The Celtic Dragon Tarot
by D.J. Conway, illustrated by Lisa Hunt
I really wanted to get this deck, because I loved dragons so much as a child. I didn't quite consider them a reality, but was drawn to them by their beauty, might, and mystery; and by what they seemed to represent to me then - the fantastic, the power of daydreams, a validation of sheer joyful imagination. They still represent these things to me, and I am fascinated by their place in legends and myths, from all around the globe. Whether or not they ever really existed, or still do on some unseen plane, they exist in the human psyche, as wise, ancient beings. Those of us who remember our childhood love of dragons, still feel respect and awe at the idea of them.
This deck states that dragons do still exist! They are likened to angels or angelic helpers; creatures that wish to help and guide human beings. The author affirms that dragons can be called upon for help and insight, and make wonderful magickal companions. This might seem far-fetched, but the book at least convinces that the spirit of dragons is alive.
Because it is explained that dragons exist on an astral plane, they are portrayed as spiritual guides to the human figures on the cards. These images give me the feeling of human and dragon meeting halfway - in some other realm - their borders of soft, fading gray; the magickal symbols; and the embellished earth, all seem to show that the human figures have moved beyond ordinary reality. The dragons are shown interacting with their human companions - accompanying a man sitting by a tree, standing beside a young child, or lying beneath a queen's throne. In this way, dragons do not merely decorate the cards; they have relevant meaning within each one.
There are some format changes in this set. As has been done by other tarot creators, D.J. Conway chose to associate Air with Wands, and Fire with Swords (Cups are still associated with Water, and Pentacles with Earth). I am not crazy about this switch, but am not so put off by it to dismiss the set. In addition, the Major Arcana card five, traditionally called The Hierophant, is the High Priest in this deck; and the card traditionally called The Devil, card fifteen, is titled Chains. These alterations were made based on the author's interpretations of these cards.
One minor problem I originally had while looking through the cards, was that it seemed much liberty had been taken with the images, making this deck not authentically Celtic. However, the artist states in the book that she purposely took such liberty, to give the cards a more fantastical feeling. So, the cards are not strictly Celtic - they are an effective blending of Celtic elements, fantasy artwork, and dragons. I think it works, and overall I like the cards very much.
I will mention one more minor problem. In the book, each card is given a description and explanation of the symbols, and a divinatory meaning. I find the explanation of the symbols much clearer and more accurate than some of the divinatory meanings, which in a few instances are vague or misleading, or simply overly negative. For example, for the Nine of Swords, the divinatory meaning is,
"This card indicates a time of great misery, sadness, and depression. There could be a permanent loss or death of someone close to you. Severe illness is possible."
And for The Tower,
"You witness or experience a shocking event that leaves you changed. Potential catastrophe is near; be prepared. Your life is complicated by discord in a relationship or the family. Unforeseen setbacks bring despondency and a period of frustration. Your dreams may disintegrate into ashes."
Each of these tarot cards traditionally has a negative meaning, but they also offer positive suggestions for change. I think in each of these cases in the Celtic Dragon Tarot, the negative is overstated. This is a little dangerous for new tarot readers, especially young ones who take many of these things very seriously and without understanding the broad range of tarot meanings. I think there are many positive things in this book, including the great symbolic explanations that precede the divinatory meanings. The cards need to be understood by reading both their symbolic explanations and their divinatory meanings. Positives and negatives should be taken into account, and negatives should not be feared.
All that said, I still really love this set. It's warm and intuitive, and the dragons are wonderful. Their faces are often more expressive and genuine than the human ones. They are portrayed in action, whether it is in flight, fight, or friendship. There is much insight in the images, which were apparently co-created in a rather serendipitous way by the artist Lisa Hunt and the author D.J. Conway. Each of them states in their introduction in the book, that they felt a compelling and powerful bond. They worked closely together, in spirit too. They discovered a shared vision, which was manifested in the images and words of this tarot set.
A very unique element of this set is the section of dragon spells that are offered in addition to original tarot spreads. These spells are quite simple, and can be done by anyone, even those who have had no previous experience with magickal workings. These spells connect the reader to dragons, and call upon dragon spirits to aid in the magickal workings. The book also provides some correspondence tables for stone powers and candle colors, which may help readers develop their own dragon-based rituals.
With a few exceptions, I think this is a wonderful set. Beginners need to realize that they should not fear negatives, and that tarot cards have more meanings than are sometimes presented here. But, overall, beginners will be able to use this set right off the bat, and will get a lot out of it if they love dragons.
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Card artwork by Lisa Hunt
All writing and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2019