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Tarot of the Magical Forest — Deck Review

May 12, 2010

In a previous blog I mentioned my recent exploration of a new spread with my friend Amy.  What I didn’t talk about in that post, and what I plan to talk about now, is the new deck that I used in the reading that I did that day.

Tarot of the Magical Forest CoverOne of the fun things about most Tarot events is the goody bag you get at the beginning.  There is usually a Tarot deck or two in there, and sometimes you find a deck that you may not have considered getting for yourself.  At the Readers Studio last month I got a couple of decks, and one of them was the Tarot of the Magical Forest.

My initial reaction to this deck (just based on the name and the cover image) was that it would be a cute, fluffy deck that I would probably give away… I mean, “re-gift”.  However, when I was on my way to meet Amy for lunch the other day, something told me to bring it along … just to be fair and give it a try.  And I’m glad I did, because I was pleasantly surprised when I cracked open the deck and began to peruse the cards.

I discovered that this deck is not “cute” in the pejorative sense of the word.  It is whimsical, and it has a fun sense of humor.  (For example, when I noticed the pig that’s falling from the Tower, I immediately thought of the saying, “When pigs fly!”)  Also, it closely follows the Waite Smith model, but at the same time, the card images are so well thought out and their artwork so subtly rich that they add their own flavor to the mix.

From the Miss Piggy-esque Empress to the bat (of course!) on the Hanged Man card, various types of animals populate the Major Arcana while each suit of the Minor Arcana has a specific type of animal assigned to it:

.  Wands – Frogs
.  Chalices (Cups) – Rabbits
.  Swords – Cats
.  Pentacles – Foxes

However, these are not the cutesy animals that I had feared they would be.  As this deck’s entry on Tarotpedia says, these are “strange, wide-eyed animal caricatures” and they have expressive, albeit quirky, personalities that seem eager to talk to you.  (See, for examples of this, Tarot Dame’s review of this deck.)

There are some distinct advantages to using anthropomorphic animals on the cards instead of humans.  For example, these cards are non-sexist since (as far as I can tell) the gender of the animals is not usually apparent.  And since there is no human nudity here, the deck is appropriate for use in venues where nudity might be an issue.

In addition, the various types of animals in this deck bring their own symbolic meanings to the cards.  For example: the wise owl on the High Priestess and Hierophant cards, the lamb and the lion on the Strength card, the shrewd fox in the moneyed suit of pentacles, and the stereotypically curious and emotionally-distant cat for the intellectual suit of swords.  The only animal choice that perplexes me is the amphibious frog for the fiery suit of Wands.  The only explanation that comes to my mind is that frogs are related to salamanders, which were traditionally associated with fire due to their tendency to hide in stacks of firewood.  (If anyone has a better explanation, do let me know.)

My only objection to this deck is the fact that the Kings and Queens of each suit seem too similar to each other.  However, many decks have problems with the court cards, and at least in this one, the Knights and Knaves are distinct and expressive.

So how, you might wonder, did this deck read?  Well, I was happy to find that it is quite articulate.  The messages of the cards were clear and concise during the test reading I did with it, and they really hit the nail on the head too.

By the way, when I review a deck, I like to “friend test it,” and I’m happy to say that Amy gives this deck a big thumbs up.  In fact, after she saw my copy of the deck, she said she was going to go out and get a copy of it for herself.

Finally, a word about the Little White Book that comes with the deck.  It is (as LWBs almost always are) trivial and superficial.  It does have one redeeming value though, which is the “Sacred Tree Spread” that it introduces. But don’t let the failings of the LWB dissuade you, because this deck’s similarities to the Waite Smith deck will make reading with it easy for anyone already familiar with that iconic deck.

Here are the card images that you will find on Amazon:

.      Tarot of the Magical Forest cards

… and you can find other card images at Aeclectic.net.  (Note that the Aeclectic images are from the original Taiwanese deck, while my Lo Scarabeo deck has card names in English and several different languages.)

The Tarot of the Magical Forest Deck was created by Leo Tang
Cards are 66×120 mm with a reversible design on the back
This deck was originally published in Taiwan (2005)
and is currently published by Lo Scarabeo (2008)

Review (c) 2010, James Ricklef

From → Deck Review

10 Comments
  1. I love this deck James, and have found it to have its own personality and give great readings. I did a deck interview with the Magical Forest-( it’s a series I run on the blog a co -author.) where the deck answers questions in its own voice and personality – you can see it here if you are interested: http://tarotnotes-majorandminor.blogspot.com/2010/02/interview-with-my-magical-forest-deck.html

    • Thanks for sharing this, another perspective of this deck, Helen.

      And isn’t this is a fun idea — to interview a deck? I liked this quote from the King of Pentacles: “I keep it real, I am realistic about what can and cannot be achieved.” Ironic that I found this to be true as well given that this deck is rather fantastical.

      By the way, I have done “get acquainted” readings with a deck, and you can see one in my review of the World Spirit Tarot here:
      http://www.jamesricklef.com/DeckRev_WST.html
      I also did a reading with the MAAT Tarot to gain insights into one of the cards, and you can read that one here:
      http://www.jamesricklef.com/DeckRev_MAAT.html

      Best,
      James

  2. Victoria Evangelina permalink

    Thank you for the review, James! I will look into ordering the deck for myself. Quite interesting, that since arriving to Uzbekistan I could not open your blog (as well as Janet’s) but I still kept trying with every link you sent. And this one opened! …perhaps, it is a sign to get the deck!

    Warmly,
    VE

  3. I’ve been eyeing this deck for awhile, but I’m planning to get the original Chinese version. I read somewhere that the cardstock for the Lo Scarabeo printing is not that great. The artwork has always captivated me, however, it’s so different from any of my other decks.

    I can’t think of any other explanation for the frogs in the Wands suit than what you already mentioned. I made the same mental connection with salamanders.
    Thanks for the review, very interesting.

    • I don’t know about the Chinese version’s card stock, but the Lo Scarabeo version’s seems the same as for all their decks. Of course, since I most often use my own Tarot of the Masters deck, I don’t think this deck’s card stock will be a problem for its longevity. 😀
      Best,
      James

  4. This is my actual back up deck when I want something that is not Thoth or RWS. I think it is fabulous and the people who I read love the imagery. I bought this from Taiwan when it first appeared and kept it safe at home until LS came out with theirs …that one travels with me now all the time 🙂

    • Thanks Nicole
      By the way, since you have both versions, can you address Tarot Dame’s cardstock question?
      Best,
      James

  5. The LS version is about 1/8 inch shorter and has the four languages like most of their cards. The original only has English and Taiwanese characters at the bottom left. Both deck’s card stock is identical as far as I can tell.
    great deck 🙂

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