The traditional Tarot is a flexible divination system – one that can encompass a wide range of occult traditions and esoteric associations.
One field of spirituality that has been gaining particular interest and a strengthening following over the past few decades has been that of Shamanism. Whilst the world becomes increasingly technical and scientific in its outlook the delicate reconnection that all Shamanic traditions offer to those wanting to find their core resonance with the natural world is alluring.
The Animal Totem Tarot is a a Tarot deck that centres itself mid-way between traditional Tarot ideas and those of modern Shamanic principles.
This boxed set of deck and cards was conceived by Leeza Robertson and illustrated by Eugene Smith. The purpose behind the deck is said to be that it acts as a way of allowing animals – or their totemic equivalent within the psyche, to express their energy through the user.
Whilst in most cases these archetypal; powers speak from the world that resides within us all they often do manifest as physical creatures in our outer world; appearing at important times to offer us help, guidance and insight.
The Animal Totem Tarot is a boxed set of cards and an accompanying explanatory book.
1 – The Book
The enclosed publication in this pack is titled the Guide to the Animal Totem Tarot. This handbook includes an introduction to the objective of the Animal Totem deck, the role that power animals, animal totems and animal guides play in our lives.
It also explains to beginners a little about what the Tarot is and how it works
The main part of the book includes individual interpretations of each of the seventy-eight cards. Here the relevant card is reproduced pictorially. The accompanying explanatory description of each card includes a broad commentary on the relevance that the power animal or totem animal plays in your life.
Three specific areas of life are examined for each. These focus on business and career, family and relationship, and health and well-being.
The author encourages the user to record their work with the deck in a personal journal and to aid the process of interpreting a card’s meaning Roberson has included some prompting questions for those users who use the card-a-day method of divination.
In the final part of the book the author offers three Tarot spreads that are specifically tailored to meet the objectives of this deck.
2 – The Cards
The Animal Totem Tarot deck consists of the standard number of cards – seventy-eight. Each one is illustrated in subtle-shades of color. They are named and the cards themselves contain no borders giving a full-sized illustration. Their reverse is both colorful and attractive.
Major Arcana cards follow the traditional naming process that Tarot users will be used to.
Minor Arcana card suits stick to tradition with the usual wands, cups, swords and pentacles. The court cards reference the usual king, queen, knight and pages.
Each card features the image of an animal, insect, bird, etc – though other aspects of the aural world are used such as oyster, coral atoll, and mammals. The cards themselves have been produced on medium to light weight card and measure 7cm by 11.5cms.
The action and appearance of totem animals in your life can signal some extremely powerful and propound mysteries regarding your world and specific place in it. For that reason I looked forward to checking out this deck – one which in many ways is similar in design and operation to other sacred teachings cards by authors such as Ted Andrews and Stephen Farmer.
Here a few of things that I did, and did not like about this particular Tarot deck.
- Cards are a little light to the feel and will not take a great deal of use.
- The deck suffers from a severe lack of distinction in the qualities of the major and arcana cards
- The court cards do not stand out as having specific human characteristics
- Some of the totems featured are not totemic in any real sense of the word
- Cleverly and skilfully drawn card images
- Great use of colour
- Subtle use of humour
The book is a good companion guide but is severely lacking in certain areas. The most significant one to me is that whilst it is helpful for the cards divination meanings to focus on specific and practical aspects of modern life the author does not include any spiritual meaning or significance to the cards.
This is a glaring omission given that totem animals emerge from our inner world of spirituality.
Another aspect of Tarot work that has been avoided here is an explanation regarding the importance of reversed cards. No meanings for an ill-dignified aspect are offered.
Whilst this is an entertaining and stimulating deck one is left feeling that all it is essentially a collection of seventy-eight animals, or creatures, that have been shoe-horned into a Tarot framework. I have to say that the result is a deck that offers very little to Tarot fans as it takes huge liberties with many established Tarot concepts and principles. Likewise with the Shamanic tradition.
On the other hand those who approach this deck and who are not grounded in the Tarot will enjoy its simplicity, helpful guidance and delightful imagery.
So it is what it is and had its author and artist had not had their ideas constrained by the fixed parameters of Tarot then this would have made for an above average divination system. As it is the Animal Totem Tarot slips between the cracks and only really works for those who enjoy the lighter side of popular divination.