Tarot by Paula
Review by Diane Wilkes
At present, the deck is not available for purchase.
NOTE: This review was originally written for the Majors-Only deck. It has been revised to reflect that it is now available as a 78 card deck. It can be purchased in either format: Majors-Only or the full 78-card deck.
Playful and deceptively profound, this collage deck is utterly charming. If you're not an animal lover, this is not the deck for you, but if you are even lukewarm on the subject, you will find the Animal Tarot by Paula Gibby irresistible.
There are several cat tarots, a dog tarot, and even a 78-card Animal Tarot by Menegazzi, but all of these decks seem to simply interchange animals for people. By that, I mean the animals are put in human positions. Sometimes, you get a sense of the animal as well, but mostly the animal is almost a prop. A gummi bear would do (and has, in one obvious case).
Gibby has really considered the behavior of each animal, and created her images accordingly. Cats are natural predators--you can see that hunter's gleam in the eyes of the feline leaning over the fishbowl in the Death card. The Lovers card displays affectionate pandas in the midst of a pre-mating ritual, a heart-shaped candy box between them. Remarkable as it seems, there is a bird that sits safely in the mouth of crocodiles. This isn't a Kipling "Just-So" story--it's an observable fact. It seems that the bird eliminates bacteria from the crocodile's mouth, so the crocodile protects it for reasons of survival. The Strength card viscerally shows this power of gentility over brawn through the behavior of the animal kingdom.
The cards themselves are often beautiful, unless good looks are sacrificed for a good laugh. The Empress bats Tammy Faye Baker eyelashes and sports flashy earrings, a suave baboon smokes a cigarette as a pair of jackasses mug obediently for the camera in the Devil card. While the blue martini glass makes for nice staging, the man trying to escape the sticky spider web adds another dimension to this card, so it's not "just another funny face."
In fact, many of the cards are quite complex and offer open-ended interpretations. I found I was able to give an excellent reading with the Animal Tarot, even in its Majors-only form. This says something positive indeed about the quality of the cards and the thought behind them.
Despite not being marked with the requisite number of suit symbols, these cards are easily recognizable if you are familiar with their Rider-Waite-Smith counterparts. On the most simple level, the key color of a suit predominates the cards. The Wands are red-orange in hue, most of the Cups are blue-toned, Swords are bluish-white, and the Pentacles contain a lot of greens and browns.
More than that, the images themselves are eloquently identifiable. The horse in the Six of Wands is a noble victor; the Three of Cups depicts the most graceful, gentle group of celebrants I've ever seen. This is a circle I long to join!
If you own the Blue Rose Tarot, you will immediately recognize the inside jest of the Animal Tarot Two of Cups. Bunnies have replaced Fred and Ginger, giving new meaning to the expression "going at it like rabbits." On the other paw, the Two of Swords actually displays two swords--but who needs them? The ape's pose fluently expresses the quintessential dilemma of that card.
Pentacles are normally my least favorite suit, but not in this deck! Has there ever been a more adorable Ace of Pentacles? If all the cards were this cute, the deck would buckle under the heavy weight of over-sweetening, but the occasional note of whimsy does not come amiss in a deck that deals unflinchingly with the more challenging cards. Check out the Eight of Swords. Or the Nine. Or the Ten.
I could select several more cards to lavish with praise, but I must move on to the court cards. The Animal Tarot contains some of my favorite court cards ever. When I was dealing with a particularly difficult situation, I chose cards from the Animal Tarot to "program" confidence. One reason for this was the Queen of Wands, a card I often use as my significator. In the Animal Tarot, she is not just supremely confident, she is also protective and protected, two qualities I really needed to absorb at the time. This Queen of Wands is one of my favorites ever.
But I love them all! The Knight of Wands has such a flamboyant sweetness! The Page of Pentacles is an utterly innocent sensualist, whereas the Page of Swords is a calculating, verbal strategist-in-training (notice he's only formed a four letter word!).
I feel very lucky that I host this deck, if for no other reason than I can use tons of images to illustrate this review. But of course, the cards are more than reason enough.
The deck comes in an exuberant jungle print-fabric bag, lined with a bright red flowered pattern. A title card comes with the deck that shows the animal print, complete with zebras, giraffes, and lions. Cards are unnumbered, and measure three and a half by five inches (the same size as the Blue Rose Tarot). The deck is self-published, and is manufactured by Soul Guidance, the team of Carol Herzer and Dirk Gillabel, who also sell many decks of their own. The cards themselves are hand-made, and consist of high-quality color copies, backed with contact paper.
I recommend this wonderful deck for collage fan enthusiasts, animal lovers, and anyone who is looking for a beautifully-constructed deck. If you know your RWS, you should have no problem reading with this deck. I consider it one of the prizes of my collection.
You can see the other Animal Tarot cards here.
You can see a sample reading with the Animal Tarot here.
Animal Tarot by Paula Gibby
Self-Published ($125 for deck with bag; $40 for majors-only deck with bag)
At present, the deck is no longer available.
Images © 2001 Paula Gibby
Review and page © 2001 Diane Wilkes