits, while traditionally named, each feature a specific animal: Cups have bunnies, Pentacles have foxes, Wands have frogs, and Swords have cats. These choices brilliantly represent the suit qualities. Bunnies bring forth feelings of warmth and sweetness. Foxes are thought to be clever. Cats can be seen as intelligent and emotionally distant. Frogs, well, they like games (leap frog, anyone?).
So, the 4 of Cups shows a bunny under a tree with three cups in the foreground and one being offered by a hand emerging from a cloud (like the RWS). This bunny has her eyes closed and is very much at peace, using creative visualization to manifest what she wants.
This refreshing, whimsical, and wonderful deck will surprise you every time you use its immediately evocative images. The deck has striking images that perfectly capture the intense feelings of the artist’s dark vision.
Printed on standard card stock, these cards have a glossy finish with curved edges. An easy-to-read black typeface on the bottom shows the names of each card, including the Chinese character for the name of the card. The quality of the card stock will hold up in professional, repeated use; and the size of the cards will make them easy to shuffle.
Artwork and the Visual Accessibility of the Deck
The artwork is wonderful, both fun and well-done. The anime style used to create the animals makes the deck less intimidating than more common adaptations of the Rider-Waite Tarot. The deck is worth owning for the art alone.
The deck artwork mimics the Rider-Waite cards faithfully, so the visual accessibility is about the same as the Rider-Waite, which has some cards that are easy to interpret based of the images while other cards are not. If you are familiar with the Rider-Waite Tarot, then you will be able to pick up this deck and start reading with it immediately.
Major Arcana 20 – The Moon
About this card:
Meaning: The Moon represents the feelings we need to explore and express. The Moon, as an archetype, is the eighteenth encounter for the Fool, illuminating our deepest feelings so we can understand the emotional framework that gets reinforced, suppressed, and shaped by our family and closest relationships.
Symbolism: A smiling crescent Moon watches over the valley; the entrance is guarded by two foxes. A lobster rises out of the water at the very front of the card. Symbolically, the animal represents the need we have to project our vulnerable emotions with a hard outer shell.
Upright: dreams, positive emotions, intuition, and soul purpose
Reversed: delusion, nightmares, negative emotions, and despair
Four of Cups
About this card:
Meaning: Find some time to meditate, or at least rest; your emotions need soothing.
Symbolism: A bunny meditates by a tree. The three cups on the ground represent emotional experiences she has mastered. The cup descending from the sky symbolizes a new emotional experience she will need to learn and master.
Upright: introspection, and rest
Reversed: boredom, and restlessness
Queen of Spheres
About this card:
Meaning: You have a duty to uphold; others look to you as a role model.
Symbolism: A frog soldier has taken his staff from the armory and prepares to perform his duty, as a guard or by going into battle.
Upright: loyalty, and discipline
Reversed: disloyalty, and undisciplined
Explanation of the Cards
This deck does not have a companion book, and only comes with the small booklet inside the box. Therefore, explanations for the cards are brief and to the point.
As a professional reader, I can say that this deck is an excellent one for reading in public where people who have never had a tarot reading might want to get one. Because of the “cute” nature of the animal images and fantasy style, even the harshest cards in the deck (Death, the Tower, 9 of Swords, and so on) are not overwhelming. For this reason, the deck is extremely useful for any audience.
I would recommend the deck for personal use, collecting, admiring the artwork, and general professional use. This deck is beautiful, with some truly excellent artwork. The guidebook that comes with the deck is concise and basic.
The deck is a mixed visually, when it comes to conveying the meaning of some of the cards, but the expertise and cleverness of the artist is unmistakable. I give this deck four out of five stars.