New Arrival: Dark Days Tarot

A Wooly ReviewMy copy of the Dark Days Tarot arrived and I couldn’t wait to open it up and work with it!   I backed the deck on Kickstarter and I’d almost forgotten about it.  That something I kind of love about Kickstarter.  I forget about them and then boom, surprise in the mail!

IMG_1736The Dark Days Tarot was created by Wren McMurdo.  The deck is beautiful and I’m just going to spam you to bits with a bunch of pictures.  This is the box that arrived in my mail box.  With that beautiful art on the cover and two mini cards along with it.

On her site Wren says that the deck “is inspired by the darkest days of the lunar cycle.”  She also says that in creating them she “channeled her connection to the moon and its phases, in congruence with pressing matters relating to the transition from Obama to Trump Presidential eras, in creating these cards. They are an offering to the healing power of darkness.”  And I freaking love that.  Also she’s queer, which is a double bonus 🙂

I also love how sturdy the box is, and what a beautiful presentation it has.  I’m including a bunch more pictures here.  I am really disappointed that it was printed on pretty flimsy card stock though, it’s thin, which means that it won’t hold up to really intense use as well as heavier cards.  It makes it too easy to bend the cards and tear them when they’re thin.

Major arcana come on white background cards and the minors are all on black cards, it IMG_1746gives them an immediate striking difference which I like.  I immediately liked The Fool card which shows a mother holding a small child.  I liked that it shows that the Fool can be both the start and the end of the Major Arcana cycle.  Each ending is a new beginning and they illustrate that beautifully.  And the Magician card shows the magician’s work space with a book and crystals and the magical workings coalescing in the aether above.

The card backs are completely reversible and as you can see the cards themselves are square which is going to make it extra interesting laying them out, not only can they show up reversed, but they can appear sideways as well.  I can see that leading to some really great nuanced reading situations.

IMG_1751One of the big things I look for in any Tarot deck is what is shown on the Lovers card, if it’s blatantly white cis and heterosexual I’m immediately turned off.  This deck takes a really unique approach.  The Lovers are human shaped mostly, but genders aren’t clear and they’re freaking mer-creatures.

There are a lot of mermaids in this deck and I love it.  The Two of Cups features two mermaids clasping hands and I love the queerness of it all.

Lots of the Wands cards depict the wands as growing and blooming plants and it’s so elegant and beautiful that I couldn’t stop staring at them last night as I sorted through my cards.

Oddly enough, and I imagine this is just some technical issues with the first printing, I got a handful of extra blank cards with my deck and three or four repeated cards from the beginning of the series.  Hopefully they aren’t missing from someone else’s deck because they were in with mine!  It’s kind of a nice bonus because one of them is the Fool and I love the imagery on that so I might put it on my altar somewhere.  I wouldn’t count on that though, as I said, I’m pretty sure that must have been a printing/packaging oddball.

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There were so many that I loved and wanted to show you that I couldn’t fit them all, so take a peek at this slide show to see some of the highlights.

Two more that I did want to single out though were The Star and the Eight of Pentacles.

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Just look at that Radiant Star card.  I love it.  I love the stars and the roses and the moons and just… I love it.  It’s jubilant and wonderful.

And the Eight of Pentacles was absolutely perfect and bang on the nose for me lately.  I cannot stop quilting and sewing, I’ve been at my machine almost every free moment lately.  And check this out.

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She’s creating a magical quilt at her sewing machine.  It’s exactly perfect timing and spot on for me.  One of the April Tarot Instagram challenges the other day was “What is your favorite Pentacles card” and I didn’t answer because I didn’t yet have a particular favorite.

Now I do.  🙂

I like this deck and I’m looking forward to trying some readings with it.  If you like what you see take a look at the website.  http://www.darkdaystarot.com/  And you can order your very own copy!

Deck Review: Rumi Oracle

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Today I’m going to ramble on about the Rumi Oracle by Alana Fairchild with artwork by Rassouli.

When you move beyond consciousness, you caress the beloved.
When you move into the unknown, beyond everything, the beloved caresses you.
-Rumi

I got this deck as a gift from Katie’s mom for Christmas.  I learned about Rumi in a img_0441class called Mysticism and Islam when I was in undergrad.  When I saw that someone had created an oracle deck about him I was so excited.  I knew I had to have it right away.

Rumi, also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, was was a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic.  He was also queer.  He had a lover named Shams who he loved very dearly.  And in doing a little more refreshing reading about him to write this post it made me really angry to find out that Rumi’s queerness is totally absent from his wikipedia page.  It’s also totally absent from the book that comes with this deck.

img_0440It’s yet another example of queer erasure.  You see it over and over again, this awesome queer figure and the things you read about them talk about everything else, and completely fail to mention that they were queer.

I’m specifically disappointed that this guide book does not mention this.  Fairchild talks a great deal about sensuality and sexuality and awakenings and about Rumi’s great loves.  She speaks about his love for the Divine and his love for all of us, but conspicuously fails to mention his great love for Shams-e Tabrīzī, a man he met in a market and loved fiercely.  Rumi is perhaps most famous for his poetry, including the love poetry he wrote about his relationships both with God and with Shams.

I also found it really weird that there was so much Christianity talked about in a img_0439guidebook for an oracle featuring a Muslim.  While it is true that Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet, it still felt jarring.  And honestly it felt like pandering to the straight Christian demographic.  Why else spend so much time about Jesus in a book about a queer brown guy if not to ensure that your white christian possible buyers will feel comfortable buying your product.

I was, however, excited to see that in the interpretation for each card included there
is a translation of some of Rumi’s verses.  If I use this deck I think I’m inclined to toss the guidebook and just focus on Rumi’s poetry and the beautiful artistry of these cards.

img_0442Because these cards are really beautiful.  They come in a very sturdy and well made box, it’ll protect them quite well and it holds the book that comes with.  The deck contains forty four cards.  They’re large cards, 3.75 x 5.5 inches.  Each one depicts a different person or idea and each has a beautiful painting.  Some have human figures some don’t.  But they’re all beautifully painted in a rainbow of colors and shades each on inviting you to linger over the images, sometimes you see a woman dancing another time you might see the fins of some mythical sea creature.

I can see myself using these cards as meditation aids because there’s a lot you can mull over in them.

So yes, in summary, I love the art, I don’t love the book, I like the poetry.  I probably won’t use the deck for readings, but it’s not a total loss.

Deck Review: Everyday Witch Tarot

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The Everyday Witch Tarot by Deborah Blake and Elisabeth Alba.

I picked this deck up this weekend (because obviously I needed another deck after IMG_0431.JPGgetting two new tarot decks AND two oracle decks over the holidays ;3 ) at Barnes and Noble because I had some store credit burning a hole in my pocket and they didn’t have the Tarot Coloring book in stock.  I’m going to get the coloring one at some point, but I wanted some instant gratification.

So here’s my thoughts about it:

It comes in a nice sturdy box with a magnetized flip open cover, inside is a 252 page book and the deck itself.  The deck doesn’t come in a separate box or bag, which is kind of a bummer for me, I like my decks to have a box for JUST the cards so I can toss a deck in my bag.  I’ll have to get a drawstring bag or something like to store the cards when I don’t want the big box.

IMG_0430.JPGThe book is pretty nice, it’s full color and has glossy pages.  There’s a short standard introduction to what tarot is and what it does and how to use it.  Nothing revolutionary, but all decent as an introduction for someone who might be picking this up for their first deck.  There was one line about using a card that falls out while shuffling as a signifier which was something I hadn’t heard before, so that was a nice little gem for me.  It also had a little table that spelled out the number pattern thing for minor arcana (aces being new beginnings/opportunities) which I had been meaning to review.  Finding little synchronicities in something like this makes me happy.

As for the cards themselves I quite like them, they’re not perfect, but really I haven’t found The Perfect Deck ™ yet if it even exists.

I’m going to start with the things I didn’t like about this deck.  First of all, as I img_0429mentioned above, no box just for the deck.  Also the card stock that they’re printed on is pretty thin.  The cards aren’t going to hold up as a deck for The Ages, these are going to bend as I work with them.  My last problem with them is a big one, I still like this deck and I anticipate working a lot with it, but it’s got a real problem with lack of racial diversity.  It would have been so easy to add some witches of color into these cards.  There are a handful, I think I counted ten, that could be people of color.  Or they could just be Caucasians with a little bit of a tan.  I find that really disappointing.  Deck creators, please, diversify it up!  I want more people of color in my tarot decks.  Diversity is beautiful and awesome and it’s so important.  Representation is important.  There are a few hints of representation in here, but I don’t think it’s nearly enough.

img_0435This problem aside, there are a lot of things I like about this deck.  It’s witchy, which, spoilers, I’m definitely into.  😉  There’s a cat familiar on almost every single card (cards without cats: Three of Swords, Hanged Man, Six of Wands, Hierophant, and the King of Pentacles, in case you’re interested).  I’m a cat person who has a cat familiar so this scores big points in my book.  One of the first cards I always want to see when I look at a new deck is The Lovers.  I was pleasantly surprised to see two figures that could be easily queered.  There are no gendered markers (aside from possibly the long curly hair, but these days plenty of guys I know have long curly hair) on them.  I looked at a handful of other cards and I saw a handful more semi-androgynous figures.  Then as I was reading the book that came with the cards they said that it was intentionally done “in the hope that everyone will feel included and see themselves somewhere in these cards.”  Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s too bad we couldn’t get some intersectionality here with witches of color!  In other cat related stuff, did you see the cat tails and how they make a little heart!  I loved it!

I also love the way they depict the Hierophant in this deck as well.  This card is oftenimg_0428 shown as a Papal like Christian church man.  This obviously wouldn’t fly in a witchcraft deck so they had to go with something else.  So there’s a yoga instructor with two students.  I love the fact that there’s a woman instructor on this card.  I have often, in the past, struggled with a white Christian male as the authority figure when that’s so far away from my hoped for reality.  Ideally, seeing as the practice of yoga originated in India, I would have loved the teacher to be a woman of color so as not to continue white washing the practice of yoga, but this is progress.  It’s not to say that there isn’t more work to be done, there always is.  I also like that this card shows an ambiguously gendered person.

IMG_0427.JPGThe next card I wanted to share with you is another of my favorites, The Hermit. It shows a witch sitting in front of a crackling campfire.  I adore the change from the dark robed old man with a lantern, even though I really like that traditional imagery too.

Campfires are such wonderful places for recharging for me.  I grew up as  a Girl Scout and so I’ve been to a lot of campfires and I have such strong positive associations with them.  Meditating listening to the crackle and pop of that fire with a cat purring across fro me sounds like a little slice of heaven.  And I always love seeing an owl pop up in readings.  Athena is my matron goddess and seeing her symbol always gives me a little boost.

Overall, I like this deck a great deal.  I think it’s got some great symbolism, I love that it’s witch themed, and I like how easy it is to queer the cards.  I really like that they put those androgynous figures into this deck with intention.  I think this will be a great deck to read with and I’m looking forward to seeing what it has to teach me.

Deck Review: Prisma Visions Tarot

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Today’s deck review is for the Prisma Visions Tarot by James R. Eads

This deck was another one that just grabbed my attention immediately.  It’s beautiful.  If you lay all the minor arcana out in order, each suit flows together into one long beautiful narrative.   This is actually the first deck that I’ve owned where the Minor Arcana captivate me more than the majors!

In the wands suit you watch a meandering stream flow through the cards taking the reader on a journey.  It begins with an explosion of stars in a supernova around a standing wand.  It then moves through a dark night lit only by the stars.  This scene bleeds into a fiery sunrise that in turn leads into a forest and culminates in a fearsome explosion of energy that envelops the figures in the court cards.

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At first the energy of the wands seems to completely overwhelm the page, lifting them off their feet and high into the air as they reach through the energy.  The knight can be seen directing the energy with their hands, but still caught up by it.  The Queen figure draws the energy around her body and coaxes a flower to bloom.  A vibrant shock of hair moves around her with the energy mixed in.  Finally the king floats mid air, controlling the wands energy, relaxed and in control despite the whirling maelstrom of fire all around him.  The wand energy has coalesced into a crown over his head.  I love the story that those court cards tell, a progression over time from being the overwhelmed page to the mastery of the king.  I find it echoed in the other courts as well.  I especially liked the Cups court where they all interact with the same water as it flows from the King down to the Page.

IMG_0699The major arcana are set apart from the minors with a decorative borders around them.

As you can see from the cards shown, the art style of the deck is very Impressionistic, it brings to mind Starry Night in a lot of places.  Each suit represents a season as well.  The Swords suit is winter, Wands are Spring, Pentacles are summer, and Cups are Fall.

The art work is beautiful, but so are the cards.  They’re a little bit thicker than most tarot cards, if you’ve ever used the Wild Unknown deck, they’re similar in weight.  They have silver on their edges which is such a treat, it’s super reflective and shiny.  I find them a little bit challenging to shuffle just because of their thickness and stiffness.  A wash is easier than the shuffling in my hands.  Although I’m sure the more I work with the cards the more flexible they’ll become.

Readings with this deck are just as wonderful as the cards themselves.  There is so much to see in these cards, so many symbols and so much depth.  I can absolutely recommend this deck, I’m looking forward to a lot of lovely readings with these cards.

Challenging the Rider-Waite(-Smith) Tarot

Arguably, the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck is one of the most famous and influential decks that still exist today.  I respect the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck because of it’s huge influence, but I have some issues with the deck as well.  My first thing is that I’m not a huge fan of the art style, classic and traditional though it is.  I need a deck that draws me into the visual style.  But that’s not the biggest challenge around this deck.

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What bothers me the most, and I do admit that I didn’t even learn about this until recently, is that for much of the deck’s history it was called the Rider-Waite deck.  The deck was designed by Arthur Edward Waite (also known as A.E. Waite) and then published by the Rider company.  So where is the problem?  The problem lies in the fact that all of the art for the cards was done by Pamela Colman Smith.

“Waite is often cited as the designer of the Waite-Smith Tarot, but it would be more accurate to consider him as half of a design team, with responsibility for the major concept, the structure of individual cards, and the overall symbolic system. Because Waite was not an artist himself, he commissioned the talented and intuitive Smith to create the actual deck … The Minor Arcana are indeed one of the notable achievements of this deck, as most earlier tarot decks (especially those of the Marseilles type) have extremely simple pip cards. One reason for the enduring success of the Waite-Smith deck may be the richness of symbolic signification that Smith brought to the Minor Arcana.” 01

Her name was left off the published work and she was largely uncredited for her revolutionary illustrations.  She was paid a flat fee for the design and illustration of the cards and didn’t receive any further compensation from the deck.  This further illustrates how she was not viewed as a true collaborator in the project, merely relegated to a role as hired help. 02

Swords13Had it not been for her work and creativity we might not have the wealth of beautiful and varied decks that we’re lucky enough to have today.  And it might be at least partly thanks to her interpretations that the women in the tarot decks are powerful in their own right. 03

You might be inclined to say, okay, so yes, that wasn’t cool of A.E. White, but is it really such a big deal now?  Many tarot readers today now refer to this deck as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, which is the name I use as well.  I want to celebrate this progress.  Adding her name back onto the deck that she was so instrumental in creating is fantastic and long overdue.  Why this is still important is that it was just another slight in a long tradition of ignoring, overlooking, or just outright dismissing the work of women.  It is important to recognize the role of women in history and especially in influential works such as this one.  Calling the the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot is a great first step.

Do yourself a favor and go and learn more about Pamela Colman Smith.  While you’re at it, maybe take a gander at some other contributions of women in Tarot.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia
Footnote 01 – Wikipedia
Footnote 02 – Tarot Heritage – The Rider-Waite-Smith Deck
Footnote 03 – The Tarot Lady – Powerful Women in Tarot

Deck Review: Universal Goddess

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I’m excited to be talking about one of my favorite decks in this post.  The Universal Goddess Tarot is one of my oldest decks; I think I’ve used it more than any other deck I own.  It’s not my oldest deck, because I have a Robin Wood deck that I owned before the Universal Goddess deck found its way into my life, but this beautiful deck of Goddesses is what really kept me moving forward in tarot.

IMG_0566Obviously, this is a goddess based deck.  There are a few nods to some of the classic Rider-Waite-Smith card designs: the Strength card still features a woman with a lion, the Chariot still has a chariot on it, but other than a few recognizable features the deck strikes out on its own, using goddesses from many different cultures as the central figures on the cards.

Their choice to feature Athena on the Emperor card really won me over right away.  I loveIMG_0570 any deck that can take traditionally male designated cards and spin that on its head.  Athena is my matron goddess, I’ve felt an affinity with her since I first read about her in my Edith Hamilton’s mythology book in middle school.  And what a perfect figure for the Emperor.  A warrior goddess who sprung fully formed from her father’s head, already clad in armor.  She is depicted here as a powerful commander of men.  It’s a nice reminder that women posses all the power and wisdom of men and are just as capable of leading.  This theme runs through the entire deck and is one of the things that I love the most about these tarot cards.

As a queer woman, one factor that influences my ability to connect with a tarot deck is how it handles male and female archetypes.  I look through the deck to find the Lovers card and
see what is depicted on it.  I don’t necessarily need all my decks to feature queer couples, but I find it easier to connect when they have more inclusive representation.  This deck comes through for me in that regard.  The Lovers card features Aphrodite, dancing in the ocean.  She isn’t shown with a partner, which I like here because it gives the card a reading that reminds us that it’s so important to love ourselves.  To quote RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else.”

Another rave that I have for this deck is how many goddesses of color are represented.  At IMG_0568least 30 of the goddesses on the cards are women of color.  I chose Pele to show here, since she’s another goddess that I am very drawn to.  Her depiction here on the Five of Wands is great.  As a Hawaiian volcano goddess, she is a powerful creative and destructive force, which is a great representation of the energy of the wands suit and the energy of fire.  The volcano can destroy everything around it, but volcanic ash is rich in minerals and can be an excellent fertilizer.  It’s a lovely symbol of the cyclical nature of life.

I also appreciate that the artists took time and care to create realistic women of color in these cards.  Pele’s face isn’t just a carbon copy of Athena with her skin tone changed.  They are real nuanced depictions of goddesses.  They also include a range of age in the goddesses depicted.  Hestia and Hecate have a more mature look, lines on their faces and wisdom about them, younger goddesses like Aurora fit the maiden archetype better and are shown as such.

Every reader can have a different experience working with a deck, for me this deck is very IMG_0561closely linked with my own spirituality work.  I use it mainly to read for myself and I’ve used it extensively in tarot self-development.  It has a very magical and spiritual energy when I work with it.    When I was just beginning to learn to use my intuition as a reader, I had some trouble reading with these cards and I found myself having to rely very heavily on my notes and the LWB that came with the deck.  There are some cards that don’t seem to fit with what I’d been taught that the cards ‘Had to Mean’.  I found myself stumbling over meanings and only getting half the meanings of cards.  This deck was trying to slowly and painstaking pull me forward into trusting in my own abilities and intuitions.  I owe a lot of thanks to the goddess work, and to the goddesses who guided me to where I am now.  I don’t know that I would have been able to hear their messages if not for these cards.

I love this deck so much.  It wasn’t until I’d been working with this deck for quite some IMG_0562time that I discovered a Tarot Deck Interview Spread on LittleRedTarot that has become my go-to spread any time I get a new deck.  I can’t recommend that spread enough to
anyone starting out as a reader or for a new deck.  Interviewing the Universal Goddess deck revealed to me what I already knew about it.  In this case, the interview just helped reaffirm that I could trust my intuitions around the deck and how we could work together.

It told me that it was a deeply personal deck for me, that it would help me connect with my higher self and to work with goddess energies.  It’s a fantastic deck to use as a meditation tool.  I use a Tarot meditation where you journey into the card and can interact with the figures in the card, and my handful of meditations have been affirming and humbling.

On a purely more physical note, I can recommend this deck as well. I’ve worked a lot with these cards and they’re still in great shape;  the cardboard flap top box shows some reasonable wear around its edges and corners, but the cards aren’t torn and they’ve help up well to lots of shuffling and handling.  I own a not inconsiderable number of tarot decks and this is still one that I come back to again and again.

Tarot Deck Review: The Happy Tarot

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This deck, for me, was a very impulsive purchase.  I saw pictures from it on the Aeclectic Tarot website and I went straight to Amazon and bought it immediately.  Now, for people who know me, making an impulsive purchase isn’t anything out of the ordinary.  I don’t resist little indulgent impulses very often unless I really need to.

The Happy Tarot is published by Lo Scarebo and illustrated by Serena Ficca.  Her art style is adorable, cupcakes and hearts and flowers. IMG_0452  So you might think that this deck would be entirely to fluffy and sunny and just plain sugar coated to actually work with.  But you’d be wrong.

Granted, in a deck where The Fool is literally stepping off a cupcake, this isn’t going to be the deck for everyone.  It’s over the top sunny candy filled colorful cards could put off some readers who like a more serious aesthetic in their cards.  But if you enjoy sugar stars and a whole of of adorable animals and people, this could be your deck.

Whenever I get a new deck I like to use a Deck Interview Spread to get to know my new deck and see how I might work with it.  In my interview with the Happy Tarot I learned that it would help me to unblock blocked emotions and see my way through issues that I didn’t think I was ready to deal with. Because how could you not be willing to listen to adorable sugar laden cards of cotton candy and cupcakes?

The deck is based around the Rider-Waite-Smith deck imagery which makes this a great deck for someone just starting out reading tarot.  It features, as others have said, ‘dudes doing stuff’ which makes it more accessible for interpretation.  Some of the features of the deck that I really enjoy is the attention to detail in the cards, sure the three of cups shows three people celebrating, but there are also happy bunnies running around, music notes in the air and a rainbow in the clouds.  There’s a lot to look at and lots to help you divine the meaning of the cards.

Here are some of my favorites:

StrengIMG_0457th shows a cute little girl singing to a lion after she’s removed the thorn from his paw.  She has the traditional infinity symbol over her head and the mountains in the background so she’s easily recognizable.  What I love about this rendition is how relieved and grateful the lion looks.  His pain is gone.

I also love the use of light in these cards, in Strength you can see the rays of light coming from the upper left.  When you’re working with these cards in spreads you can often see a progression of light through other cards which gives an extra way of interpreting the cards.  If the light from the Emperor’s card shines down into the Four of Swords how does that change the way you read the card?  It’s a wonderful way of getting a clearer picture of their meaning.

The next card that I want to show is The Hermit.  The Hermit is a favorite of mine.  As an IMG_0453introvert sometimes there is nothing more important to me than my alone time.  The Hermit understands me.

This card is visually beautiful, much more subdued than the Strength card here we see a night sky filled with flowing stars and a lantern casting a soft glow over the Hermit as he moves through the candy landscape.  Ficca’s beautiful use of color and shading make this card really draw you in.  Your eyes flows immediately to the glowing lantern and makes me want to lean closer to hear the Hermit’s wisdom.

In a green robe instead of the RWS grey the Hermit feels more approachable and kindly in this deck.  This fits very well with the gentle vibe this deck has.  It doesn’t shy away from giving you the messages you need to hear, but it’s also not going to slap you in the face with them.

The last card I want to share is The Empress.  She is the ideal of the soft nurturing figure of a beautiful mother in nature.  She could even be pregnant in the picture where she rests onIMG_0455 her simple throne surrounded by animals.  As a symbol of fertility and natural abundance she has a very appropriate family of bunnies at her feet.  A cat sits near and a bird has landed on her scepter.  The familiar crown of stars rests on her head.  Instead of the dark forest behind her that you see in the RWS deck, this is a verdant grassy meadow, a waterfall cascades behind her and a golden field of wheat grows to the right.  If you look closely you can see a pomegranate at the base of her throne.  This card also has those distinctive rays of light shining down on her.

Reading tarot spreads with this deck is a joy for me.  I’m really glad to have it in my collection of working decks.  It might not look like a deck for serious work at first glance, but after working with a great deal, I’ve gotten some excellent insights and advice from these cute cards.

I would recommend this deck for: anyone who likes cute or kawaii things, someone who is new to tarot, someone who is a little intimated by tarot, or younger readers (there is some cartoon nudity, but nothing I would call objectionable).  Don’t let the cuteness decieve you.  This deck is charming and effective.