Deck Reviews for Three Kids’ Tarot Cards: Inner Child, Mystic Faerie, Tarot of a Moon Garden
Yesterday, I posted Kids’ Tarot Decks, sharing ideas for choosing decks for kids and my list of ten great kids’ decks. In a series of posts over the next few months I’ll write short reviews of each of these decks to give you better insight into the decks and what works and doesn’t work. Following are my reviews on the first three decks: Inner Child, Mystic Faerie, and Tarot of a Moon Garden.
Inner Child Cards
Full of fairy tale and children’s literature references, colorful and magical, these cards feature fairies, mermaids, gnomes, people both children and adult, and recognizable characters from stories. The illustrations are fresh and do not follow an established tarot lineage (such as the Rider-Waite-Smith). They are easy to read, with deep images that delve into scenes where you can get lost in the fantasy worlds. The cards are oversize which helps to draw you in.
Borders let you know what suit you are in–Butterflies and caterpillars for Wands/Fire, Winged Hearts and seahorses for Hearts/Water, Sword hilts and clouds for Swords/Air. The court cards are Child, Seeker, Guide, and Guardian–characters of any gender can show up for each of these types.
Difficult cards are handled deftly. I especially liked the Eight, Nine, and Ten of Swords sequence. The Eight of Swords is the scariest, with a line of children wandering through a dark cavern, spiders and stalactites threatening. But the kids have power in numbers, and each sword tip is a candle flame, lighting the way. In this card I see the ability to successfully traverse any difficulty with the help of friends and something to lighten the dim unknown.
In the Nine of Swords, a dragon encircles a scared child hiding behind a fence of swords. In the Ten of Swords, the child has overtaken the dragon and fenced him in with the swords. This is an example of empowered characters who succeed in facing life’s challenges.
This deck uses a muted pastel palette with golden borders and a soft golden glow to them. Each of the four suits tells a story within the suit–such as the boys who are given a dragon egg in the suit of Wands, then proceed to hatch it and learn to ride the winged beast. You can follow the adventure by laying out all the Wands cards in order–but watch to see how the story can be told when the cards change sequence. Each card works well by itself and in spreads too. The scenes are set in hidden glades and feel close and protected, as if you are a little being playing in gardens and out-of-the-way private valleys. The scenes are very detailed and the characters emotive. The symbolism reflects both RWS and Golden Dawn lineages.
The suits are Wands/Fire with crystal-topped staffs, Cups/Water shown by water droplets and cup-shaped flowers, Swords/Air are shown as thorns on roses, and Pentacles/Earth with the standard coin or jewel-like pentacles, and also feature berries and fruit. Court cards are Knave, Knight, Queen and King. The Knights and Queens are all female. Kings are male. The young knaves tend to have a youthful, genderless quality, but might tip a little towards either male or female in appearance.
The difficult cards are not too threatening while still showing mostly standard interpretations. The Suit of Swords shows an interesting sequence in which a single blue rose amidst other pink roses dies. Two fairy girls mourn it then leave. In the next card in numerical order, another fairy comes and waters it, bringing it back to life, but she gets caught in its thorns. Progressing in order through the suit, the rose grows and eventually ensnares her entirely. She is pricked and bleeding by the Ten of Swords. However, the blue rose is now a bud and in a bubble of light. Stepping backward in numerical sequence, in the Nine of Swords, a bird picks the blue rose in the bubble and flies away while the fairy, not pricked but still wrapped in the thorny vines, watches. The Two of Swords shows the blue rose in the bubble with the two fairy girls admiring it. The rose dies when the bubble is burst in the Three of Swords. The story seems to go one direction when taken from the fairy’s point of view, but another direction when watched from the rose’s point of view. A very subtle and clever reminder that sometimes a perspective shift can show you a way out of difficulties. And good advice to be wary of cultivating things that are dangerous!
Tarot of a Moon Garden
Fairies, unicorns, butterflies, dragonflies, dolphins, Pegasus, dragons, wizards. This enchanting deck is set in the lush gardens of a distant castle in the cool darkness of night, lit by gently luminous stars and moon. Some scenes are close and dense, a tangle of overgrown ferns, flowers, mushrooms, and greenery obscure the path. Occasionally we wander into hidden vales where fairies luxuriate or meditate. And sometimes we come out into open vistas where we can catch a glimpse of the turrets and banners of a faraway castle. Over the ridge, seas are home to dolphins and dragon boats. Tarot of a Moon Garden is a magical fantasy deck that invites us to explore the castle grounds.
This deck’s cool palette features the greens, blues, and purples of nighttime scenes, only on a couple cards do we see a sunrise or hint of blue sky. A flattened oval banner at the bottom of each card declares its title, while a lavender border of organic shapes in a knotwork design suggesting leaves, butterflies and shells fades into light blue as it climbs the edge of the card.
Staffs/Wands are trees, often creating a small copse through which we can see the castle. In the Five of Staffs a tree has fallen at an angle blocking the way. Small unicorns with pastel rainbow manes and tails are common in this suit, although they make guest appearances elsewhere as well.
The Suit of Cups features golden goblets and more butterflies than the other suits.
Swords have violet, blue, and jade dragonfly hilts and the suit sometimes offers twisting green dragons.
Pentacles are floating bubbles with purple pentagrams on them. The only suggestions of indoor scenes are in the pentacles suit–the Five of Pentacles shows a winter scene with enormous pale blue snowflakes falling against a wall of white and shadow purple bricks. An arched window reveals the warm orange glow just out of reach, while five pentacle bubbles hover inside. The Three of Pentacles shows the floating bubbles inside, looking out into the garden.
The court cards feature the standard cast of Page, Knight, Queen, and King. The Knights fly through the air on winged horses or unicorns. Pages play in the gardens while the Kings and Queens for the most part sit enthroned in outdoor landscapes, elementals lurking and other common symbols of their suits populating the scene. The King of Swords cleverly has a Venus fly-trap next to his throne and a dragon tail across his feet.
The difficult cards follow standard interpretations while being non-threatening. In the Ten of Swords, the dragonfly swords seem to be lifting off a sleeping woman. A frond suspended over her head seems almost crown-like, as if she has passed an ordeal and has advanced to the next level.
A dimly cloaked skeletal Death holds a crescent moon shaped scythe and hourglass while riding a flying dragon. A full moon (the aura of rays could indicate a sun instead) hovers low in the sky, reflected in a lake lapping against an irregularly shaped shore. Ideas of endings and illusions and defining edges come into play.
The Devil has a stylized, almost Asian aesthetic, with an orange sky to distance himself from the other cards. Two people look out surreptitiously from behind him. A length of chain spread across the bottom of the card is clasped in his clawed paws. He could as easily be protecting the hidden people as he could be trapping them. Both a full moon and crescent balanced in the sky suggest cycles and timing.
The orange and purple flames of the lightning struck Tower flail while someone dives safely into the waves below, successful escape from imminent destruction.
When I first came across this deck years ago, I found the artwork and symbolism to be similar to the point of being dull and repetitive. But spending more time with it now, I discover so many details and nuances that are missed with a cursory glance. The Tarot of a Moon Garden cast its spell and I am enchanted with its mystical landscapes. Like any fairyland, it is a pleasure to become lost in its enticing secrets.