The Kalevala Tarot                                                                                Review by Michele Jackson

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

This deck is based on a Finnish epic called the Kalevala. The Kalevala is a compilation of Finnish poems which, per the booklet, "has been a source of artistic inspiration since its publication". My knowledge of Finnish mythology, culture and poetry is non-existent, so I can not vouch for the accuracy of the information provided or on how well the heroes assigned fit the cards they are assigned to. This is basically what I call a "theme deck". You should be familiar with the underlying theme in order to get the most out of the deck. The deck is based on the standard 78 card tarot format, with 22 Major Arcana, and 22 Minors arranged in four suits. The suits and court cards are renamed in most cases:

Waite-Smith Kavelava
Swords Swords
Wands Staves
Cups Dishes
Pentacles Loaves
Court Cards  
King Master
Queen Mistress
Knight Son
Page Daughter

The art is good, with muted colors. There is a border around each scene done in orange, fading and blending to green. The card number is in the top of the border and the card name and the name of the character from the Kalevala is in the bottom of the border. While the border is fairly attractive, I would have rather seen the space used to make the scenes bigger. While many of the Major Arcana are derived from the traditional Waite-Smith, most of the Minor Arcana are completely new interpretations. Some of the scenes are quite beautiful. The little booklet that comes with the deck provides some background information, and very brief upright and reversed interpretations. There is one spread provided: a six card spread called "Ukko's Tools", which is again, based on the epic. There is a book written specifically for this deck and you can buy it separately or as a book/deck set. The book provides a little more background information and much more detailed explanations of each card. There is some attempt to connect the word "tarot" with various Finnish words, and diagrams showing how the Kalevala deck works with the Tree of Life, and the Enneagram. There is not enough information about the diagrams provided there to be meaningful and I found the Finnish word connections tenuous. However, the card descriptions and interpretations are useful, particularly for those of us unfamiliar with the underlying mythology. The Major Arcana descriptions tell you who the character in the card is, and provide a brief synopsis of the person's part in the Kalevala epic. A personality type, a list of corresponding divinities from various cultures, symbolic meaning (describes the symbolism of the scene), advice (this is the actual interpretation) and a reversed interpretation are provided. For the Minor Arcana, a shorter section on symbolism, followed by the issue and advice are given. Three spreads are given, 'Ukko's Tools", an eight card choice spread, and an eight card relationship spread. Personally, I think the book is a necessity unless you have some knowledge of the Kalevala epic. Even with the book, I believe further research into the Kalevala epic would be necessary in order to view the story as a whole, vice in the piecemeal approach used in the Kalevala Tarot book. Recommended for those interested in the Kalevala Epic, Finnish mythology and collectors.; See the Kalevala Tarot Deck.

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

The Kalevala Tarot Deck
ISBN 0-88079-094-6
Kalevala Tarot (book)
Author: Kalervo Aaltonen
ISBN 0-88079-186-1



The mythological world of the Kalevala enhances the tarot deck's qualities - the Kalevala brings a freshness to the tarot symbolism with it's primeval cosmology and shamanistic view of humanity. The Kalevala poems, as did the tarot cards, came into being a very long time ago. Then knowledge was spread in quite a different way from now - through pictures, songs and religious ceremonies. The Kalevala tarot is one way of trying to bring that ancient wisdom into the lives of modern man and woman. This wisdom can change and give new meaning to the tasks before us. We need it now, as much as it was needed then - if not more than ever.

From the Kalevala Tarot, pg. 1 - 2

The Magician (Ilmarinen)


Ilmarinen is one of the Kalevala's three main heroes. He is a good and trustworthy companion and helpmate. He works hard and is an excellent blacksmith. He exudes tranquillity. Ilmarinen is at times rather naive and a bit to eager to comply with the wishes of others. Illmarinen has the tools with which to make and do many things.

The Kalevala

As is often the case with hard and conscientious workers, Ilmarinen does get abused by others, as well as rewarded. Of all those who court the Pohjola maiden, he is the man who gains her hand in marriage. Ilmarinen is also Vainamoinen's faithful companion and right hand. Indeed Vainamoinen depends on Ilmarinen's craftsmanship.

Vainamoinen promises Louhi, the Mistress of Pohjola, that he will bring her the Sampo. Vainamoinen manages to persuade Ilmarinen to go with hi to Pohjola and there to forge the Sampo. After many trials and tribulations, Ilmarinen finally weds the Pohjola daughter. However, Ilmarinen is soon widowed. he forges himself a wife of gold and silver,but isn't comforted. He woos the second daughter of Louhi, but his new wife so provokes him he turns her into a seagull. Vainamoinen and Ilmarinen then set off together for the Pohjola to rob the Sampo.

From the Kalevala Tarot, by Kalervo Aaltonen, pg. 23 - 24


This page is Copyright 1997 by Michele Jackson