REVIEW & TUTORIAL
Did you know the pink shade of the Flamingo indicates how healthy she is? Did you know that the Ostrich doesn’t actually put her head in the sand? She simply looks down and around to see her best options in a stressful situation. I didn’t know that. Until I discovered the Animal Totem Tarot and its inspirational (and educational!) companion book. What do these facts have to do with Tarot and guidance? A lot. When I bought this deck some months ago it directly sky rocketed into my personal top 5: for its ease of use, originality and depth. Let’s look a little closer.
The main reasons why I love this version of our beloved Tarot is the immediate connection I had with its theme (animal person here 🙂 ) and the quality of the illustrations. But soon, I dived into the companion book and discovered yet another (or 10) layer to the cards I already know so well. By doing a fantastic job on researching animal behaviour the author, Leeza Robertson, supported by the beautiful work of Eugene Smith (the illustrator who also brought Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot to life) gave birth to a truly enriching version of Tarot.
Look and Feel
I bought the Animal Totem Tarot over a year ago. When I first unpacked it, I was shortly fooled by its fresh, natural vibe. It is like a breath of fresh air with its beautiful colours, beautiful animals (sometimes cute, like the peaceful cow that is the Empress or the squirrel burying his riches on the Four of Pentacles – and sometimes cruel, like the dead foxes on the 8 of Pentacles).
And that’s the thing… As I went through the cards, I quickly realized that there was a great balance between sweetness and violence, peace and action and even life and death. This is a great, and crucial, virtue for any Tarot deck. The cards should let us navigate in both troubled and calm waters, in darkness and light. Just like we do in life. The Animal Totem Tarot does just that.
It’s also absolutely a must to order this deck with its companion book. It is a very useful tool whether you are a beginner or advanced Tarot reader. For each card, the book delivers an enlightening message from the animal presented to you, a solid interpretation and keys to help you read the cards in specific reading contexts related to love, family, health, business or money. For random card draws the author also thought of interesting questions you should or could ask yourself when you draw a certain card and there’s even a little space left your personal notes. Not all companion books are made with such care and intelligence. This is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure to read.
The Animal Totem Tarot at a Glance is
- a positive deck for self guidance
- based on the Rider Waite system
- colourful but soft to the eye
- easy to read
- accompanied by a great companion book
The Animal Totem Tarot is immensely positive as it is firstly built for the purpose of self-guidance and development. Positive doesn’t mean naive. And it certainly isn’t that. Don’t let the sweet squirrel on the companion book cover fool you. On this journey with the animals of the world the animal totem tarot helps you find yourself while answering all kinds of questions.
It also helps us rediscover the animals, those familiar and less familiar, and therefore reconnect with the earth and mother nature. I love how Tarot is connected to the seasons and elements but a connection with the animal world is often missing. In the Marseille deck, you’ll have the horses of the Knights and the really dark dog of the Fool (Middle Ages Christians were not seeing dogs very favourably). And that’s it. The Rider Waite deck is not much better in this regard. Some more recent decks have started to make some room for the animals, especially the Celtic and Druidic inspired ones but here, we reach a whole new level.
If you love animals and believe we can and should learn more from them, from their behaviour, this one definitely is for you. The first page of the companion book reads “This deck is dedicated to the animals. May their voices and their lessons guide you on your way” – I say amen to that and wish everyday we’d all pay more attention and respect to their courage, intelligence and sensitivity.
Another thing I like very much is how there is absolutely no distinction in style made between the minor and major arcana. You could well decide to treat all 78 cards as equal here. That’s what I like to do with some guiding spreads and spontaneous advice sessions. You can also of course separate the major and minor cards and proceed to any classic spread you’re used to. It will work perfectly.
A LOOK AT THE CARDS
Each card presents you one main animal but the card is not renamed after them. So you will have to learn their names (for the least familiar ones like the Sugar glider, Wilson’s Plover, Bowerbird or the Echidna) and messages. Each card is named after the classic RWS system so this will help most readers dive into this deck and start reading it fast.
The Empress in this deck is peaceful and inspires pure bliss. She is the nurturing mother, connected to the earth in every possible way. Just like the empress in every deck, she represents the ultimate feminine energy. And like in many decks – not all though – she is pregnant. Creation is happening right here inside of her, it flows naturally and peacefully. In this sense she represents the spark, the birth of an idea, a project or even a child to come. The cow speaks of creativity and love. She quietly rules over her world, without any other weapon but love and generosity.
The Bear sees his natural habitat disappear. The future for him is more uncertain and dark than ever before. And yet he must carry on, whatever it takes. In this deck, the author chose the bear to represent faith. I’m tempted to say “blind faith”. The one we keep at any cost without letting any rational thinking get in the way. She describes him as the keeper of the ancestral knowledge, the one that can’t be collected in books and remains the same, no matter what. In a world that keeps changing, the polar bear doesn’t.
The companion book will teach you that a pearl is the result of the oyster cleansing herself from an irritation, parasite or other small infection. So yes, one of the most beautiful and most precious thing in our human world is the direct product of an inner struggle and a victory over a major – everything being relative – obstacle. And as we know, this is often the way it goes in life. Dreams rarely come true for free. But they do come true if you put up with the work -and irritation – they require. I see the Star as the most encouraging card in any deck and this Oyster fits this idea very well. Dreams can come true. And wishes can be granted. But first, you have to go through the night. You have to go through a certain process. Just like the Oyster to make a beautiful pearl.
In any well designed Tarot deck, the aces should reflect the essence of each minor suit. And this high quality version does respect this golden rule.
Here are the Aces you’ll find in the Animal Totem Tarot, they’re all regular Wands, Cups, Pentacles and Swords, the author did not rename any suit.
The Minor Arcana is just as rich and important as the major one in this deck. On the one hand it’s an absolute treat. On the other, you’ll have to do quite some studying to really master all of these 78 creatures.
That’s all just a small overview as going through the whole deck in details would take…a book. There are so many amazing cards to discover in this deck! I warmly encourage you to get your copy and enjoy the beautiful universe of the Animal Totem Tarot 🙂
Tutorial for Self Guidance
You can do very simple readings and spreads using just a few cards…or just one. For example, this is a perfect deck for anyone keeping a daily Tarot journal as one card a day will go a long way. You can simply ask “What do the animals want me to take into consideration today?”.
Here’s a super simple spread you can learn to do for yourself every month or any time you feel like it.
Shuffle all 78 cards and lay four of them in front of you while saying out loud what each card stands for: