Review of Tarot of the Bones Deck & Companion Book by Lupa
The Tarot of the Bones is a “natural history-themed” divination set created and published by Lupa. I was looking forward to receiving this deck because of its author and creator, who I first discovered years ago when researching therianthropy. Because of her long history of working in an honorable way with the hides and bones and fur of animals, I could not think of a better person than Lupa to create a bone-themed Tarot deck. I’m pleased to say that Lupa did not disappoint me. The Tarot of Bones deck has 79 cards with beautiful images of bones and other natural items assembled by Lupa and photographed by Sandra Swan of Wild Hunt Photography.
The theme of the deck is nature and history. The images in most Tarot decks are connected to humans and their belongings and desires, but the Tarot of Bones focuses on other parts of nature, parts that don’t need humans to exist. To make things more interesting, we are not dealing with photographs or drawing of animals, but rather photographs of their bones. The idea for the deck is sourced to both Lupa’s focus on hides, fur, bones and leather and other natural and reclaimed objects founds in her artwork, and on the ancient divination art of cleromancy, also known as bone divination. Bone divination, the ritual tossing of bones on a surface and the interpreting of the patterns to be found, is an ancient divinatory practice that is part of the culture of many areas in the world, including Asia, Africa and North America. Tarot of the Bones brings this ancient divinatory art into the modern age.
The cards are 2¾ inches by 4¾ inches, easy to shuffle even if you have small hands, the card stock is sturdy enough to encourage regular use of the deck, and the finish is smooth but not too shiny. The card images, pictures of bones and other assembled articles, are sized to allow a colored border. The image on the back of the cards, in keeping with the natural history theme of the entire deck, shows an assemblage of shells, bones, a horned skull, fur, stones, and mosses and grasses.
The soft cover companion book, sold separately from the deck, is 6 inches by 9 inches, and is sturdy and easy to use. The cover is in color, and shows the image from The Magician of the Majors; the back cover has a brief description of the deck and a short bio of the author and creator; the interior is black print on white paper. The book has 155 pages, and besides a brief introduction describing Lupa’s process for creating the deck, an explanation of why she chose to work with the Tarot and with bones, and a quick description of how to use the book in the beginning, and some suggested spreads in the back, it’s all about the cards.
The card descriptions are broken down to several parts: an image of the card, a description of the items in the assemblage pictured on the card, a description of Lupa’s inspiration for the items used in the photograph, and an offering of potential meanings for the card. These are all presented in story fashion rather than just as lists of keywords or phrases, which helps us to peek into Lupa’s mind and understand why she chose the assemblage to represent the card. Indeed, to me it is the “My Inspiration” section and its descriptions of the creator’s process for choosing the items for each card that has offered new and very unique ways to see and perceive the messages of the cards of the Tarot!
As stated above, this deck has 79 cards. The Tarot of Bones includes a bonus card, named “The Happy Squirrel.” Those of you who are loyal watchers of The Simpsons might remember this card; if you don’t, I will leave it up to you to do the research. The Tarot of Bones is not the only Tarot deck that includes this 79th card; I was able to find a list of 9 other decks that include The Happy Squirrel in the Major Arcana. Lupa included The Happy Squirrel in the Tarot of the Bones as an homage to all those who helped her through her IndieGoGo campaigns to fund the creation and publication of the deck and companion book.
This might not be an ideal deck for those just beginning the process of learning about the Tarot. There are no traditional images that would help the novice to tell the story of the cards. Each card is identified with its number (or rank, for Court Cards) at the top of the image, and the card name (for Major Arcana cards) or suit (for Minor Arcana cards) at the bottom. There are no Major Arcana card images associated with The Fool and his journey, and the Minor Arcana cards show bones and other natural items, without the images that can help the novice. The color palate of the deck is very earthy, with greens, blues, reds, yellows, tans and browns; some cards have solid backgrounds while others have textured or patterned backgrounds, but those colors and textures are not separated into suits or elemental correspondences, but rather are mixed throughout the entire deck. To a novice reader, this also could be a challenge. But if you already have a handle on the traditional symbolism of the Tarot, this deck will be a pleasure to work with.
There is also lots of useful information about the cards to be found on the Tarot of the Bones website, thetarotofbones.com. Lupa has graciously posted images and brief descriptions of the meanings of the cards there, so you don’t need to buy the companion book. However, I highly recommend that you DO purchase the companion book, because it is worth whatever you spend for it. If you go to the website, take a moment to read the Production Schedule. Lupa not only created the deck and the book, designed the images on each of the cards and wrote the descriptions of the images and their symbolism as well as the meanings of the cards, she also self-published! No small task, that.
I love this deck and companion book. It combines spirituality, nature, and the powerful archetypes of the Tarot in a creative way that asks readers to see the cards anew. The deck itself is beautiful, and the companion book is well researched and well written. If you are interested in nature, animals, bones, shamanism, or nature-based witchcraft, or if you love art decks or Tarot decks that are a bit unusual and bring to a reading a non-R/W feel, this deck is for you!
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About the Author:
Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot reader and teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher. Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.
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