Illustrated by: Will Worthington
Published by: Connections/St. Martin’s Press
Year Published: 2004
Type: Deck of 78 Cards with Book
The Druid Craft Tarot was created by Stephanie & Philip Carr-Gomm, members of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, and illustrated by Will Worthington, a fellow Druid and talented artist. The result of this partnership is a lovely Pagan deck that seeks to relate Tarot symbolism to Druid tales and Pythagorean numerology. The symbolism of the deck is clearly inspired by the RWS tradition; but the imagery can be quite different while still providing the same meaning. (See 3 of Pentacles below, where a standing stone is used instead of a church.)
There is an obvious Celtic influence to this deck. Tartan, Celtic knots, and the like abound. Symbolism ranges greatly in time, if not in place. The 2 of Wands features the Long Man of Wilmington (c. 16th or 17th century BCE), while the Ace of Swords depicts the Arthurian Lady of the Lake (c. 1138 in Geoffrey Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae). It is also worth noting that the Druids depicted are not of the Marion Zimmer Bradley type, as evidenced by the Magician and High Priestess; truly a wild pair.
Several of the Major Arcana cards have been renamed in order to keep with the Druid-inspired theme of the deck.
- 3 – Empress – The Lady
- 4 – Emperor – The Lord
- 14 – Temperance – The Fferyllt (a Druid alchemist)
- 15 – Devil – Cernunnos
- 20 – Judgment – Rebirth
I am a little confused by the choice of Cernunnos for the Devil, as Cernunnos is used by many Pagans as the name for the God, and He doesn’t seem a good fit to the ideas of excess and obsession. It seems to me that it is only the physical characteristics of Cernunnos that link Him to the traditional Devil. I’m also a bit surprised at having the Lord and Lady replace the Emperor and Empress. I’m not entirely sure why earthly rulers have been replaced by the divine. (I wonder, though, if they aren’t meant to be another version of the High Priest and High Priestess.)
The artwork on the cards is very skillfully executed. The characters, while not lifelike, are not the comicbook-ish characters seen in many other Tarot decks. The backgrounds are lush, and do a great deal to enhance the meaning of the cards. The tempera paint used by Will Worthington makes the colours on the cards vivid and lush. The images invite your contemplation.
The book included in the set begins with a discussion on Druidry and Wicca. While a distinction is made between the two paths, the Carr-Gomm’s blend the two together for their personal tradition. This introduction is short, and really only serves to provide a bit of background on the thought process behind the deck; it is not meant to teach anyone the path. The book then proceeds to explaining how the Tarot relates to the Wheel of the Year, as well as how it relates to the self through a pentagram diagram. There is also an excellent discussion on how to use and read the court cards, including how to choose significators.
A considerable portion of this well written book is given over to describing the cards and providing divinatory meanings. I was a bit disappointed, though, that there wasn’t much space given to a discussion of some of the Druid-related symbolism introduced in the cards. You are pretty much left on your own to figure out what a particular Celtic knot or bird may mean to Druids. The divinatory meanings for the cards, however, do reflect the RWS tradition, making it easy to use this deck out of the box. The Carr-Gomm’s have introduced a few new shades of meaning, though, that are well worth the study.
Overall, this is a well produced deck. The images are clear and easy to read. It is printed on sturdy cardstock, at a larger size than one normally finds. While this does make shuffling a little difficult for those of us with smaller hands, it provides a bigger image and is worth the trade-off. The companion book is well-written, but if it was not included with the deck, I’m not sure it would be worth purchasing separately. This is mainly because there isn’t much in it that can’t be found on other books dealing with RWS symbolism. If there had have been more discussion about the Druid specific symbolism in the cards, I think it would have been more useful.
Summary of Features
# of Cards: 78
Reversible Backs: Yes
Symbol Inspiration: RWS (Rider-Waite-Smith), but loosely
Suits: Wands – fire, Swords – air, Cups – water, Pentacles – earth
Size: approx. 14 cm x 9 cm (approx. 5.5″ x 3.5″)
Rating: 4 – A lovely Pagan-inspired deck well suited to those following a Druid or Wiccan-inspired path.