Whimsical Tarot Deck/Book Set by Dorothy Morrison and Mary Hanson-Roberts
Review by Lee A. Bursten

If you'd like to buy the Whimsical Tarot Deck/Book set, click here.

If you'd like to buy the Whimsical Tarot Deck, click here.

If you'd like to buy only the companion book to the Whimsical Tarot Deck, click here.

I hate to sound curmudgeonly, but the charming illustrations by Mary Hanson-Roberts are the only things I like about this deck/book set, which uses fairy tale figures to illustrate the cards. I donít think the deck was particularly well-conceptualized by the author, Dorothy Morrison, and the book does not strike me as a very helpful resource in working with the cards.

When dealing with any "theme" deck which calls itself Tarot, I make the assumption that the deckís creators have gone to some effort to find valid and interesting correlations between the Tarot archetypes and the particular elements of the theme which are presented on the cards. For example, on the "High Priestess" card, I would expect to see some aspect of traditional associations of that card to be reflected in the figure chosen for that card. Now, it doesnít have to be the most common association of the High Priestess, in fact sometimes itís more interesting when itís an uncommon one. But if the deckís creators are going to choose a figure for that card which has nothing to do with any traditional association with the High Priestess, then one must ask why they are bothering to even pretend to be creating a Tarot deck.

In the Whimsical Tarot, the High Priestess is represented by Cinderellaís Fairy Godmother. The book tells us, "She is the High Priestess Ė a being who is totally in control of her balance and position between opposite worlds and dimensions. Like the Fairy Godmother, the High Priestess is an omnipotent creature. All-knowing, all-seeing, and all-hearing, she holds each shred of magic, balance and knowledge of the universe in the palm of her hand. She knows when youíre sad. She knows when youíre happy. She is completely aware of your needs and wants. Best of all, the High Priestess is your friend."

Maybe itís just me, but I canít find any suggestion of the traditional associations of the High Priestess, such as mystery, hidden secrets, the unknowable, intuition, learning, withdrawal or meditation, in this description. In the "Advice" section for the card, Morrison does tell us to "Look for information that is hidden from view Ö listen to your intuition." But those things are not (or at least not to me) suggested by either the picture or in Morrisonís "Description" section. To me this seems like one more instance where a theme deckís creator canít find a suitable figure for a specific card and thus shoehorns in a figure who doesnít really fit, and hopes we donít notice.

Another example is Temperance. The traditional picture shows an angel pouring liquid between two cups. Morrison has chosen to illustrate the card with a picture of Jack and Jill tumbling down the hillside. The concept is connected to the picture because Jack and Jill have demonstrated a lack of prudence and moderation (because of "a lack of patience, the need to hurry through their chores.") First of all, I have a problem with illustrating the concept of a card by showing the conceptís opposite. This would be like showing a picture of a flower in full bloom to represent Death, or a picture of a weak, passive person to illustrate the Magician or the Chariot, or an angel to represent the Devil. I think this picture might have worked if it were used for the Tower, where it would have directly illustrated the concept of calamity.

In the book, Morrison says that fairy tale characters are ideal for a Tarot deck because they provide "an immediate response to the card...and a head start on understanding its advice." I do have an immediate response to Jack and Jill falling down a hill, but it doesnít have anything to do with Temperance. If I have to go through tortuous mental gymnastics in order to connect the picture with the concept, Iíd rather simply put the deck away.

There are some cards, like the Devil, where I really donít understand the picture at all. Pinocchio is shown, being controlled by the Puppet Master. But the strings controlling Pinocchio stop short of connecting to his arms. The text does not explain why, but merely speaks of self-limits and refusal to let go of fear and desire. Morrison does say that "going back home is just a snip or two away. Itís only a matter of snatching the scissors from his back pocket and slicing through the strings." Has Pinocchio already done this, and thatís why the strings are broken? Then why are the scissors still in his back pocket? And if heís already done it, then wouldnít the card represent freedom and not restriction? Or is this another card where the picture shows the conceptís opposite?

I had another big frustration with this book. When I first got the deck, I opened the Little White Booklet, expecting to find at least the titles of the fairy tales chosen for each card to be listed, if not the story of the fairy tale. But no, the LWB only contains a few words of divinatory meaning for each card, as if it were not a theme deck at all. This makes U.S. Games seem more Scrooge-like than usual, because the deck is utterly useless without knowing which fairy tales go with which cards, thus forcing us to buy the book.

Okay, so I obtained the book. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that the book, although it identifies each card by the fairy tale chosen and the name of the character from the fairy tale who is shown on the card, does not relate the story behind the fairy tale. This means that unless you are familiar with each and every one of the 78 fairy tales mentioned in the deck (probably unlikely for most people), then you will be in the dark as to why that story has been chosen for the card. Since the deck is presumably published as a guidebook for the cards, did the author and publisher not feel some obligation to inform us of the stories that each card tells? I donít think it was a matter of space, since each fairy tale could probably have been summarized in two sentences. It would be as if the authors of the Mythic Tarot or the Arthurian Tarot had named the characters on the cards but not bothered to tell us the stories that explain and define the characters. This means that after spending $27.00 one would still not have a usable deck, unless one wanted to take the trouble to research and read about each and every fairy tale mentioned in the deck, which I feel one shouldnít have to do if one has shelled out the money for the accompanying book.

For example, the Hanged One is identified in the book as The Fishwife in the story The Little Gold Fish, a tale with which I am not familiar. The book does not tell us her story, only that "This is her punishment for insatiable greed." Wouldnít it have been interesting to be told the barest outlines of the story, so we know what she did to deserve the punishment?

Yet another thing that bothered me about the book is the suggested "Tarot Deck Blessing Ritual," which is distinctly Pagan-sounding, although it is not identified as such. Now, Morrison does say, "donít hesitate to make changes if itís not in keeping with your childís age or preference." But it still strikes me as proselytizing, especially since Morrison is identified as a "Third Degree High Priestess of the Georgian Tradition." The ritual itself does seem rather benign, but since I took the authors of the Inner Child deck (another fairy-tale deck directed toward children) to task for including Christian elements in the deck and book, I must be fair and point out that Morrison is also guilty of including elements of her own religious tradition in a book which is not marketed as being for children whose families belong to a specific religion. I suppose the moral of the story is, if you are going to create a deck for children, please resist the temptation to use it as a forum for your particular religious beliefs.

Finally Ė and then I promise to end this cantankerous review Ė I do not accept Morrisonís basic premise, which is that the Tarot is an ideal way for children to "tap into their Higher Selves." Morrison says that "a childís mind functions just as ours." I disagree. Children and adults are both imaginative creatures, but I think their imaginations work in different ways. I donít think a child is going to look at a picture of Sleeping Beauty which is captioned "Death" and see it as an allegorical representation of change in our lives. A child would be more likely to be caught up in the story, and to be confused by the title "Death," since everyone knows that Sleeping Beauty is not dead but merely asleep. I think itís healthy for childrenís imaginations to be engaged by stories, but I donít think itís advisable or appropriate for children to use divinatory techniques for self-examination, an activity more likely to be engaged in by adults.

I also donít think itís appropriate for a childís tool to contain a highly-charged religious title such as "The Devil." Since children tend to take characters in stories seriously and at face value, this might lead to the introduction of an unhealthy concept into a childís imagination, where it really doesnít belong. This would have been a good opportunity to change the title of the card to avoid age-inappropriate concepts.

I was also disappointed that although the deck and book are subtitled "A Deck for Children and the Young at Heart," the entire book is devoted to the deckís use with children.

I donít mean to belittle the time and effort that were obviously expended in the creation of this deck. I just think sometimes deck creators get so caught up in their creation that they lose sight of the fact that the final product will end up in the hands of a person who, after plunking down their $27.00, has a right to expect illustrations which clearly illustrate the cardsí concepts, and enough of an explanation of the system so that they will be able to use it.

Special thanks to Joan Bunning for assistance in obtaining the book.

You can read another review of this deck here.

If you'd like to buy the Whimsical Tarot Deck/Book set, click here.

If you'd like to buy the Whimsical Tarot Deck, click here.

If you'd like to buy only the companion book to the Whimsical Tarot Deck, click here.

Whimsical Tarot Deck/Book Set
Book by Dorothy Morrison
Deck by Mary Hanson-Roberts
Publisher: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
ISBN #: 1572813148

Lee A. Bursten has been studying Tarot off and on for about 20 years. He enjoys reading about Tarot and searching for the "Perfect Deck," which is always just around the corner but out of reach. He is very grateful to Michele and Diane for posting his reviews, and especially to his significant other, Larry Katz, for his superhuman patience.

Images © U.S. Games
Review © 2002 Lee Bursten
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes