Shapeshifter Tarot | Review | DJ Conway, Sirona Knight and Lisa Hunt | Llewellyn

Published by Alison Cross on

I’ve not done a deck review for a long time, so here’s my review of Llewellyn’s Shapeshifter Tarot. And it will be a review primarily through the Courts! Oh yes, I like to make life tricky for myself πŸ™‚

Let’s get the basics out of the way:  This is the new version of the deck, not the original kit – so there is no accompanying book, just a LWB. The card size is 7 cm wide x 10.5 cm tall with a triskele as the card back design.  While it’s not a perfectly reversible image, it’s as close as makes no difference, so I’d say YES, this deck is suitable for reversals.

The Star – Shapeshifter Tarot and Triskele card back

There are 81 cards in this deck, in honour of the ’81 Knights of the 9 Rings of Condemanons Celtic Gwyddionic Druid Tradition’.  

Other than that statement, there is very little in the LWB to explain further what this tradition is, nor where the authors recommend that you find out more.

The additional cards are to be found in the Major Arcana, with the two additional cards stemming from the ‘energetic double’ of this particular Druidic tradition.

The Majors themselves are mostly renamed, but won’t cause any headaches for anyone familiar with the RWS.  All the cards, including the Majors, are numbered with Arabic numerals, so they’re immediately accessible.

The Minors each have their suit details at the top of each card and the number and keyword along the bottom.  The images themselves are surrounded by a dark blue border (same shade as card-back) and provides a great ‘neutral’ for Hunt’s images.

Now to the Courts!

We have 4 Court cards for each of the suits:  Water, Earth, Fire and Air, with the Air suit attributed to the traditional ‘Wands’ and Fire to Swords.  So be warned if you like your Air and Fire attributions the other way around πŸ™‚

The Courts themselves are renamed in the LWB:

Page = Seeker
Knight = Warrior
King = God
Queen = Goddess

According to the LWB, the change in priority, with Goddess at the top of the tree, reflects the Gwyddion system where the High Priestess has the final say in all matters.

As with the other cards of the deck, the Courts show figures in transformation to another shape where centaurs and unicorns mix with white harts and bears.  Each image is beautifully rendered in the delicate water-colour shades associated with Hunt’s work, really lovely to look at – dreamlike and full of detail.

In the LWB each Court figure is named according to Celtic myth – there is Bridget, Angus mac Og, Ceridwenn and a whole host of recognisable names.  However – and this is a MASSIVE however, the LWB is stonily silent on the relationship of those Celtic heroes to the Court figures AND there is not a breath of a mention as to what the shape-shifting animal might contribute to our understanding of the card.

I reckon that this might be because the deck was originally available in 1998 as a book/deck set from Llewellyn and in order to fit everything into the smaller box for this smaller edition, the book has been whittled to within an inch of its life!

The result is that you have a beautiful deck but one whose accompanying book has had most of the meat removed and we’re left the bare bones of structure.

To illustrate, I managed to procure a copy of the original accompanying book’s information about The Goddess of Earth (thank you Emma Sunerton-Burl) and provide it here purely to illustrate the quantity of work that has had to be omitted for the non-kit edition:

This is the information provided for the Goddess of Earth from the original accompanying book.

See? Massive difference in the quantity of information provided.  The answer? Somehow get your hands on the original accompanying book.

So – in summary – I absolutely love the artwork and the concept behind this deck, but without the original accompanying book, you are left with lots of unanswered questions.  Come on Llewellyn – let people buy the accompanying book as a pdf download!! πŸ˜€

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


Inner Whispers · 3rd May 2014 at 4:49 pm

I reckon this deck would still be great to meditate with! And lots of readers ignore the LWB anyway. Certainly, if you researched the celtic characters yourself, it would add a lot to your understanding of the card. However, it's also true that one of the main complaints leveled at Lo Scarabeo are their uninformative LWB's. You'd think Llewellyn would have learned better πŸ™

    Alison Cross · 5th May 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Yes, I agree – great to meditate with! I do hope that companies take advantage of the ease with which kindle books can be created and make the large accompanying books available with original deck sets, available to buy for those of us with the deck only πŸ˜€

Intuitive Psychic - Emma Sunerton-Burl · 29th April 2014 at 2:53 pm

Notice how they have changed the attribution in the little white book from the one in the old large book – if you see the goddess of earth is said to be the traditional card king of pentacles – whereas the little white book says she is the queen of pentacles! Totally see how much they have left out – I think it would make a huge difference to reading with this deck.

    Alison Cross · 29th April 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you for that, Emma, I notice that when I was uploading the images that you so kindly sent me and then totally forgot to add that info in – I'm trying to do too many things at once today! Thank you so much for that because it IS very important.

    There are lots of copies of this deck (but only this smaller version!) for sale on ebay and I can only assume that it is the LWB that is letting the deck down because the artwork is just as excellent as Lisa's other decks.

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