Australian Animal Tarot by Ann Williams-Fitzgerald    
Review by Diane Wilkes

As soon as I saw the Australian Animal Tarot, I thought of the Animal Wise Tarot by Ted Andrews.  Both focus on animals to symbolize the 78 tarot images.  I would say 78 tarot archetypes, but some folk might get distracted by the, "Are all the cards archetypes, or just the Major Arcana?" "None of the cards are archetypes."  "None of the cards are just archetypes," debate that occasionally takes place on e-lists devoted to the discussion of tarot.  

Oh, oh.  I think I was one of those who got diverted.   Getting back to the deck comparison, the images on the Australian Animal Tarot are drawn and in color, which differ from the Animal Wise deck, which is illustrated with photographs.  But both decks include keywords and they both even use shades of purple for their backgrounds.  The Australian Animal Tarot Majors are a pinkish-purple; the Minors have lavender backgrounds.

There are other differences.  The animals are indigenous to Australia, hence the deck's title. Williams-Fitzgerald wasn't satisfied to simply include one or two keywords--each card contains four, along with the card's traditional title, the animal illustration, and the name of a crystal that the author associates with each card.  

It is not a particularly new innovation to connect the cards to stones.  The Golden Dawn attributed gems to the Major Arcana and, more recently, Scott Cunningham did the same, but Ms. Williams-Fitzgerald ignored both correspondences completely.  I actually applaud some of her choices.  Bornite/Peacock Ore does seem to suit the flaunting joy of the Sun and the Hierophant tends to ground the spiritual, which makes the correspondence to Hematite rather apt.  But others attributions make less sense, such as the Emerald for Justice and Celestite for the Empress.  But that's a judgment call I can neither defend nor deny.

Williams-Fitzgerald's elemental correspondences are equally non-traditional.  Cups represent Water, but Wands are correlated to Earth, Swords to Fire, and Pentacles to Air.  All of the animals on the air cards are avian.  Many of the keywords are not typical, either.  "Illusion" is a keyword oft-connected to The Moon card, yet in the Australian Animal Tarot, it appears on the Fool, along with "elusiveness" (and the more established "Unexpected" and "The Journey").  The author has no truck with modern tarot creators' attempts to upgrade the feminine Moon's negative reputation; the keywords on this card are "False Friends," "Enemies," "Deception," and "Caution."

The Major Arcana titles are traditional, though.  The card backs show a night sky filled with shooting stars and are not reversible.  Strength is Eight and Justice is 11.  The little white book (LWB) is a corpulent 47 pages, yet the interpretations of the Major and Minor Arcana are rather slender--two sentences for the Majors, one for the Minors.  There are five spreads, and not one of them is a Celtic Cross.  There's a change I can get behind!  The last few pages of the LWB are devoted to an appendix that lists the animals and the corresponding crystals and vice-versa.  To me, this emphasizes that the focus is much more on the crystals and the animals than the actual tarot--this deck is more oracle than tarot.

As I mentioned earlier in the review, the animals are indigenous to Australia, and include such beasts as the bandicoot, the dingo, the kangaroo, and the potoroo, not animals about whom I'm overly knowledgeable.  The depictions, drawn and colored by Tracy Hinschen, are quite charming--I actually prefer them to the Animal Wise cards for that reason.  It doesn't hurt that the cuddly Koala, an animal that I, like Michael Jackson, desire for a pet, is the Chariot's designated creature--and the Chariot just happens to be my personality and soul card.  This deck appeals to my softer, less intellectual side, even as I'm fully aware that the keywords, animals, and crystals are utterly personal to the author and have no historical or esoteric background.  File it under guilty pleasure, though I don't feel that much guilt...or that much pleasure, either, regarding this deck.

Despite my lack of familiarity with many of the animals, some of Williams-Fitzgerald's choices resonate with me.  Cats are often associated with the High Priestess.  The Magician's many associations include the archetype of Trickster-Coyote, which is akin to Raven in Inuit and other cultures.  While I never thought of the Platypus in conjunction with the Moon card, the depiction of the animal diving into the depths as a full moon shines in the background is quite evocative.  The Ace of Water (Cups) is the Dolphin, known for his loving nature as much as his intelligence and the Four of Fire (Swords) is the Dingo, an animal that is characterized by his habit of hunting alone.

I recommend this deck to those who are looking for an animal-based tarot or a non-traditional deck.  Those who prefer traditional imagery and/or elemental correspondences need not apply.  

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

Australian Animal Tarot by Ann Williams-Fitzgerald; Artwork by Tracy Hinschen
Publisher: AG Muller
ISBN#: 3-905219-74-3

Images 2000 AG Muller
Review and page 2001 Diane Wilkes