Fae Tarot Deck by the Greygoose (Greg Hoose)
Review by Lee A. Bursten

This is a beautiful deck which is self-published by the artist/author, Greg Hoose, who has studied art internationally and whose influences include Celtic Fairies, Sumi (Chinese) art, and Christian elements, as well as Tarot. He creates all his images digitally.

The primary theme of the deck is, of course, Fairies. Although the signature card included with the deck, as well as the artistís website, speaks of a Fairy tradition, Iím not sure what specific tradition is being referred to. Some of the characters on the cards are winged, with different types of wings; butterfly wings, dragonfly wings, and feathered wings, as well as more abstract, unidentifiable wings. Pointed ears are visible on many of the figures. The bird-winged figures make me think more of angels than fairies. Anyone who feels drawn to the various angel or fairy non-tarot decks currently on the market should certainly consider this deck.

The pictures are done in a colorful, impressionistic style. One thing thatís important to understand about them right away is that they donít contain the sharp outlines of most Tarot art. In fact, they are rather gauzy, or one might even say fuzzy. I donít think this is due to poor reproduction; I just think this is the artistís style. Many of the elements in the pictures are done with a wonderful marbling effect, so that they look like rivers of molten metal. When I first saw the physical cards I was a bit taken aback by the lack of definition, but I soon got used to it.

Unlike many self-published decks, these cards are refreshingly small at four by two and three-eighth inches. In fact, I think theyíre the perfect size, easy to shuffle and lay out. The corners are rounded, and the scenes go all the way to the borders. The suits are Wands, Bowls, Darts (Swords) and Stars (Pentacles). The court cards are Page, Knight, Queen and King. The cards are identifiable by an icon for each suit placed in the lower left corner of the card, with a number or letter designation superimposed over it. The Majors also have a card title in small white letters at the top of the card.

Many of these images are quite arresting. Elements from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck make frequent appearances. Greg Hoose, unlike many Tarot artists, understands the power of a simple iconic image. The Emperor is quite striking, a masculine, authoritative figure with butterfly wings. The Magician and the High Priestess are quite evocative, one strong and capable, the other leaning over a table, examining a ball of glowing light. And the Star, one of the most beautiful Star cards Iíve ever seen, demonstrates the artistís facility with light effects.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the Majors is that just about every element that could be construed to be negative has been expurgated from the cards. The Strength card, instead of showing a woman with a lion, instead shows a woman reaching out to the viewer, suggesting that the viewer is him- or herself the lion, but without actually showing a lion (the Cosmic Tarot has a similar Strength card, in which the woman holds a cloth up to the viewer, which reflects a lion). The three "negative" Majors, i.e. Death, the Devil, and the Tower, have been renamed and re-imagined into more positive, although still related, concepts. The Tower has become the Tree. Death has become Night, with a picture of a unicorn walking through a nighttime scene while the sun begins to rise. And, most alarmingly, the Devil has become the Heart, although, interestingly, the picture is set up the same way as the R-W-S Devil card, with a man and a woman in the foreground and a flower-heart shape occupying the Devilís usual position. Other Major cards are renamed but are more identifiable as traditional Tarot archetypes, like the Chariot, now named Nobility, which shows a figure reminiscent of the R-W-S charioteer, but without the chariot.

I imagine there are many Tarot traditionalists out there whose blood pressure will start to rise on reading of the lack of negative imagery. However, to be fair, this is not an entirely positive deck; several Minor cards have negative images or elements. The Three of Darts (Swords) shows the good old familiar punctured heart, and the Seven of Wands shows a fairy fighting off four dark, goblin-ish figures. The Night card could, of course, be interpreted exactly as the Death card usually is; that is, a walk through darkness, and the sun will shine on a different day. Even the Heart card can be linked conceptually to the Devil, if one interprets the Devil as oneís inner, selfish desires. Since the heart-flower entity is looming over the humans on the card, perhaps they are in its thrall.

The Minors utilize different sorts of techniques to achieve their effects. Although they mostly reflect the standard R-W-S meanings, there are a few which strike off in new directions, for example the Six of Wands, which shows a person kneeling in prayer rather than the usual victorious man on horseback. Some of the heretofore negative Minors are given a more positive (or a less negative) spin. The Five of Darts (Swords) shows a person aiming an arrow at a shooting star, which might well illustrate either futility and defeat, as in the corresponding R-W-S card, or else willingness to take a long shot.

Scale is used to great effect on some cards, like the Two of Stars (Pentacles), which shows the serenity which one can find even in a changing situation. And on the Knight of Darts (Swords), the Knight, who floats in midair, is actually quite small in the picture, as he or she aims an arrow against the wind. As an aside, the indistinctness of the figures is an advantage in one way, which is that they can be seen as either gender according to the context of the reading.

There are times when the pictures approach the truly visionary, as in the Queen of Stars (Pentacles), which simply shows the Queenís throne occupied by a ball of light, and the King of Wands, who aims a wand and shoots a grey beam at a huge, monolithic golden figure, perhaps the essence of wand-ness, who is perhaps prefigured by the wand shown in the Ace.

Although the Swords suit is named Darts, it actually shows arrows. The Star suit may seem a strange substitute for Pentacles-Disks-Coins, but when you think about it, all the matter on a planet, including its inhabitants, originates from stars, so perhaps itís appropriate after all.

Religious or Christian elements can be seen in the aforementioned Six of Wands, and in the Hanged Man card, which has been renamed to Inspiration and shows a woman with pointed ears and a halo, raising her arms and her face to the sky. However, these elements are not overwhelming.

I would like to say a few words about the whole issue of positive versus negative decks. Some take the position that a deck which has no (or few) negative images on it will not accurately reflect reality. I think this is a rather unsophisticated view. After all, many Tarot readers, including myself, feel that any card in any deck may be interpreted positively or negatively, according to the context. If this is so, then the fact that a deckís images may trend more towards the positive than the standard R-W-S-derived deck shouldnít affect the positivity or negativity of the reading, since, again, positive or negative images can suggest either a positive or negative interpretation.

Also, even if you find yourself limited in interpretation to the positivity or negativity of the image, you also have the option of reversals. If you take reversals to mean the opposite of the upright card, as many readers do, then even a deck which has all positive images will still be entirely balanced, because you will have 78 positive (upright) cards and 78 negative (reversed) ones.

I think how one feels about positivity or negativity in Tarot images has more to do with oneís own personality than anything else. "Realists" have contempt for what they perceive as "fluffy" decks which have no bite to them. However, it seems to me that those "realists" could themselves be criticized for having an unrealistic view of life; for example, just as life is not always a bed of roses, so also could one say that not every situation has stress or anxiety or hopelessness as a factor. I donít think thereís anything wrong with a deck having more gentle images, as long as the reader maintains a flexible attitude toward developing negative as well as positive interpretations. One way to ensure that you are not inadvertently overlooking the negative in life would be to use a layout that contains at least one card position which forces you to interpret even a positive image negatively, such as "What I am doing wrong in this situation" or "Whatís the worst that could happen."

As noted above, however, this is not a deck which is entirely positive. Although the Majors have been changed to seem entirely positive, there are still some negative elements in the Minors. I will also note that although some Majors have been renamed and re-imagined, these Majors are more faithful to the traditional Tarot structure than, say, the Sacred Circle Tarot.

The deck does not come with a Little White Booklet, merely two cards which contain a short explanation for why the deck was created and a reference to the artistís website for links that may be explored if one wants to learn about reading the cards (these are links to other Tarot websites, not material written by Hoose). One of these cards mentions poetry that Hoose has written to accompany each card, which is also not included with the deck, but you can read it at the website. Since itís not actually included in the deck, and since I donít know much about poetry, Iíll forbear to review it, except to say that in my opinion it doesnít provide much insight into how to interpret some of the images which are different than the R-W-S standard. For this reason, I donít know that Iíd recommend this deck to a beginner, since youíre pretty much on your own in creating interpretations for those cards that contain non-standard imagery.

The packaging of the deck is superlative. The deck comes in a beautifully carved wooden box. Inside the box, the deck is wrapped in a piece of plaid flannel, and fastened with a handmade bronze fairy-wing-shaped pin. The cards themselves are handmade, of standard thickness, and are laminated on the picture side with plastic. The backs are a pretty design of white fairy wings on a blue background, which is not reversible if you look at it carefully, especially with the copyright notice in red at the bottom. Compared to other self-published decks, this one was a steal at $36.00, which included shipping within the U.S. You could also order the deck without the box for $30.00 including U.S. shipping. UNFORTUNATELY, THE DECK IS NOW OUT OF PRINT -- DW

I highly recommend this deck for those who like or are intrigued by fairy or angel oracle decks but also prefer a more traditional Tarot structure.

Fae Tarot Deck by the Greygoose (Greg Hoose)
Available at the authorís website

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 © Greg Hoose
Review © 2002 Lee Bursten
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes