Friday, 19 December 2014

Bohemian Animal Tarot Overview

The Bohemian Animal Tarot (Rockpool Publishing, 2014) is the creation of Scott Alexander King and Sharon McLeod.  It is an interesting mix, with very standard RWS Minors, and largely renamed and reimagined Majors.  And of course, all the cards feature anthropomorphised animals (real and mythical) in human clothes.

An example of these Majors can be seen here in Judgement.  This card hasn't been renamed, yet the image it shows is a strange medley far from the traditional.  In the foreground, we see a jackal-headed Anubis in Egyptian garb, Lord of Death.  To one side, a Phoenix rises from an egg, another symbol of endings and renewal.  To the other side, we have a fox in a box (the Innocent/Fool rising up from a coffin, the book informs us).  Further back is an angel-winged black cat, the Angel Malachi offering intuition, creativity and protection.  And finally, on the pillars between a set of arches we see creatures representative of the four elements (a winged fairy, a mermaid, a dragon and a green woman - yeah, I couldn't tell it was a woman, either), with a human figure in the centre.  Certainly, the RWS concept of being called to a new way of life, of releasing the old, can be seen here.  Yet, there is more available, if you want it.  The notions of spiritual balance and integrity also spring to mind.

As I mentioned, twelve of the Majors have been renamed.  For instance, the Empress and Emperor become the Goddess and the God, represented by a bee dressed like Marie-Antoinette (to represent Aphrodite and Demeter) and the Horned One. And the deck also adds in two extra cards.  The World is replaced by the Earth Mother, and is followed by the Universe and the Afterlife.  Whether or not you choose to use these cards, though, is up to you. 

Looking at the Courts, in many ways these seem traditional.  The Queen of Fire, while a dragon, still has a black cat beside her.  And not only does this Page of Water hold a fish in a cup, his being a dolphin on a lily pad gets the message across, too.  However, there are some choices which rather surprised me.  For example, the King of Earth shows a winged creature (an emu, according to the book), and the Knight of Earth is a rooster - two birds for the Earth Court!

The Aces surprise a little by often not having a single creature.  Here, on the Ace of the Air, we have a single sword, but three ravens.  The Ace of Water has a jaguar and a mermaid, and the Ace of Earth has a bull and a couple of leprechauns.  Only the Ace of Fire is "simple", showing a cobra-headed female figure a la Egypcienne, with a flame in one hand and a wand in the other.  I also find it weird that the suits are "of Fire", "of Water", "of Earth" and "of THE Air"...

A theme which perplexed me in many of the cards is the choice of animals.  For example, having a goat for the Ten of the Air is not an obvious call.  And there are birds on three of the ten Water cards.  The love-doves on the Two of Water make a lot of sense, though I am less impressed by the theory behind the songbird on this Eight of Water.  The book connects it to Navajo ideas about new beginnings...

These strange choices do encourage me to stop and think, which can't be a bad thing!  And the RWS nature of the Minors, and concepts in the Majors, do make the deck easy to read out of the box.


  1. The artwork is lovely on these cards, but I'm having a hard time trying to wrap my head around the half-human half-animal figures. On the other hand, the Anubis seems normal, perhaps because I am used to the mythology behind it. And though I can possibly see including the emu (a flightless bird) and goat (a sacrificial animal), in the Swords suit, I am like you confused about some of the other choices.

    1. Isn't it funny the way our assumptions and biases work? I know just what you mean about Anubis :D Hmm, I see your point about the emu and the goat. And the companion book does give reasonable explanations, it's just that I mostly prefer my decks to be "plug'n'play" unless it's a topic I'm really interested in learning about...

  2. Not seen this before.

    Even though I have a few 'dressed' cat tarots (the Bohemian and the Medieval), I am not nuts about animals being dressed as humans. These ones appear a little awkward in their clothes. I prefer the 'unclothed animals' shown, like the ravens.

    Interesting to see, all the same :)

    1. I agree, Steve. I much prefer the Cat's Eye Tarot, for instance, to the Bohemian Cats. The idea of cats in their natural state, and doing cat things, appeals to me more than the strange dress-up, which in the Bohemian looks almost like it was cruel to the cats in the photo-shoots (though I know it wasn't) :)