Shapeshifter Tarot Review

Shapeshifter Tarot Review


I bought this deck sight unseen because I had heard so many people rave about it, and it is, indeed, a magical, enchanting deck. Lisa Hunt’s ethereal images draw you into ancient Celtic shapeshifting lore. D. J. Conway and Sirona Knight, coauthors of the text, apparently had the original idea, and they explain shapeshifting as akin to meditating on the relationship (characteristics, traits, talents, and energies) between humans and nature, especially animals, so that we expand, internalize, and integrate our awareness. This is an extraordinarily empowering and visionary deck. The cards are perfect for encouraging changes in perspective and for understanding or evoking personal strengths. For details, one of their chapters is titled”How to Shapeshift.”

Three new Major Arcana cards have been added to this deck:

The Double, The Journey, and The Dreamer.

The total of 81 cards honors the legend of the 81knights of the Nine Rings of the Cordemanons of the Celtic Gywddonic Druidtradition, of which Sirona Knight is a High Priestess and Third Degree Craftmaster. One of the five original and innovative spreads included inthe book honors and taps into the energies of those nine “frequencies orharmonics of light,” as Knight calls them. The names of many of thetraditional Major Arcana have been changed and the four suits bear theirelemental names:

Earth (pentacles), Air (Wands), Fire (Swords), and Water(Cups). Note the shift of the element of air from swords to wands and vice versa. Court cards are the Seeker (page), Warrior (knight), God (king) and Goddess (queen), with the Goddess card now being the highest card in the deck.
All cards in this deck are to be read upright.

For guidance each Minor Arcana card has a definitive prophecy meaning at the bottom of the card with the elemental (suit) name at the top. Additional key words for all cards are included in an appendix. In the major section of the book, the authors explain each card’s symbolism or artistic presentation and its prophetic ordivinatory meaning.

One problem with this is that sometimes the text does not refer to the black and white illustration opposite it and sometimes it does. This is easily remedied, however, by always looking at the card instead. You will want to anyway because of the energy and feelings its colors evoke. There are lots of ways to work with this deck beyond readings, and, for me, that was one of the most exciting things about it. The authors suggest using it to not only interpret or clarify dreams, but also to replace negative dream images. Use it meditatively to enhance and strengthen your own energies and to help you become more aware of the animal energy another projects.
I can’t wait to delve more fully into each of the cards, yet at the same time, each illustration is so complex that speed would be a sin. My tiger-self is already poised to leap into the process.

The Shapeshifter Tarot boxed kit (ISBN 1-56718-384-0) is published by Llewellyn.

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  • Janelle Powers says:

    The Shapeshifter Tarot was created by D.J. Conway and Sirona Knight, and drawn by Lisa Hunt. The illustrations are beautiful in many ways, although a little too pastel for my tastes. Personally, I believe the cards would have been more attractive with stronger and more vivid coloring. On some of the cards the light coloring captures the etherealness of the images, yet it almost appears washed out in some cases. Shapeshifting would seem a dramatic effect, yet the palette doesn’t reflect that.

    There are many, many differences here between this and other more traditional decks. In fact, it would almost be easier to list the similarities rather than the differences. Fortunately, there is a full, 237 page book that comes with the deck explaining the choices made by the designers.

    All of the Major Arcana has been renamed, and there are three new Major Arcana cards here – the Double, The Journey and The Dreamer making 81 cards total in this deck. One of the hardest adjustments for me was accepting the Swords as representing the element of Fire, and Wands as the element of Air, instead of the other way around. Pentacles and Cups remain in their traditional roles of Earth and Water respectively.

    Each of the pip (Minor Arcana) cards has a keyword which occasionally corresponds with the traditional card meaning, and as Richard mentioned there are faces everywhere – in the trees, in the water and in the rocks. So many faces, in fact, that it is nearly distracting. The Court Cards have been renamed as well – Page, Knight, Queen and King are now Seeker, Warrior, God and Goddess, the Queens outranking the Kings in this deck.

    My hubby and I sat at our table and analyzed each card, comparing notes. There are some strong evocative images on the cards, some of which immediately convey their meaning, while other cards left us completely baffled as to the reason for the imagery. The book goes along way in explaining what the authors are trying to convey; however, there are still several cards that just do not speak to me at all, and I must rely on my basic card name association knowledge in order to use the deck.

  • says:

    I was first introduced to this deck by an automated online reading. I was interested but not terribly impressed because I could barely see the pictures on the cards. When I finally got a good look, though, I knew I was on to something. Still, nothing compares to actually doing a reading with these cards “in person.” Whether you use one of the spreads supplied in the accompanying book or one of your usual spreads, you will get so much out of these cards. One warning: Make sure you set aside plenty of time, because I’ve found that a reading with these cards seems to flow naturally into a meditation. The pictures and the feelings and concepts that they evoke are powerful. I use this deck mainly for questions of a spiritual nature.

  • Cornilia says:

    Definitely buy the book, as there are aspects of the deck that differ from a standard tarot. It’s very readable, so you don’t necessarily need the book for readings. However, the book is helpful to answer structure questions as you get acquainted with the cards.

  • Glen Borken says:

    The very first thing that struck me when I saw this deck were the amazing illustrations. Incredible drawings of half-animal, half-human figures adorn these cards, mostly in pastel colours. A mix of cultural influences are present, including a strong Celtic aspect (particularly on the card backing – a dark blue background with a yellow intertwining circle design). The drawings are truly fantastic: I particularly love the dragon eating out of the beehive on the 2 of Wands, and the winged Sirens pictured on the 7 of Cups.

    The layout of this deck is rather unorthodox, but reads incredibly well for me personally. The biggest liberty taken by the authors is to add three extra cards to the Major Arcana – The Double, The Journey, and The Dreamer (each explained in the accompanying book). These were added to make a total of 81 cards, to correlate with the 81 knights of the Nine Rings of the Cordemanons of the Celtic Gwyddonic Druid tradition. This may not sit well with the more traditional readers, but is integrated very well in this deck. Most of the names of the Major Arcana are changed ie. The Fool has become Initiation, and the Magician becomes the Sorcerer – however, they are generally easy to identify. And of course, there is an appendix in the back to aid the reader with this.

    The focus of the deck is on nature, for example, the Minor Arcana puts the traditional name (i.e.. Cups) in brackets next to the corresponding element (i.e. water). Each card also has key words at the bottom, which certainly helped me as a beginner to remember the meaning of each card The accompanying book outlines the basics of the shamanic practise of shapeshifting, as well as
    adding a few unique spreads. Of particular note is the Animal Helper spread – this enable the reader to find one’s animal spirit guides through the use of the cards. Overall, I find this deck to be extremely powerful – an incredible deck, if a bit expensive (AUS$75), but worth it nonetheless.

  • Patricia10 says:

    Before their dazzling journey into the realm of dragons, the dynamic duo of D.J. Conway and Lisa Hunt worked with another author, Sirona Knight, to create an enchantingly shamanic divination deck they named the Shapeshifter Tarot. To my great relief, the inclusion of a third author to the Conway/Hunt team didn’t detract too noticeably from the final effect. Lisa Hunt’s watercolors are a delight to all of the senses. D.J. Conway’s descriptions are hypnotic. The work of Sirona Knight is both intelligently written and thought-provoking. This triumvirate of talent has brought the shapeshifting mysteries to Tarot in a tantalizing way.

    There, now, are you all proud of me? I tried to sound bright… and hope I managed to pull it off. The Shapeshifter Tarot is a fabulous deck for the literati who view divination as an intriguing facet of mythology. But……. it’s fun! Yes, and I hate to say, fun is what I’m 100% in favor of so I’m going to go out on a limb and say
    “Eeeeha! Now, this is a cool deck!”

    Oh, okay, I like my beloved dragons so I had a great time with the Celtic Dragon Tarot created by Conway and Hunt. It became my favorite the moment I first held it in my grimy little paws and it still is my favorite. Shapeshifter actually came before the Celtic Dragon, but it’s so clever and so filled with the challenge and joy of discovery that I can’t help but adore it, too. I’ve seen and used many decks based on the Rider-Waite and am always surprised and enamored of new systems. Tarot itself is venerable, so to find a bit of fun and a chunk of esoteric knowledge attached is a boon… at least in my way of thinking, at any rate. Shapeshifter delivers on all counts.

    The deck comes from Llewellyn with a comprehensive book of insights and added goodies that bring it forward of the norm. For example, there is a chapter dedicated to spreads, which is not surprising – the books that come with many decks have just such a chapter. However, when did you last see one that has a spread to help you discover your Animal Allies from the Otherworld? With just such extra touches Shapeshifter transcends again and again.

    Conway is a writer of great depth while managing to remain very readable. She shines here. Knight has tantalizing comments, but is a bit harder to understand. Her writing isn’t obtuse so much as a bit stiff. Yet, she’s still very good and quite enlightening. You may not notice the differences in writing style between D.J. Conway and Sirona Knight. Perhaps it takes a “word nut” like myself to even care. I showed the book that came with Shapeshifter to a number of people and got the same response from all: None of it was difficult to read or understand and all of it was exciting and spiritually uplifting. The final analysis on whether or not to pass on the Shapeshifter Tarot merely because you’re concerned that too many authors may have ruined the soup is a resounding no. Everyone agrees that it’s a great book and a great deck and a must-have from the aspect of potential for growth and transformation as a Tarot lover or reader. (On the plus side, each passage in the book is marked with either a moon or a sun depending on who authored that section. Conway is the moon; Knight is the sun.)

    The one qualifying feature that makes this deck stand out as being very different from traditional decks is the addition of three extra Majors. The Double, the Journey and the Dreamer are Major Arcana 21, 22 and 23 repectively. In a traditional deck, Major Arcana 21 would be the World and fall right behind Judgment. Conway, Hunt and Knight added the three extra cards for their shamanic properties. You could take them out and use the deck in a more traditional manner, but I suggest that you use these extra cards as they were intended. The results are amazing. Everyone I talked to about them liked the depth of spirit that entered their readings when incorporating the shamanic cards.

    Shapeshifting as a theory and a practice has long been one of my favorite subjects. I was anxious to see how Lisa Hunt treated this elusive and ephemeral theme. The first thing I did when I opened this deck was race to my personal pip card, the Ace of Swords. Being a fire sign, I confess to being used to finding a bit of drama in the depictions of this card. Lisa, however, brought more drama and magic than I’ve ever found before! In Shapeshifter, the Ace of Swords becomes The Sacred Flame — emotion, energy, triumph. (Oh, boy, I was hooked! Good stuff! I love it when “my stuff” is “good stuff”, too!) Merged with an ancient oak, the beautiful woman on the card is being infused with lightning. As D.J. Conway explained in her text, “There is no fear, only spiritual joy and contemplation on her face as she is filled with an absorbs the celestial illumination, seeing her destiny and accepting it with widespread arms.”*

    Hunt’s watercolors are vibrant and detailed. Never too busy (as some decks become), there is a lucidity to her work that is immediately apparent, but the final kudos come from her attention to spirituality. One could spend hours searching out and discovering the analogies and messages she paints into every nook and cranny. Perhaps it’s best to say that Lisa Hunt’s greatest talent is loaning us her imagination and skill so that we can discover our own imagination once again. It’s a rare gift, this ability to put what she sees in then leave a little space for us to dream and believe on our own.

    Who should buy this deck? Obviously, those who are interested in collecting decks of great beauty and those who love a new slant on Tarot. Also, those who would like to explore or who have an affection for either shapeshifting or Celtic folklore. It’s a good deck for personal transformation so anyone who is searching for a Tarot deck to lead or assist their meditations would enjoy Shapeshifter. It has a magickal feel to it and could be very powerful for spellworking. Lovers of animals and their relationship to humans will be entranced. Who shouldn’t? Well, I thought that perhaps beginners should go with a very traditional deck at first, but, after reading the book, I can’t say as I wouldn’t give it to a neophyte. I’ve never really believed that one must learn the traditional Tarot first and follow with some of the more esoteric systems. If you see the Shapeshifter and think a newcomer would find it intriguing, there are numerous reasons (see list below) to believe they could learn easily and well by having it as a first deck.

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