Forest Folklore Tarot - Kessia Beverley-Smith
“The enchanting cards of Forest Folklore Tarot are inspired by a unique area of the United Kingdom called the New Forest. These historical woodlands—lust with wildlife and legends—provide the landscape for imps, fairies, nymphs, dwarves and other creatures that call this area their home.” – From the Forest Folklore Tarot

Using an unusual combination of watercolor and photography, the Forest Folklore Tarot pays tribute to the people of New Forest—with neighbors, friends and relatives of the artist serving as models for the cards.

Unfortunately, this is oh-so-obvious by the staged poses and frozen expressions of the “models”. (In fact, when my husband started looking through this deck, he said “It looks like she got her friends and family to pose”—which turned out to be exactly the case.)

The imagery of the Forest Folkore Tarot is far from self-evident. For example, the Five of Swords shows a balding man with his arms crossed and a woman beside him, looking into the distance. A tiny, naked red imp has his hand over the guy’s mouth. The woman bemusedly looks off into the distance, while the man cocks his bushy black eyebrow ala Sean Connery.

Imagine my surprise when the Little White Book says of this card, “A couple stand [sic] stubbornly back-to-back after a disagreement. The imp puts his hands to the man’s lips to stop him from saying more.” I can’t imagine how someone could deduce that meaning on their own! And I think this is probably because of the staged quality of almost all of the cards.

The Lady of Swords stands with hand on hip, smiling as though posing for a family picture. The guy on the 7 of Rings has his hand to his brow as if to represent weariness or indecision—but he actually looks like a teen bored out of his mind. It’s easy for me to imagine many of the “models” thinking “How long do I have to hold this pose…I wish she would hurry up…my leg is cramped and I have to pee…

Some of the cards in the Forest Folklore Tarot are pretty—such as the 8 of Wands, The Hermit and even Death. Some are creepy—such as mortal boy intently gazing at seven tiny naked female nymphs—and one is surprisingly violent (the Knight of Swords ready to plunge a blade into the chest of a tiny red imp who is, again, a human model).

The Minors supposedly represent various woodland creatures—Cups=Water nymphs/fairies, Rings=Dwarves, Wands=Fairies and Swords=Imps. Imps were chosen because “they delight in havoc and misfortune”. But honestly, you’d never know the demarcation of these creatures from portrayal alone.

The art and photo cropping are embarrassingly amateurish. Frankly, I’m baffled as to how this deck made it into print. However, if you’re still reading this, I may as well pass along the minutia:

• Cards measure approximately 4 ¾ x 2 ¾ inches
• Suits are Swords, Rings, Wands and Cups
• Courts are Lady, Knight, Queen and King
• Strength is Trump 8, Justice is Trump 11
• The rather drab olive green backing features a simple design and is fully reversible
• The deck comes with a decent 43-page LWB providing both upright and reversed meanings
• Aces depict animals native to New Forest: Ace of Wands=Horse, Ace of Swords=Buck, Ace of Cups=Kingfisher and Ace of Rings=Tawny Owl.

As I mentioned, a few of the cards from the Forest Folklore Tarot are lovely—like the Queen of Wands sitting atop a large red toadstool, reading to a fairy child. However, this deck feels like a personal project best left to family and friends who actually appear in the images. If you’re looking for a fairy deck, you may want to check out the Fairy Ring Oracle or the Mystic Faerie Tarot, instead.

Below are 10 images from this deck:

Illustrations from the Forest Folklore Tarot deck reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright © 2004 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited.

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