So, I’ve finally decided to learn how to sew properly, with an eye to creating some tarot bags for myself that incorporate all of the features that I really like in a bag.

Robert Kaufman Stargasers fabricIn my previous post about my favourite bag creators, I mentioned a really nice Stargazers fabric that I kept seeing everywhere. I’ve since learned that it is a Robert Kaufman fabric that comes in the black and blue that I’ve already seen, but also in red. The black version in particular is striking in person.

Robert Kaufman Fabrics makes or imports some other really nice fabrics, including a large range of hand-dyed, artisan batik fabrics from Lunn Studios. I became interested in batik fabrics after seeing the fabrics used by Kerri Walters (Little Moon Originals) for the mandalas on her tarot bags, and Robert Kaufman’s batiks are gorgeous examples of the art.

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(Note: This post has been significantly edited since it was originally posted in order to provide more up-to-date information about the deck and its publishing history. The “My Thoughts” section of this updated post contains my personal comments and review from the original post, with just some minor tweaking.)

About the Deck

Overview

The deck was created by Jamie Sams and David Carson, illustrated by Angela Werneke, and published by Bear & Company (now a part of Inner Traditions). Originally published as a 44-animal deck in 1988, the deck was re-released by St. Martin’s Press in 1999 with an additional 8 animal cards.

Version Basics

As far as I can tell, there are really only three basic packages in which the cards were sold to consumers: the original 44-animal deck with companion book; the 44-animal pocket deck with no book; and the revised and expanded 52-animal deck with companion book. Each of those versions may have had many re-printings and editions in which the book or deck may have changed slightly, but essentially those three versions seem to be it.

>> Original 1988 Version — Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Way of Animals

Medicine Cards - original 1988, 44-animal deck with red book Eagle card from new Medicine Cards deck

  • Published in 1988 by Bear and Company
  • Package details: The cards and book came in a cardboard slipcase that features the image from the Bear card.
  • Card dimensions: 3″ x 5.5″, with a white border
  • Deck consisted of 44 animal cards, 9 blank shield cards, and a title card, for a total of 54 cards.

The cards in this and the 1999 expanded version do not have the descriptions that are printed on the pocket deck, just Angela’s artwork and numbers along with the animal names. (The numbers help you to locate the cards in the companion book. Like the Druid Animal Oracle, the card meanings are not easily located in the book without a helping aide.)

The version I have has a notice that the cards were “printed in Canada by International Playing Card Company”. The slipcase also has a sticker that indicates that over 600,000 copies were in print at the time.

>> 1997 Pocket Deck — Medicine Cards: Just For Today

Tuck box for original version of Medicine Cards Eagle card from original Medicine Cards deck Card back on old Medicine Cards deck

  • Published in November 1997 by Bear & Co
  • ISBN: 1879181460
  • Package details: Cards come in a small tuck box.
  • Card dimensions: 2.5″ x 3.8″, with no border
  • Deck consists of 44 animal cards plus one blank shield card for Unlimited Potential

Each card of this deck features the name of the animal and a small image of Angela Werneke’s artwork above text describing the meaning of the card. Presumably it was intended to be used on its own, without a companion book, much like the Wolf Pack Tarot. This deck also includes one blank shield card titled “Unlimited Potential” that appears to have a different purpose than the nine unnamed, blank shield cards included with the original and expanded decks — the blank cards in those decks exist so that you can create your own extra animal cards; the “Unlimited Potential” card has its own meaning and, as a result, doesn’t really appear to be usable for an additional animal.

>> 1999 Revised, Expanded Version Published by St. Martins Press — Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Way of Animals

Book/cards case for expanded, 52-card version of Medicine Cards Eagle card from new Medicine Cards deck

  • Published in July 1999 by St. Martins Press
  • ISBN: 0312204914
  • Package details: I haven’t seen a copy in person, but judging by the pictures, it comes in a slipcase similar to the original version, though with Eagle on the cover instead of Bear.
  • Card dimensions: 3″ x 5.5″, with a white border
  • Deck consists of 52 animal cards, 9 blank shield cards, and a title card, for a total of 62 cards.

The new deck contains eight additional animals: Blue Heron, Raccoon, Prairie Dog, Wild Boar, Salmon, Alligator, Jaguar, and Black Panther. It also includes the same nine blank shield cards that the original deck did (so that you can create cards for any additional animals that aren’t already included) and the companion book.

>> Other versions?

There is also supposedly a US Games version, published perhaps in 1997 that I haven’t seen but I believe is essentially the same as the St. Martin’s Press version.

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I’m addicted to tarot bags.

If I could sew, I’d probably start making my own. But since I can’t, I have to rely on others to create what I can’t.

I haven’t yet found The Perfect Bag™, but I’m definitely giving it the old college try. I’ve discovered a few things about my preferences as my bag collection grows. I’ve discovered that I don’t like duplicate bags — I only have (and want) one of any size/pattern/colour/style bag; I prefer padding, coordinated linings, and double drawstrings; I really love charms, beads, and other dangling doodads on bags and drawstrings, provided they are well considered and securely attached (some of the early bags I got were factory-made and the beads fall off at the least provocation); and I prefer patterns rather than pictures.

Even though I’m constantly on the lookout for new bags, I do have some favourite bag makers that I keep going back to whenever the urge hits.

My top three favourite bag creators are:

1. Little Moon Originals

Little Moon Original tarot bagsKerri Walters is hands-down my favourite bag creator. Her velveteen tarot bags are not cheap (at about $28 US each, they’re in the same range as Baba Studio’s bags), but they are well worth the price. They are large, padded, double-drawstringed, and feature lovely appliqués, beads and charms, and decorative fairy stitches. She doesn’t always have bags in stock in her Etsy store, but she takes custom orders. Have a look through her sold items to see some of the bags she’s made and sold previously to get an idea of what she does. (Her patchwork bags are well worth it, as well.)

(The image above shows four of the bags. The mandala on the front of the blue velvet one on the left perfectly matches the Deviant Moon cup court cards so that’s the deck it holds; the brown velvet bag in the middle holds my Faeries Oracle; the purple on black velvet one on the right holds my Tarot of Dreams; and the green velvet one at the bottom holds my Druid Animal and Plant Oracles.)

2. Annabelle’s

Annabelle's tarot bagsNancy Towne makes lined and unlined bags in a variety of sizes from a wide range of interesting cotton fabrics. My favourites are the lined, double-drawstring tarot bags, which are approximately 5″ X 7″, large enough to hold the Tree Affirmation Cards deck and book without the box (that’s what’s in the autumn leaves bag on the left). They are very simple bags, but are extremely solidly crafted. And some of the fabrics she finds are among my favourite fabric patterns of all-time. (The sparkly purple bag on its side at the front, which contains a matching tarot spread cloth, is a particular favourite.) Her bags feature side seams so prints that have a up side and a down side (like animal images) are going to be upside down on one side of the bag, but that only detracts slightly from those bags.

She also offers free shipping if you buy $25 or more worth of stuff, which is very easy to do. (I just bought a number of bags from her and I could easily find another batch to order.) And she ships really quickly. You can probably find other lined bags elsewhere for $5 or less but they tend to be factory-made and I doubt they’re as well-made as these.

3. Baba Studio

Baba Studio tarot bagsThis is the brainchild of Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov at Magic Realist Press in Prague. My addiction to Baba Studio bags began when I bought the Baroque Bohemian Cats Tarot gold edition from them last year. With the gold edition, you could buy a special bag that featured your choice of card image, a special cat charm, and metallic cording for the drawstrings. It was so beautiful that it hooked me on Baba Studio/Magic Realist Press in general and on their bags specifically.

I’ve wanted to buy additional bags featuring images of their BBC and Bohemian Gothic tarots for ages, but instead I’ve been sidetracked by their Art Nouveau prints (some based on vintage Liberty of London prints) and the bags featuring gorgeous paintings by Arthur Rackham and John William Waterhouse. The bags are impeccably crafted, the silk fabrics they use are sumptuous, and the print images are gorgeous. The only minor annoyance for me personally is the tag sewn into the bottom of the lining, but it’s easily cut off without damaging the bag itself.

(In the image above, the purple bag on the left holds my Reincarnation Cards deck, the coppery gold one in the middle holds my Legacy of the Divine Tarot, the one on the right holds my daily-use Bohemian Cats, and the Arthur Rackham one on its side on the right holds my Mystic Faerie Tarot. The other two bags are awaiting appropriate tenants.)

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Years ago, my sister dragged me to a tattoo parlour, to keep her company while she got a tattoo of a rose above, I think, her left breast. It’s a nice tattoo. Watching her get it done was both entertaining and a little horrifying. Pain. I get it. She was going to pay for me to get a tattoo as well, but I was on blood thinners at the time. So I got a rain check.

I’ve been thinking more of getting a tattoo lately but I couldn’t decide what I wanted done. Or where I wanted it done. I thought about getting a spider and a Web (representing the interconnectedness of everything) — a realistic one — but then thought about the potential for really freaky hallucinations in the future. A stylized spider doesn’t thrill me as much. Spent months browsing through tattoo artist flash sites. Nothing jumped out.

I think I know what I’d like to get now, though I still don’t know where I’d put it.

The Ace of Cups from the Deviant Moon Tarot.

I’m absolutely in love with it, with the colours in particular, but also with the art. I’m not at the point where I’m quite ready (or can afford) to get the tattoo, but when I am, that’s at the top of the list of choices. The idea of using a tarot image never occurred to me until I was browsing  Enchanted Oracle artist Jessica Galbreth’s site. She allows her work to be used for tattoos for a small fee, which I thought was very cool. I’m hoping Patrick is as well.

(Speaking of tattoos and tarot, the Tattoo Tarot is now on my wishlist. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a spare €110 lying around.)

So, here are my questions to you. Would you consider getting (or do you have) a tarot-themed tattoo? If so, what would (or did) you pick and why?

Changed over to a theme that includes some of the features that were missing from the old butterfly theme. Also added a custom graphic and am slowly fine-tuning the colours and layout in the style sheet.

The picture at the top of the blog is my cat, Mots. He’s an Aquarius and not too interested in tarot, except to lie on the cards when I’m trying to read them. The picture (in a slightly different form) used to be on my personal blog, but I seem to be abandoning that blog completely so I’ve moved the graphic here. It seems more happy here, in any case.

Tarot by Melissa tarot bag giveawayMelissa has been busy making patchwork bags for her tarot cards and has decided to give away one of them to a lucky commenter. (See picture to the left.)

The double-drawstringed bag is ~5.5″ x 7.5″ and is lined with microsuede cloth. I love the fabrics she chose for the patchwork. Great colour combination. Very old world retro.

If you’re interested in being in the running to win the bag (I know I am), all you have to do is make a comment on her blog by Sunday, January 18, 2009, at noon EST giving her at least one idea of something that she can blog about. International comments are welcome — she says she’ll mail it anywhere in the world.

Check out the blog post for additional information about her bags and the contest.

As an aside, I love the idea of a giveaway. Don’t know why I never thought of it myself. Might have to steal borrow that idea myself.

I don’t normally create resolutions as they just set you up for failure. But I want to make a more concerted effort to post to this blog (and consequently further my tarot studies) over the coming year.

Here’s what I’m hoping to do here during 2009:

  • At least once a week, review/explore one of the tarot and oracle decks that I have or have owned — Since I currently have approximately 38 decks (the number ebbs and flows as new decks come in and old decks go out), that covers a significant portion of the year if I keep to the minimum. They’ll probably start with newer decks and then go back from there.
  • Intermittently in between and after the reviews/explorations of decks that I own, I plan to post about decks that are on my wishlist. These may include decks-in-progress as well as decks that have been published.

I plan to make other posts — interesting tarot news, general tarot/divination comments, individual card studies, etc. — in and around those but I make no promise about the frequency with which I’ll make those posts. I’ll also be changing the blog theme — I like the pinkish butterfly thing, but it is lacking on a number of fronts.

Wow, it’s been an expensive few months since I last posted. I thought I bought too much last year. This year, I’ve bought fewer decks but they were much more expensive. No regrets, but I do need to retire my Paypal account for awhile.

I’m slowly getting a Christmas parcel ready for my best friend. In addition to sending her some tarot bags, crystals, incense, and lavender buds, I’m also gifting her my set of Celtic Dragon tarot cards as well as my treasured Miss Cleo deck. (Damn, I almost wrote that with a straight face.) I really like the Celtic Dragon deck but I also have the Fantastic Creatures and the Animals Divine decks and they all just look a little too much alike for me — even the card backs are surprisingly similar — and I need to cut through the noise a little by removing at least one of the decks. I think she’ll give it a good home. I almost have her convinced to buy a copy of the Deviant Moon.

Am not quite prepared for the time input required to start studying the tarot properly. Don’t have the time and don’t have the energy or brain power. Tried a few readings but feel too conflicted about the tarot for them to be meaningful, half-assed as they were.

So I find myself returning to my favourite oracle decks. If five of the cards and the book weren’t still AWOL, I would be playing around with and perhaps studying the Faeries’ Oracle. (As an aside, I find it minorly but continually annoying that people keep referring to it as “Froud’s Faeries”, which completely discounts Jesa MacBeth’s hand in the creation of the deck. In my head, it’s her deck that just happens to feature artwork by Brian Froud.)

Instead, I’ve been turning more and more to the Fortuneteller’s Mah Jongg. I really like this deck. I’ve had it for a few years — 12 maybe? I think I bought it since I moved here, though I may have bought it in Halifax. I really don’t remember. It was published in 1988 so it was some time since then. Actually, that’s probably a sign that I bought it in Halifax as I can’t picture me finding a new copy in a book store here 8 years after it was published.

I do remember going to a psychic fair here several years ago. We wandered around the venue and I saw at least one copy of the deck/book at a bookseller’s stall. As we continued wandering around, we stopped at an Asian woman’s table because I saw that she was using the exact same cards. I told her how much I loved the deck and she said that she wished she could find another copy as hers was getting old — seemed kind of destined that I point her towards the copy I’d just seen on the other side of the room, though part of me has always wished that I’d grabbed it myself as there have been times I wished I had a backup copy. When I’m gainfully employed again and able to afford shopping sprees again, I think I’ll buy a backup copy or two of it — I’d hate to ever be without it. It’s hard to find but I did find a company in the UK that still sells it.

I’d never heard of the concept of Birth Cards before.

Sun, Wheel of Fortune, and Magician birth cardMine are the Sun, Wheel of Fortune, and the Magician – which apparently is the one exception to the rule that most people have 2 birth cards. My birth date sum is 19 = 10 = 1, so three cards.

It’s an interesting idea. And I’m not sure what I really think, other than the fact that it is interesting. I suspect I’ll have a more informed and useful opinion once I’ve gotten around to properly studying those three cards. Unfortunately, they aren’t on my list of top ten favourite cards so it might take awhile before I get around to them all.

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