The Fey Tarot Deck by Mara Aghem (artist) and Riccardo Minetti (narrator and advisor)
Reviewed by Joan Cole

If you would like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.

The veils between Arcadia and Mundania must be thinning right now.  Not since the photos of Cottingley Glen have so many faery artifacts been produced.  While this deck is an appealing illustration of the world of winged sprites, it is also a worthy deck aside from the theme it explores.  The interpretations are extremely original and yet still meaningful from a traditional tarot framework.  Thanks to a very successful collaboration between artist and tarot expert, this deck is both good art and good tarot.

Anyone who has any fascination with the fae realms has their own vision of what the denizens of that realm look like.  For me, the Pre-Raphaelite artists and illustrators of Tolkien (like the Brothers Hildebrandt, John Howe and Ted Nasmith) got first entry to my imagination, and the enchanted peoples that filled my imagination were the wingless human-sized elves, like those I played in early versions of Dungeons and Dragons.  Seen through a retro-Victorian notion of Medieval society, with an ultra-detailed illustration style, my Otherworld is quite different than the world illustrated here.  I am still waiting for the perfect elvish tarot.  This is not that… this is a fairy tarot.
 

Although they are a type of fae only recently imagined, the winged type of fairy small enough to sit on flowers has been growing steadily in popularity.  People in high school and college today have imaginations seeded by the Brian Froud-Jim Henson team who gave us Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.  The shelves of the “young adult” section of the bookstore are full of new fantasy series - not just Harry Potter, but series by Tamora Pierce, Patricia Wrede, and Eoin Colfer.  Go to a Renaissance Faire, and you will see not only historical reenactors, but performers wearing fairy wings and horns.  Fairies flitter from one end of the web to the other.  It is not purely a childish world, either.  The Merry Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton about the Seelie and Unseelie courts is soft-porn as much as it is mystery.  So, although this deck has nothing in it which would terrify or scandalize children, it would be a mistake to look at this deck and assume that the appropriate audience was a young child just because it is the Fey Tarot. 
 

The art is definitely influenced by anime (Japanese animation).  But it is more subtle than pure anime.  The eyes are not so oversized, the lines of the face are not so spiky.  The art Mara Aghem has displayed in her online galleries is much more typical of anime than her style for this tarot deck.  This artwork is more shaded and dimensional.  Minetti says of Aghem,

“Artistically she grew and matured without ever losing the basic enchantment of her art: enthusiasm and fresh energy.  It was a world without shadows, contagious in its vivacity, but full of perceptions, profoundly linked to reality and to experience lived in its essence and substance.”

I love how these trumps are interpreted.  Every one of them is original, and yet the basic meaning comes across.  I was prepared for it to be merely a cute theme deck, or a pretty art deck, but this really has much more heft to it. 

 

Traditional

Fey Tarot

Depicts

0 - Fool

The Fool

He is dressed in a parti-colored coat adorned with dozens of different keys.  He has a crown on his head with a keyhole, and is looking quizzically at a glowing pumpkin.

1 - Magician

The Magician

He kneels on a pile of books with hands outstretched and a mouse image in a glowing energy ball floating between them.  Across from him is a mouse he has conjured.  A chalice, dagger, disc and small tree are present in the image.

2 - High Priestess

The Seer

She sits on a staircase reading a book with the infinity symbol on the cover.  She is wearing a turban-like headdress, with a veil draping down her back.  Behind her two stone dragons guard a door on which is carved the symbol of an hourglass.

3 - Empress

The Empress

She sits amidst towers and turrets on which grow gardens and groves.  She is wearing a thin gold band for a crown and a wooden bracelet with blue stones, and is cuddling a baby winged unicorn.

4 - Emperor

The Emperor

He sits on a big boulder-throne with other boulders around it, all floating in the sky.  On one of the boulders sits a small winged unicorn.  There is a crown carved in the throne above his head.  He is wearing armor and staring straight ahead with white eyes.

5 - Hierophant

The Wise One

An old man with a long beard sits casually on an hourglass writing with a feather on a long scroll.  Wound around the hourglass is a huge sleepy-looking dragon.

6 - Lovers

The Lovers

Two fey in yin-yang position caress each others faces – the male is stony and bulky, and the female is slight and transparent, and is floating upside down.

7 - Chariot

The Chariot

A pomegranate coach drawn by a mouse and a lizard is crossing a stone bridge over a river.  There is a driver and another fey seated in a meditative position on a cushion on top of the pomegranate beneath an autumn leaf umbrella.

8/11 - Strength

8 – Strength

She is dressed in a striped skin and a fur hat with tusks.  A huge sword is in the scabbard at her side.  She has just tied up a huge two-headed serpent creature with a rope and is casually holding its tail.

9 - Hermit

The Hermit

On an Escher-style staircase, a tophatted fey with a glowing lantern is searching for a book hidden in the shadows.  There are numerous doorways with the various staircases, and various small creatures.

10 - Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel

Around a spiral made of toy block buildings, trees and animals sit a young female fey reclining and adding blocks, and an old female fey kneeling and removing blocks.

11/8 - Justice

11 - Justice

Justice looks like a pale three year old with blind pupil-less white eyes.  She had a painted third eye on her forehead, and is wearing heavy gold jewelry.  Behind her are numerous gothic windows and doorways.

12 - Hanged Man

The Hanged Man

He has dived down to the floor of the ocean and is floating upside-down amongst various fish, holding onto a dolphin statue, part of forgotten ruins of an ancient culture.  He looks to be nearly out of air.

13 - Death

Death

She sits dressed in black with an eclipse necklace, with one red and one green eye, her chin in her hand, in front of a circular chessboard.  Behind her hangs an egg from a string.  Chess pieces shown include a white star (overturned and off the board), and a white king in the center surrounded by black tower, wheel, dragon, angel and snail.

14 - Temperance

Temperance

She is emerging from the water between three incense braziers emitting white smoke.  Her skin is green and scaly, like a fish, and four fish are swimming through the air in a circle around her head.

15 - Devil

The Devil

A massive flaming brown horned beast is uprooting trees and devouring them.

16 - Tower

The Tower

A tower is floating through the air without a base.  Bricks are falling away from the bottom of it, and pterodactyls are flying below it.  A fey is leaning out the window looking at one of the reptiles.

17 - Star

The Stars

She is standing topless on a silvery balcony, face upturned with eyes closed and arms stretched behind her.  Stars emerge from her and rise into the heavens.

18 - Moon

The Moon

There is a huge full moon and stone megaliths in the background.  She kneels in front of a crescent moon she has scratched with a stick in the ground without looking at it.  She is dressed gypsy-style and carries a bent staff with a crescent moon scythe at the top.

19 - Sun

The Sun

He sits, sun-browned, on a slope growing with golden wheat, looking up at a sky filled cumulus clouds and a huge yellow sun.

20 - Judgement

Judgement

A human artist has fallen asleep at her disk in the middle of painting.  A wide variety of little fey flit around her sitting on her head, paintbrush, ink bottle and paint tubes.  Each of these little fey is the color of the thing it is sitting on.  The larger fey on her head is transparent white and blowing a trumpet.

21 - World

The World

A square walled city on the back of a snail.  Atop the tower on the mountain in the center of the city sits a red dragon.  The world-snail is floating in outer space.
 

Structurally, this is a traditional deck, and makes no innovations in correspondences.  In fact, no correspondences are mentioned.  As Minetti describes it,

“The wind has carried away the astrological designs (the Fey have little to do with the stars) and the cabalistic references (the intellectual work of man does not marry well with instinct and nature), but the indications that refer to life remain.”

The court cards are traditional: King, Queen, Knight and Knave.  The divinatory meanings for the Minor Arcana illustrated in this deck, in contrast to many Lo Scarabeo decks, correspond closely with RWS meanings.  While few images are close variations, if you know the RWS image, you will recognize the story being shown in the Fey image.  Once again I was delighted with how the standard was played with while still being recognizable.

While the amount of structural innovation is less than in the decks I generally review, there was an element of synchronicity.  When I was reading Minetti's description of the suits, I was reminded of an application of creation spirituality to the suits that I’ve been playing with lately.  I've reproduced it in the table below.  It's a slightly different take than the Neo-Jungianism usually found in recent decks.

Minor Arcana

 

Wands

Cups

Swords

Coins

Fey Suit

Wands

Chalices

Swords

Pentacles

Fey Type

"That graceful primordial spirit that resides in each soul… have the courage to fly, to choose and to act.”

“Dreamers, in love, sweet and sensitive… demonstrating their open hearts without deceit.”

“Wounded Fey, burdened by pain or responsibility… The energies that guide man to do just deeds, to raise up his head in adversity and to deal with pain.”

“Creators and craftsmen.  They demonstrate the patience and immutability of real things and shun the castles of dreams, deceit and illusions.”

Creation Spirituality

Via Transformativa

Compassionate action, justice-making, and celebration.  Be prophetic.

 

Via Positiva

Awe, wonder, joy, gratitude and delight.  Fall in love three times a day.

Via Negativa

Dare the dark.  Darkness, silence, suffering, and letting go.

Via Creativa
Do not be reluctant to give birth. Renewal, rebirth, and creative expression.

 

To see a sample reading with this deck, click here.

The Fey Tarot Deck/Book Set by Riccardo Minetti and Mara Aghem
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN#: 0738702803

If you would like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.

Joan Cole is a stay-at-home mom and former geek.   She has been studying Tarot off and on since the early 1980's.  You can see her deck collection here.


Review © 2003 Joan Cole
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© 2003 Diane Wilkes