Ghosts & Spirits Tarot
Deck by Lisa Hunt
Published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Review by Christiana Gaudet
Few tarot artists have created as many tarot decks as the incomparable Lisa Hunt. I often credit Hunt, as well as tarot artists Kris Walderr and Julie Cuccia-Watts, with bringing to life a new tarot tradition, one I refer to as “archetypal assignment.”
Hunt has worked on joint projects with famed Pagan writer D.J. Conway. Hunt’s new deck, Ghosts & Spirits Tarot, from U.S. Games Systems, Inc., is another of her solo projects. As much as I love her Celtic Dragon Tarot, I have to say I enjoy Hunt’s solo projects better than her collaborations. The reason is this. Lisa Hunt seems to be a relentless perfectionist. Few people have her stamina, dedication and talent. Hunt is multi-talented. She is an accomplished musician, hard-working parent and even excels at martial arts. While those talents don’t specifically translate into the creation of a tarot deck, they are a testament to her dedication to excellence. I think that excellence shines through best when she is allowed to take a project and run with it on her own.
One talent that does translate to the creation of a tarot deck is Hunt’s skill as a writer. Ghosts & Spirits Tarot comes with a standard “Little White Book” that is anything but standard. In the introduction, Hunt writes about her beliefs about the spirit world, her motivation to create this deck and her hopes for its use, in a way that is nothing short of inspiring.
Her card descriptions are equally evocative, and evidence of another of Hunt’s talents. Hunt is a phenomenal researcher. She has illustrated each card of Ghosts & Spirits Tarot with a myth, story or legend about the spirit word. These stories come from all over the world. The Little White Book gives us enough detail of each story to understand not only the interpretation of the card, but also why Hunt chose a particular story to illustrate a particular card.
Archetypal assignment tarot decks offer a great opportunity for tarot education. While the card images of this deck, and decks like it, do not follow traditional tarot images, they help us to understand the archetype of each card, and the archetypal nature of tarot. In this deck, we see how those archetypes are expressed by the stories told around the world about death, the afterlife, and how spirits might interact with the world of the living.
Some of the stories used in this deck are obviously fiction, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” used skillfully to depict Major Arcana 16, The Tower. Others come from ancient spiritual beliefs, such as the Egyptian Judgment of the Dead, used to illustrate Major Arcana 20, Judgment.
One of my favorites is Major Arcana 19, The Sun, which is illustrated by the story of the Grateful Dead. Yes, I love this myth because it lent its name to my favorite band of all time. But I also love it because of the spiritual truth it tells; a truth appropriate for both the cultural phenomenon of the Grateful Dead band, and the traditional meaning of the Sun card.
Ghosts & Spirits Tarot is standard sized. The Minor Arcana suit and Court designations are traditional. The Minor Arcana is as brilliantly detailed as the Major. The suit icons appear in their correct number in each Minor Arcana card, but you might have to hunt to see them. The elemental associations of the Minor Arcana are not a focus.
The Devil card has been renamed “Chains,” as it is in some others of Hunt’s decks. It is ironic that Hunt did not choose to use the Christian myth of Hell to illustrate the Devil card, but overall I am comfortable with the new tradition of the “Chains” card.
There is a 79th card. This is becoming a new tarot tradition, one of which I don’t entirely approve. The 79th card of Ghosts & Spirits Tarot has no name, and seemingly no place in the deck. In her introduction, Hunt tells us this card “is for questions that require deeper reflection. Let the ghosts and spirits talk to you and help you dissolve the barrier between conscious constraint and objective inner reflection.” Hmmm…I thought that was what all the tarot cards were supposed to do.
However, in defense of the 79th card tradition, I will say this. I have chosen to leave the “Unknown Card” in my Crystal Visions Tarot deck, and it does come up in amazingly appropriate ways. I am sure the 79th card in Ghosts and Spirit Tarot will do the same. Beyond that, if you don’t like the 79th card, you can always leave it in the box.
Artists such as Lisa Hunt have elevated tarot art to a completely new level. Let’s face it; quite a number of symbolic and useful tarot decks are not as skillfully illustrated as the decks produced by Lisa Hunt and some of her contemporaries.
How we should use Ghosts & Spirits Tarot is an interesting question. It is not a great deck for a beginner looking to learn basic tarot tradition. It will be a fine oracle for a tarot reader of any level of experience willing to read the Little White Book and learn the cards as Hunt has created them. For a serious student of tarot, an advanced reader or a collector, this deck is a must-have.
Here’s what I am thinking, though. I often use tarot as a way of communicating with those who have passed on. For me, tarot is a true tool of mediumship. I also often use tarot to bring comfort and understanding to the bereaved. Sometimes I am called to “read a house” whose owner is disturbed by the suspicion of a ghostly presence. Dealing with death, dying, and the spirit world is certainly a job for traditional tarot. Is it possible that, because of its subject matter, Ghosts & Spirits Tarot could be an even more potent tool for these pursuits? Could this deck be a specific fit to aid in ghost-hunting, house-clearing and spirit communication?
As with all my decks, only time will tell how this one wants to be used. I am stunned by the possibilities.