Shapeshifter Tarot by D.J. Conway, Lisa Hunt, and Sirona Knight

Review by Kim Huggens


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


If I were to make a list of the ten most beautiful Tarot decks in the world, the Shapeshifter Tarot would be in it somewhere.  The artwork in this deck is absolutely stunning, not to mention evocative and magical.  When looking through the cards, you often feel as though you could fall into them, and interact with the people and scenes depicted, which is always a good thing in a Tarot deck! As the title suggests, the basis for the deck is Celtic shapeshifting, and it is aimed at those who want to know more about the subject, as well as people who feel particularly close to nature, animals, and the Celtic Gods.  As such, Pagans and Shamans would benefit most from this deck, although others would find it a useful deck as well. 


The Shapeshifter Tarot is not entirely traditional:  It changes the names of the Major Arcana, the Courts, and the Minors, and adds three extra cards to the Majors.  The latter was apparently due to the fact that there are 81 'Knights' in the Gwyddonic tradition which Sirona Knight belongs to, and the extra cards relate to concepts within shapeshifting which are not otherwise touched upon by the traditional Majors.  If you wish to use the deck for shapeshifting, spellwork, or meditation, you may want to keep these extra cards in the deck, but if you are using it purely for divination purposes you may find it easier to take those cards out of the deck when in use.  The only problem with this is that the three extra cards are numbered 21, 22, and 23, leaving the World (The last of the traditional Majors) as 24, so if you were to discard the extras, you would have a set of Major Arcana which jumped from 20: Judgement, to 24: The World!  So, if you prefer to use numerology, astrology, or Kaballah when reading, this may not be the best deck for you.


The Shapeshifter titles for the Majors are very creative, and help convey some of the meaning of the card.  It is also fairly easy to see which title corresponds with which original title, so there is no danger of confusion.  These new titles are:


Initiation - Fool

Sorcerer - Magician

Sorceress - High Priestess

The Mother - Empress

The Father - Emperor

Knowledge - Hierophant

The Lovers - The Lovers

Power - Chariot

Courage - Strength

The Seer - Hermit

The Circle -Wheel of Fortune

Nature - Justice

The Shapeshifter - Hanged Man

Rebirth - Death

Balance - Temperance

Choice - The Devil

The Serpent - The Tower

The Star - The Star

The Moon - The Moon

The Sun - The Sun

Transcendence - Judgement

Oneness - The World


The three extra cards are:  The Double, The Journey, and The Dreamer.


Each Major Arcana is full of symbolism, and there seems to be nothing in any of the cards which does not have some meaning pertaining to that card attached to it.  Every card also portrays a person either in the process of shapeshifting or using their shapeshifted form in some way which is symbolic for the card.  This is where animal lovers will be pleased:  the animals which are on each card also bear meaning for that card, and this can be used to great effect by shamans and those wishing to work more closely with the animal world.  The pictures on the Majors certainly aren't traditional, but luckily the meanings for them are!


The Minor Arcana are slightly unusual in that each one, instead of bearing a title such as 'Three of Wands' in the traditional way, bears a title such as 'Partnership', which helps convey meanings and act as a 'memory-jogger' for those who memorize the card meanings.  Depending on how you view keywords, this could be good or bad, but personally I find it helpful with this deck.  The pictures on the Minors are equally beautiful and evocative as the Majors, which is always a plus in my book when it comes to Tarot decks.  The meanings are, as with the Majors, largely traditional, but again, the pictures are not although I found this did no harm, and simply helped me look at the Tarot in a different way.


The Court cards are a little disappointing, due to the fact that although they are gorgeous and beautiful, the images fail to give the reader any hint as to the meaning of that card.  The titles are changed as well, from King, Queen, Knight and Page, to Goddess, God, Warrior, and Seeker, which may not be agreeable to non-Pagans.


Other changes to this deck involve the Wands representing the Air element and Swords the Fire element, a convention not too common in Tarot decks and one over which there has been great debate.  If you prefer Swords as Fire, then this deck will not confuse you as much as it did me! 


The main criticism I have of this deck is that it is very difficult to read with, even if you have used Tarot extensively.  Beginners with Tarot, non-Pagans, or those not interested in the concept of shapeshifting would find this deck nearly impossible to read with.  I also found that, whilst there is plenty of symbolism in the cards, it is only found in small, often insignificant details which do not stand out in a reading.


Overall, this deck is great for meditation or pathworking, but I would not recommend it as a reading deck, and it certainly isn't a deck for beginners or those who prefer a more traditional deck! 


Shapeshifter Tarot
D.J. Conway and Lisa Hunt
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN#: 1-56718-384-0

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



Kim Huggens is an 18 year old Pagan, studying for a Philosophy degree at Cardiff University.  She has been studying Tarot heavily since the age of 9, and currently lives with her wonderful boyfriend, Simon, in Cardiff.  She also enjoys writing and collecting Tarot decks, and currently has around 110 in her collection.

Images 1998 Llewellyn Worldwide
Review 2003 Kim Huggens
Page 2003 Diane Wilkes