(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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