This delightful program deck is focused on Victorian fairies and their world. Each card develops the theme of fairy society in a setting of British Victoriana, with its blend of rural, forest, and town activities.

The 78-card deck generally adheres to the Smith-Waite format. The four suits of the Minor Arcana are modified:
Wands  Spring Court
Cups  Summer Court
Pentacles  Autumn Court
Swords Winter Court

About half of the Major Arcana cards have been re-titled to adapt to the fairy theme:
Magician Conjuror
High Priestess Seeress
Hierophant The Vicar
Lovers  Fairy Bride
Strength Fortitude
Wheel  Wheel of Time
Justice  The Magistrate
Hanged Man The Hanging Fairy
Devil  The Goblin Market
Tower  The Burning Oak
Judgment Awakening

Lunaea Weatherstone’s accompanying text is beautifully written with an informative introduction, thorough descriptions of each card, four spreads, and a bibliography. There’s also a short language of the flowers compilation that supplies meanings for the many herbs and flowers depicted in the deck. The author’s card descriptions echo the charm of the artistry in the cards.

Gary Lippincott’s card illustrations are immensely detailed and easily accessible. The cards include a complete view of a fairy society along with a myriad of forest animals and an extensive and beautiful collection of botanical illustrations of herbs, flowers, flowering and ripening fruit trees, hardwood trees, and evergreens. A great deal of herbal lore is included in the card descriptions to explain why specific plants are depicted in the cards.

The distinctive separation of the suits into the four seasons, the various social strata of fairy society, and the variety of animals, flora and fauna gives a multi-dimensional feeling to the deck’s theme. Reading with this deck is like entering a fully-formed tiny fairy world populated with all of the people, critters, and landscapes one might have found in a small town in Victorian England.

The focused interest in the natural world in late 19th century Britain was a counter-balance to the expanding growth of technology and industrialization and its negative impact on the environment and population. Although the Victorian era overlaps in some features with the time period that inspires steampunk, the emphasis in this deck skews in the opposite direction, toward a simpler, rural lifestyle that was quickly disappearing as the 20th century approached.

The cards show fairies and animals engaged in social and seasonal activities that were typical during the Victorian era: dancing, archery, pleasure boating, spending time at the shore or in the forest doing nature sketches, going to the theater, playing parlor games, planting and harvesting, making wine and cider, bicycling, dueling, and making instruments. There’s a good mix of adults, children and elders throughout the deck, many engaging in particular professions. There are milliners (hat-makers), nannies, shop-keepers, farmers, etc. Some are obviously well-off members of the fairy gentry, while others are poor or destitute.

The seasons are used for states of relative ease or difficulty. The fairies of Summer (Cups) are fat and happy, and the cards reflect ease and pleasure. Winter (Swords) is the harshest season and some of these cards show cruelty, dishonesty, and violence. This makes for a realistic balance of good and evil in the deck, a feature that is sometimes sadly neglected by deck creators that want to make the world all happy and light (which is isn’t).

Since the Victorian Fairy Tarot follows the RWS format, it should be easy for most readers with a basic grasp of tarot to use. Readers will enjoy using this deck with clients since the illustrations are charming and mostly light-hearted. This deck will have a wide appeal to collectors, readers who enjoy fairy-theme decks, herbalists and naturalists, and witches and pagans who want to work with a deck that focuses on the seasons. The illustrations are lovely and the book does a terrific job of explaining the activity shown in each card. Nicely done!

Review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Lunaea Weatherstone
Artist: Gary Lippincott
Llewellyn, 2013
deck and 264 page book in a box-kit
$28.99 US

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