Animal Wise Tarot by Ted Andrews    Review by Valerie Sim-Behi

This is part of a larger article on Tarot and the Shaman

If you are interested in purchasing this deck, click here.

"Meeting the Power Animals"

I have used this deck as one of my two primary reading decks for the last year. We have been through many and varied times together. I have gotten some amazing readings when using this deck. As is often the case when publicly discussing a great love, I must resort to levity to cope... Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I review it now...

Our First Meeting

At the tender age of four, I began my Shamanic dreaming. I didn't choose the animals, they chose me... My choice of path? it was a *given* considering this background. I am a Shaman on a solitary, but rewarding, path...

My initial impression of this deck: I was aghast! How could Ted Andrews do this to me? I had been conceptualizing an Animal Tarot for many months! And now he had beaten me to the punch!... But let's back up for a minute: Ted Andrews is THE animal expert in metaphysical circles. He is an internationally recognized author, storyteller, teacher, mystic, and wildlife expert.... My ire diminished as I realized that the expert in the field had just decided to do what I, the Shamanic novice, had been privately envisioning. (Note to self: If you have to be bested, it is comforting to be beaten by the acknowledged champion in the field!)

The Courtship

So let's get to know each other... 

First impression: I am a *purple nut*. I love purple, mauve, and lavender...But for an earthy shamanic deck? (Yuck!) I would like to have seen this deck done in earthier tones better befitting the subject matter. Given the purple schematic, however, I like the back design which is a monochromatic representation of the DragonHawk Logo. 

The pictures: Now this I like. The trend today is computer manipulation. I like a lot of the artwork created by this method, but it wouldn't have worked here. Mr. Andrews wisely decided to go with "natural" photos. The animal photos speak for themselves. There is no need to embellish images because all that is necessary for meaning is inherent in the photos of the creatures themselves in their natural settings. 

In the words of Mr. Andrews: "The Animal Wise Tarot is designed to make the mystical wisdom described in that book more available. It is designed to further our ability to recognize the signs and communication of Nature and to understand the language of animals."

The simplification: At first, it bothered me that Mr. Andrews referred to all of the creatures in his deck as *animals*. What's the matter with this guy? Didn't he realize that birds and bugs aren't technically animals? 

I have since been informed, though, that birds and bugs are indeed "technically" animals, just not mammals, an issue that confuses many people. Too many years out of biology class for this girl! And totems are totems, and animal messengers are powerful, no matter their genus and species...even the earthworm (Five of Shapeshifters).

The Structure

Fire cards (Wands) are called the "Ancients" and are illustrated with reptiles and salamanders, such as the Nine of Ancients, which shows a Gila Monster.

Water (Cups) are titled "Shapeshifters" and are embodied by a bevy of insects and arachnids, ruled by the Dragonfly, the King of Shapeshifters.  

Air (Swords) are designated "The Winged Ones" and are graced by birds.   The Knight of Winged Ones is a Hawk.

Earth (Pentacles) are re-named "The Four-Leggeds" and are illustrated with photos of the various mammals chosen for the suit, such as The Otter for the Three of Four-Leggeds.

All of these choices were natural for me except for the Cups/Shapeshifters...

And after reading Mr. Andrews explanation for that choice, I was able to incorporate it successfully. Ted Andrews says: "Water adjusts and is the natural shapeshifter, taking the form of its container...All insects go 
through metamorphosis, going through changes in shape and form to live within their environment. They are the natural shapeshifters, changing their appearance completely with each stage of their lives."

My critic still says "There are too many bugs here!", but my Shamanic inner-self applauds the associations.

In practical use: Mr. Andrews has created a bridge between totemic animals and Tarot. He has taken a tricky system of correspondences and has made it work, largely through his many years of study of both Tarot and the animal kingdom... Most theme decks leave me cold. I find the correspondences stretched to the breaking point to maintain the overall theme... With this deck, Ted Andrews has managed to meld the animals with the Tarot archetypes in a way that at least this Shaman finds natural, such as in theWheel of Fortune and Death.

The Enduring Relationship

Caveat: Mr. Andrews has written 14 books for Llewellyn Publishing, four for his own DragonHawk Publishing Company, and several others besides. I must say that I was disappointed to discover that much of his widely anticipated book, Animal Wise, was just a paraphrasing of the book included with the Animal Wise Tarot. There are several more animals within the newer book, but overall it is a rehash/paraphrase of ground covered previously for the Animal Wise Tarot. Perhaps all concerned assumed that the markets would not overlap? I am not privy to their thoughts, but would have appreciated a disclaimer of some sort, expressing the duplicated material.

Future Love

I still love this deck. It has yielded many wonderful readings and leads me to discover myself more fully on a daily basis. If you are into both the Tarot and animal correspondences/totems you will get a lot out of this deck. If you are not an animal lover/empath don't bother with this one... 

Unless you have walked a mile in their fur, you will not be touched...[PLEASE: this is metaphorically, not literally!]

Mitkuye Oyasin.

Click here to see a sample reading with this deck. 

If you are interested in purchasing this deck, click here.

Animal Wise Tarot by Ted Andrews       
DragonHawk Publishing
ISBN #1-888737-35-9

Valerie Sim-Behi is the founder and moderator of Comparative Tarot, an email list devoted to studying cards of different decks  in comparison to each other.   She has worked with the tarot for over 30 years.  Valerie created a spread that will appear in the book accompanying the Victoria-Regina Tarot by Sarah Ovenall, and has written various articles, including one on the Comparative Tarot method that will be published in Llewellyn's Tarot Calendar 2002.  You can visit Valerie at the Comparative Tarot websiteValerie wants to offer special thanks to Leah Pugh, Scanner Goddess for this series.


Review 2000 Valerie Sim-Behi
Page 2000 Diane Wilkes