New tarot decks appear almost weekly it seems. Many of these newcomers offer 'riffs' on previous themes (cats, fairies, dragons), others on artists, but very few offer a cohesive divination tool that truly offers new insights. The Tarot of Bones does so, and exquisitely.
Inspired by bone-casting divination methods from ancient times, Lupa has created a truly unique tarot deck. Don't dismiss this as 'goth' -- the assemblages of bones and natural materials more closely resemble something created by a natural scientist. There is a quality of respect that comes through clearly, there is nothing sordid or irreverent about these cards.
Imagine a pair of Galapagos albatross skulls -- scrubbed clean by wind and sun and sea -- facing one another on a bed of green fabric surrounded by a circle of semi-precious stones. The bed itself seems to rest upon a bird's nest. That this card is for Lovers is obvious when one reads that the mating pairs engage in elaborate rituals of courtship after being separated for most of the year. The deeper resonances of the Lovers are indicated within choice, respect, renewal, and cooperation.
The Tarot of Bones is a lovely deck and this reviewer could see hints of the classic Rider-Waite symbolism all throughout, but in a 'hit you over the head' kind of way. The Magician card shows a snake skeleton curled around like Ouroboros, tail in mouth. Surrounding it are bits of moss, shells, fur, and shells -- sacred objects our snake Magician may have used in its lifetime. The fact that this image so closely resembles a kind of glorious necklace is not lost.
But the gloriousness is not confined to the Major Arcana! The Minors, so oft-forgot, are just as meticulously offered. Lupa writes: "I see the Majors as the dramatization of a collective mythos. . . The Minors are representative of everyday human life. . . The Minors remind me of those collective, shared human experiences." In her expression, Lupa offers a different kind of bone for each of the (traditional) suits:
- Cups: represented by the cup-shaped rib bones which protect and contain the vital, vulnerable internal organs
- Wands: use the long bones of the legs or feet because they are 'active', providing movement and propelling energy.
- Pentacles: represented by the spine, that first evolution and without which the animal cannot achieve.
- Swords: use the teeth and jaws, the closest to the traditional cutting and slashing symbolism, but also having a quality of intake and nurturing.
This is not a great deck for beginners, it truly requires the companion book to get the fullest understanding of each card. Fortunately, the book is truly wonderful, offering detailed descriptions of the cards and the deeper meaning behind the materials used to create each card. Lupa does a wonderful job explaining why this bone and background item was chosen to represent the card, along with illuminating morsels of data about the various creatures and their lives.
The Tarot of Bones includes an 'extra' Major Arcana card, bringing the deck size to seventy-nine in total. Numbered 22, the Happy Squirrel reminds us to look deeper for the meaning in what is being seen.
I wouldn't say that Lupa's work with Earth Spirituality has culminated in this deck, but she has brought all of her previous work together into a deeply practical, beautiful, manifestation of her practice.
5 of 5 bones!
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Copyright Lupa, 2017
79 cards in custom box with 152 pg accompanying book
Deck $35, book $20