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Review of the Faery Wicca Tarot
This article was written by Donald Michael Kraig, Certified Tarot Grandmaster on September 05, 2008
Summary: A complex deck that can lead to intense readings by intermediate and advanced readers, it is also appropriate for those following Kisma’s Faery Wicca tradition. The Irish names will take dedication to master, but the usefulness of extra cards makes this a worthwhile endeavor. This is not a deck for everyone, but those who are willing to explore it will find much to benefit readers and clients alike.
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Creator: Kisma K. Stepanich
Artist: Renée Christine Yates
Name of accompanying booklet: Faery Wicca Tarot
Number of pages of book/booklet: 180
Author(s) of book/booklet: Kisma K. Stepanich
Brief biography of author: Kisma K. Stepanich was born July 4, 1958, in Southern California. She has been actively involved in the Goddess community since the early 1980s. Kisma founded Women Spirit Rising of Costa Mesa, a woman’s organization that provides ongoing New and Full Moon ceremonies, monthly Goddess mythology circles, seasonal celebrations and women's spirituality workshops. Of Irish and Romanian descent, Kisma Proudly claims her European heritage. Having studied and undergone initiation in the Celtic and Faery traditions, she turned her focus to the native traditions of America and has studied and undergone initiation with several Shamans of Native American traditions. Kisma works toward integrating all indigenous traditions and worldwide Goddess cultures into one unified Earth tradition which she calls the Gaia Tradition.
Available in a boxed kit?: Instead of the normal little booklet, this deck comes in with a book that has the same length and width as the deck. The deck itself is in a box, and there is a slipcase that holds both the book and the boxed deck. This is very clever as it doesn’t take up a lot of room but still includes far more information than is usually found in those tiny "little white booklets" that accompany most Tarot decks.
Magical Uses: Contacting spirits, developing intuition
Reading Uses: Determining directions for the future, general advice
Ethnic Focus: Celtic
Artistic Style: Basic colored illustration
Theme: Celtic Faery Wicca
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Somewhat, but with a Faery Wicca twist.
Does it have extra cards?: Yes
What are they?: The major arcana cards are renamed as "The Ancient Ones" cards. More on this below. There is one extra card here, numbered 00. It is named "The Tree of Life (Crann Na Beatha).
Does it have alternate names for major arcana cards?: Yes
What are they?:
Number Traditional Faery Wicca
00 [None] The Tree of Life
0 Fool The Seeker
1 Magician The Druid
2 High Priestess High Priestess
3 Empress The Mother Goddess
4 Emperor The Father God
5 Hierophant The Guide
6 Lovers The Beloved
7 Chariot The Chariot
8 Strength Poetical Justice
9 Hermit The Holy Man
10 Wheel of Fortune The Sun Wheel
11 Justice Strength of Will
12 Hanged Man The Hangman
13 Death The Banshee Crone
14 Temperance The Holy Waters
15 The Devil The Old One
16 Tower The Round Tower
17 The Star The Star
18 The Moon Old Witch Moon Hill
19 The Sun The Sun Child
20 Judgement The Judgement
21 World The Weaver Goddess
Each card also has the name in Irish.
Does it have alternate names for minor arcana suits?: Yes
What are they?: The suits are named, in Irish, after the traditional magical elements. Domhan (Earth) replaced Pentacles. Tine (Fire) replaces wands. Aer (Air) replaces swords. Uisce (Water) replaces cups.
The number cards of the minor arcane are called the "Element" cards, while the court cards are called "Helper" cards. When you originally get the deck, instead of a suit running from the numbers through the court of the suit, you get all forty of the Element cards followed by the sixteen Helper cards. Each of the Helper cards represents an actual figure from Celtic mythology. Although the Element and Helper cards have symbolism, it is sparse compared to many other decks. Still, they give enough information to properly interpret the cards according to the information in the book.
The major arcana can be used in traditional fashion, but there are some dramatic differences. The most obvious one is the change of the cards numbered eight and eleven. The Faery Wicca Tarot uses the ancient format. These two cards were changed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a practice continued by one of that Order’s members, A.E. Waite. It is this version that is the modern standard, but a little history doesn’t make this too jarring.
Some of the others are more difficult. Card 7, The Chariot, has only one horse rather than two, resulting in a change of interpretation for me. Card 8, Poetical Justice, seems vicious to me, with a young pregnant woman being driven away. Card 12 shifts the focus from the traditional Hanged Man to the person who does the hanging, The Hangman. The author does this to move away from the concept of sacrifice represented by the card—"sacrifice implies martyrdom or victimhood" the author writes. I would respectfully disagree. We can sacrifice what is no longer needed in order to make room for even more. However, the author redefines the meaning of this card as "change," and this concept can easily be incorporated into readings.
The most disconcerting card for me was 15, The Old One. In the front is the image of the Horned God from the Gundestrup Cauldron, changed to make the sign of the horns (thumb and middle fingers bent into the palm with the pinky and first finger raised) with both hands. While it’s certainly appropriate, I have to admit it made me think of someone shouting for "Freebird" at a rock concert! Even more bizarre is a popular image of Jesus standing behind the Horned God. And traditionally, this card is called "The Devil." The book describes this a requiring a choice between them (or maybe not), leading to a meaning of choice for this card in this deck.
Why was deck created?: According to the author, while sitting in a stone circle in Ireland, the vision of Dana came to her and inspired her with the design for this deck.
Some people collect cards for their artistic value, some use them for magick, some for spiritual development, and some for divination. I only keep a few decks for their artistic value (such as the Dali deck) and prefer to have decks that I use. The Faery Wicca Tarot is strange in that it looks like the "standard" deck and feels like one, but has so many differences—including the meanings of many cards—that this deck is definitely not a standard Tarot. It’s sort of like biting into a piece of fruit that looks like a peach and smells like a peach only to discover that it has the texture and taste of a banana.
The important thing to point out is that there is nothing wrong with bananas. In fact, if you need some potassium in your diet, a banana is even more desirable than a peach. But seeing one thing and getting something else can be quite a shock. So I have to state at the outset that to use this deck to its fullest you can’t just sit down and work with it—you must study the accompanying book.
Studying this book is really the key to the deck. After a brief introduction you follow the Element cards, the number cards of the minor arcane. Each description is part of a story followed by a brief poem. Rather than telling you, "This card means X, Y, or Z," the story and poem tend to provide concepts and feelings about each card, resulting in an almost initiatory experience. This is followed by some spreads to use with just these cards. Then come the Helper cards—the court cards of the minor arcana—followed by more spreads. Next comes the Ancient Ones, the major arcana, and more spreads. Finally, the four Gift of Faery cards are described along with more spreads.
As you learn more and more about the cards, the spreads become more unique and complex. With complexity comes precision and accuracy. In short, this is a deck for intermediate to advanced Tarot workers who are willing to study and practice. The results will be very worthwhile.
This also follows the concepts presented in Ms. Stepanich’s tradition of Faery Wicca. If you are one of the many people involved in that system, this deck is ideal for more in depth work.
Just as the interpretation of the cards seems to move from traditional to unique, the artistic style of artist Renée Christine Yates is a conundrum. The Ace of Aer seems to be almost primitive in style (primitive in an artistic sense, as in the style of Grandma Moses) while other cards have explosions of depth and realism. For example, look at the fish on the Four of Uisce or shield on the Ridire of Domhan.
A totally unique aspect to this deck consists of the four extra cards known as the Gift of Faery cards. They are the Apple Branch, Crane Bag, Hazel Wand and Holy Stone. The closest thing I can compare them to is a part of the reading system used by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. At the beginning of the system, after determining your question, you would cut the deck into four piles and turn them to look at the bottom cards of the piles. Loosely, the piles can be seen as associated with the meanings of the four elements. The reader looks through the piles for the significator. The element of the pile the card is in gives a general direction for the reading. By randomly pulling one of the Gift of Faery cards you will get an indication of the level of perception you are operating in. The book describes other ways to use these cards, too.
The book concludes with a pronunciation guide to all of the Irish words on the cards and in the book. Frankly, I am very glad the book is included with every copy of the deck because without it I would have become confused and lost. Together, they make a valuable tool for Tarot readers.
If you are deeply invested in the standard Tarot as being the "only" acceptable interpretation of the cards, this deck is not for you. If you’re a beginner, I quite honestly wouldn’t start with this deck unless you are following the Irish Faery tradition. Intermediate and above readers, as well as those interested in Faery lore and craft, will find much of value.
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