Celtic Dragon Tarot Deckcd1.jpg (12964 bytes) - Review by Michele Jackson

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

This deck/book set is the result of a collaboration between D.J. Conway (author) and Lisa Hunt (artist). They also produced the Shapeshifter Tarot. The first word to comes to my mind when thinking of this deck is gray. The images go to the edge of each card, with no border. The card backgrounds are uniformly gray. The colors in the images are generally soft colors or pastels that do not really contrast with the background, so the entire deck has a soft gray appearance. The images look like they have been placed on a marbled gray paper using PhotoShop or some other graphics manipulation program. The art is good. The cards measure 4 5/8" X 2 3/4". Most of the Major Arcana have the traditional names. The exceptions are Card 5 - The High Priest; and Card 15 - Chains. These were changed because "Neither of the usual names applied to these cards have anything to do with pre-Christian Celtic spirituality." I must admit to being confused by this statement since the first tarot decks didn't appear until centuries after the Celts became Christians. The suits are Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles and the court consists of King, Queen, Knight and Page. Strength is eight and Justice is 11. The backs feature a ring of dragons on a gray background.

Every card has a dragon somewhere in the image. Most cards also have humans, but some cards, including the Lovers, the Chariot and the Hermit, feature dragons only. The images are usually not based on the images from the Waite deck, and the artist makes some interesting changes. The Magician is female. The High Priestess is out on a windy evening and the image is much more active and dynamic than most High Priestess cards. In the Minor Arcana, the artist tried to evoke the traditional (Waite/Golden Dawn) meanings in new ways. For example, the Two of Pentacles shows a young woman walking across a log over a chasm, using two dragons and her arms to keep her balance, like a high wire walker. Aces are consistently depicted as newly hatched dragons. Women are often depicted as physically strong and powerful. The Five of Wands shows two women fighting. The Seven of Wands is an armored woman with sword. The artist was unable to avoid Pamela Colman Smith entirely. The Seven of Swords, Two of Cups, and Ten of Pentacles bear some resemblance to their counterparts in the Waite deck. Overall, I like Ms. Hunt's work. It is the saving grace in this deck.

The book begins with some background information on dragons. Conway describes different types of dragons from the folklore of various parts of the world, including the Winged Serpent of the Americas. Per Conway, dragons live on the astral plane and can be useful in magick and divination. Chapter One - Using the Celtic Tarot describes the deck and gives an overview of the rest of the book. Chapter Two - Guide to the Cards gives key word meanings for each card. Chapter Three - The Major Arcana has a full-sized black and white picture of each card, with the keyword. A description of the card is given, as well as a divinatory meaning. There are no reversed meanings, as the deck is not designed to be read with reversals. Conway's meanings are loosely based on the traditional (Waite/GD). However, she has a penchant for making her meanings "spiritual," "magickal" or "mystical." The words "intuition" and "psychic" make frequent appearances, as well. The meanings usually have advice on how you should act in response to the card. Some of Conway's meanings are rather idiosyncratic. Chapter Four - The Minor Arcana is set up the same way as Chapter Three and provides the same type of information. Conway has a tendency to seize upon one aspect of the traditional meaning and then embellish it to suit her own tastes. Sometimes we are left with something still close to the traditional meanings. Other times we are left with something barely recognizable. The dragons seem to be multi-purpose symbols that represent everything from "spiritual power," to "love, companionship, and emotional abundance," to "life events."

Chapter Five - Tarot Layouts has four spreads, including an expanded Celtic Cross. Chapter Six - Dragon Tarot Candle Spells has over a dozen short Tarot spells for issues such as Healing of Pets and Help in Legal Matters. Chapter Seven - Meditations contains guided meditations for "meeting your special dragon," and a "Spiritual Dragon Initiation," among others. Tellingly, the bibliography lists no Tarot books. Appendix A has candle color correspondences that also tell what type of dragon each color attracts.  Appendix B discusses the properties of eight different crystals. Overall, I got the impression that this book did not take a lot of time to write. While I understand Llewellyn's desire to use their proven authors in these joint projects, I wish that they would team Ms. Hunt up with authors who have more in-depth knowledge of Tarot. The Ciceros come to mind. Donald Michael Kraig could also probably produce an interesting deck. Conway's Tarot decks/books seem hastily thrown together to take advantage of whatever is popular at the time - Shapeshifting/Shamanism/Dragons/Celtic Culture/etc. They present her personal take on the cards and seem to have no coherent underlying system. Should the user want to explore Tarot further, he or she is forced to abandon these decks and look elsewhere.

The deck comes in a well that slides into the box, with the book on top in which to hold the cards. It would be more convenient to have a separate box. I recommend this deck for collectors and for those who like dragons. As previously stated, the art is good, but the idiosyncratic nature of the meanings, coupled with the non-traditional imagery in which the dragons can respresent just about anything, would require a learning curve.

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

The Celtic Dragon Tarot Deck
ISBN: 1-56718-182-1
Publisher: Llewellyn


The Chariot

High on a mountain peak, two powerful dragons hold a large, sparkling crystal ball between them. Although of different elements and natures, they are firmly balanced and in harmony with each other. The positive and negative forces they control flow evenly into the atmosphere around them. The smaller dragons represent life events that are attracted to this harmonious balance; events that seek the balance and harmony necessary for resolution. The high mountains are a gateway to the spiritual realm. Climbing them is a strenuous endeavor, one requiring commitment and determination. However, at the peak, when we at last rediscover our spiritual connections, we will also find the harmony and balance that our souls seek.

Divinatory Meaning

Balanced control of a situation allows you to benefit. Success comes through confidence and being centered. You must pull the two opposing forces together to accomplish a goal.

Images and text Copyright 1999 Llewellyn

Review Copyright 1999 Michele Jackson
Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes