Thursday, August 21, 2014

REVIEW: Chrysalis Tarot


by Toney Brooks (Author) and Holly Sierra (Artist)
78 cards: 2.75” x 4.75”
60 page booklet
ISBN-10: 1572816899
ISBN-13: 978-1572816893

TOP LINE (formerly Bottom Line)

Although I do enjoy Tarot decks that focus on one theme or cultural foundation, I love decks like this that incorporate multiple traditions or myth systems. To me, this approach reminds us that similar archetypes and motifs appear across a wide range of spiritual paths. I love the idea of Merlin, Ariadne, Bella Rosa, Kali, and Papa Legba joining forces to create a Major Arcana for a Tarot deck. It’s a Sagittarian’s dream come true!

Holly Sierra’s enchanting art and Toney Brooks’ engaging writing create a world that welcomes, enriches, and entrances. Each exquisite card opens a window into a land where we can expect to find magic, truth, and our Selves.

While there are some similarities between these cards and those in the Rider-Waite deck, there are also enough differences that I would not recommend this deck for someone who wants to learn “traditional Tarot” as a first step on their Tarot journey. In many cases, it will probably be necessary to consult the Little White Book (LWB) that accompanies the deck to get the most out of a card’s setting and symbolism. The _Chrysalis Tarot web site_ also offers useful and inspiring information and discussion of the deck.  I found an Ancestral Council spread there that I am eager to try using this deck.

“Chrysalis Tarot opens up your psyche and illuminates your path toward personal destiny. Exquisitely drawn Otherworld characters and mythological archetypes guide you on your spiritual quest. Both the Major and Minor Arcana feature beautifully illustrated scenes that inspire reflection and stimulate your psychic intuition and imagination. The four suits that make up the Minor Arcana are: Stones (Pentacles); Mirrors (Cups); Spirals (Wands); and Scrolls (Swords). In the Court Cards you’ll meet a delightful troupe of medieval messengers who inspire you to fulfill your dreams. Deck includes 78 cards and 60-page booklet with instructions for a five-card Pentagram Spread.”


A chrysalis is the transformation stage between the larva of a butterfly and the adult butterfly, a sheltered stage of being or growth. The butterfly caterpillar actually hardens into a chrysalis during its pupal stage. To me, this suggests that when working with this deck, I am in a protected space, in the process of evolving to the next level of my existence as I undergo a transformation.

In the Introduction to the LWB, Toney Brooks writes: “By your side on your quest for self-fulfillment is an unseen force. It’s an energy field known by many names and recognized by many masks; a force that informs your psyche and nudges you forward. In the Chrysalis Tarot, we refer to this force as the Otherworld.”

The four suits of the Chrysalis Tarot are Stones (Pentacles), Mirrors (Cups), Spirals (Wands), and Scrolls (Swords).

The Court cards are portrayed by medieval troubadours. Both sexes are equally represented, and each court card has an animal association.

The Minstrel: King of Pentacles, King of Stones
The Artiste: Queen of Pentacles, Queen of Stones
The Illusionist: Knight of Pentacles, Knight of Stones
The Acrobat: Page of Pentacles, Page of Stones
The Sojourner: King of Cups, King of Mirrors
The Watcher: Queen of Cups, Queen of Mirrors
The Dreamer: Knight of Cups, Knight of Mirrors
The Healer: Page of Cups, Page of Mirrors
The Companion: King of Wands, King of Spirals
The Muse: Queen of Wands, Queen of Spirals
The Corsair: Knight of Wands, Knight of Spirals
The Mime: Page of Wands, Page of Spirals
The Poet: King of Swords, King of Scrolls
The Weaver: Queen of Swords, Queen of Scrolls
The Visionary: Knight of Swords, Knight of Scrolls
The Pilgrim: Page of Swords, Page of Scrolls

The Majors are Otherworld characters and archetypes with traditional and nontraditional titles:

The Fool – Merlin
The Magician – Ravens
The High Priestess – Sorceress
The Empress – Gaia
The Emperor – Green Man
The Hierophant – Divine Child
The Lovers – The Lovers
The Chariot – Herne the Hunter
Justice – Ma-at
The Hermit – Storyteller
The Wheel of Fortune – Wheel
Strength – Papa Legba
The Hanged Man – Celtic Owl
Death – Ariadne
Temperance – Golden Flower
The Devil – Bella Rosa
The Tower – Kali
The Star – Elpi
The Moon – Moon
The Sun – Sun
Judgment – Phoenix
The World – Psyche

The unillustrated 60-page LWB provides Traditional Titles and Attributes for each Major. Each suit in the Minor Arcana is given Traditional Names and Values. For example, for the suit of Stones we have the Traditional Names “Pentacles or Coins” and the Values “Happiness” and “Prosperity.” A Keyword is provided for each pip card. Finally, the section on “The Troupe” (Court cards) offers Traditional Names, Attributes, and Role for each card. For example, The Minstrel (King of Pentacles, King of Stones) has the attributes “Assertive” and “Loyal,” and his Role is “Mentor.”

Toney Brooks writes that the pip cards “feature scenes that inspire personal reflection and stimulate your psychic intuition and imagination.” He tells us that the Court cards “represent real-life messengers inspired by the Otherworld to assist you, especially at critical moments and troubling crossroads.”

At the end of the LWB we have the Pentagram Five-Card Spread featuring positions for Spirit, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.

Toney Brooks

About Toney Brooks
After retiring from broadcasting twenty years ago, Toney traveled the world researching spirituality. He studied, both formally and informally, a number of metaphysical subjects including comparative mythology, philosophy of history, and an obscure area of theology known as Mariology. He holds a PhD in Metaphysics and a certification in Spiritual Counseling.

Holly Sierra
About Holly Sierra
Holly Sierra has been drawn to all things mystical and magical since her childhood. Her vibrant paintings allow us a glimpse into an enchanted world filled with goddesses and mythological creatures. Holly’s infatuation with Tarot began when she was a teen and discovered an antique deck amongst her parents’ possessions. The Chrysalis Tarot deck is dedicated to both her beloved parents. After pursuing a fine arts education, Holly lived and traveled extensively in Asia. Multicultural themes influence her artwork, which has appeared in children’s books, magazines and greeting cards. Holly makes her home amidst the picturesque, green mountains of Stowe, Vermont.


The cards are 2 ¾” by 4 ¾”. The finish is what I would call “semi-gloss” – with a pleasant, light-weight shine. The stock is sturdy and invites shuffling, whatever your method.

The card faces have a patterned gold border. At the bottom is the card title in black lettering against a parchment colored background. The Majors have both the new (deck specific) title and the traditional title at the bottom in every case except Trump Zero, which is labeled “The Hero” instead of “The Fool”.

The card backs, which are reversible, have a gold and blue pattern in the corners. Centered as a backdrop is a blue spiral-covered oval. Within that is a gold circle, with a mandala as its center. Large multi-colored butterflies appear on either end of the gold circle.


The coloring on the cards is bright yet soft, vivid yet gentle, and the images are realistic yet imaginative. The scenes on the cards arise from many traditions, including Greek, Arthurian, Celtic, Pagan, Egyptian, Hindu, New Age, and Haitian Vodou. At the same time, the deck has a cohesive feel thanks to a consistent style and coloration. Each image invites exploration of the details and symbolism, evoking emotions and stimulating the imagination.

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, I hereby disclose that this product was provided by the publisher for free. Other than the occasional review copy, I receive no monetary or in-kind compensation for my reviews.  The substance of my reviews is not influenced by whether I do or do not receive a review copy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gateway Spirit Guides Reading

I believe that we have many different animal spirit guides in our lifetime. When I do Animal Guides readings for clients, I share my findings concerning lifetime guides as well as guides for a particular year or month. To order an Animal Guides reading, just go to my web site at .

In this post, I am using the Gateway Spirit Guides Spread provided in the guidebook that accompanies  the Ancient Animal Wisdom oracle deck by Stacy James and Jada Fire (U.S. Games, Inc.) To read my review of this deck, click HERE.

For this spread, two cards are selected to represent my life protectors and Animal Spirit Guides who walk beside me, offering protection, guidance and love. I will bring into my reading the ideas shared by the creators of the Ancient Animal Wisdom deck concerning the animals who come forward for me.

My animals are:

Ancient Animal Wisdom deck (U.S. Games)
Keyphrase: Healing Waters
Number 3: Creativity, Mind/Body/Spirit, Divinity

The Hippopotamus loves water, spending much of its time submerged in rivers. Immersing oneself in water often symbolizes washing away that which is unhelpful or negative, clearing the mind and spirit to receive what they need to thrive. Personally, I love being in the water, swimming, diving, floating – literally and figuratively. I am pleased to have the Hippo as my companion.

photo by Zanna Starr

Ancient Animal Wisdom deck (U.S. Games)
LION (card 8)
Keyword: Family
Number 8: Balance, Infinity, Material Satisfaction

Unlike many big cats, lions are not solitary but travel in “prides” or families. This card is a timely reminder to me to value and accept family members, while at the same time retaining my individuality and avoiding any tendencies toward codependency. The “material satisfaction” aspect of this card is also appropriate, I think. I am not (I hope) greedy, but I do desire a certain level of security and stability in the material realm.

photo by Zanna Starr

It is interesting to me that both of these animals can be quite ferocious and aggressive when defending their territory or offspring. They are not passive, easygoing creatures – although they sometimes appear that way on the surface. They are always ready to act and react as needed for self-preservation. It may be that I need to cultivate some of this “fierceness” in my life.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Review: Ancient Animal Wisdom


by Stacy James and Jada Fire
Artwork by Jada Fire
Paperback: 44 pages
Cards measure: 3.5 ̎ x 4.85 ̎ 
Box measures: 3.75 ̎ x 5.25 ̎
ISBN-10: 1572817720
ISBN-13: 978-1572817722

TOP LINE (formerly Bottom Line)

As the owner of many animal-themed oracle and tarot decks, I am always on the lookout for something different in that realm. Ancient Animal Wisdom focuses on African animals, portraying them with vivid color and a somewhat abstract style – but never so abstract that you can’t tell what animal (or tree) is being shown. I love that the images on these cards evoke a response, a feeling, a reaction. My gaze dwells on the images, enjoying the free flowing colors and clever details. I am looking forward to reading with this deck!


"Ancient Animal Wisdom oracle set brings the energy and insight of 38 different African animal spirit guides into your life to help you connect with your own intuition and find clarity. Each magnificent creature communicates a powerful message through Jada Fire's vibrant artwork and Stacy James' inspirational passages."


_Jada Fire_ is an innovative painter, illustrator, writer, yoga teacher and dancer.

Stacy James is a creative intuitive, guide, teacher and writer who has spent much of her life in service helping others on their path to personal growth. Stacy is donating a portion of the proceeds from each purchase of Ancient Animal Wisdom to _Dazzle Africa_, which supports conservation efforts in Zambia.


The authors tell us that the Ancient Animal Wisdom cards “can support you in aligning with your soul’s purpose, communicating with Spirit Guides, and connecting with your Inner Light, as they guide you towards your heart’s desires.”

All of the animals (and the two trees) depicted in this deck are found in Africa, most in Zambia. Because there are 73 different languages represented in Zambia, the cards featuring animals residing in Zambia bear their names in the local Zambian language, Nyanja. If the animal resides in another region of Africa, the closest local language is used. Two of the cards feature trees: Baobab Tree (30) and Sausage Fruit Tree (32).

Each card has the name of the animal or tree and the card number centered at the top or bottom of the card. On some cards, the name is at the top and the number is at the bottom. On others, both the name and number are at the bottom of the card.

One of the cards is very different from the others. It is card number 7, titled Dugong Tiger. The illustration is a half-human, half-tiger face. The keyword for this card is “Balance.”

Ancient Animal Wisdom (US Games)
I was intrigued enough by this card to ask Stacy James to help me understand how the “dugong” (similar to a manatee) fits into this card. She replied:
“Originally, this card was going to be the actual Dugong / Tiger. Living in the elements of Fire and Water and the extremities that touch us as human beings living on this planet...Emotions, realities, and perceptions. As this card was evolving, it became known that it would be our last card to create and it turned out to be number 7 - we call it lucky, and in it's deepest form is the truth seeking card. What's behind the curtain... Jada and I trust our messages from spirit, and what came through her was this current drawing. In the original deck, both the card and the text card were outlined in a very watery blue, giving the essence of dugong.” 
Jada Fire offered the following comments:
“This card and the meaning behind balance is such a deep lesson for me that we decided I'd draw this illustration last, like a finale to it all. We say this card is our 'lucky' card as there are two creatures / entities that represent the flame and the wave, the yin and yang, the extremities, the polarities. When Dugong Tiger comes up, we are offered an opportunity to anchor in our balance point, reminding us that we don't live in the extremities of our lives yet can find great joy, wisdom and growth from swinging to both sides of our pendulum.” 
The 44-page guidebook that comes with this boxed set is the same dimensions as the cards and has a glossy color cover. The booklet contains information on how to use the 38 cards, how to take care of them, numerology, and an explanation of how the African names used for the animals in the deck were chosen. Following the Table of Contents, a long paragraph is devoted to each animal, including the card number, animal’s name in English, animal’s name in the appropriate African language, and a keyword or keyphrase for that card.

After these descriptions we are given several Animal Card Spreads. The authors give suggestions on how to read reversed cards, which can represent an imbalance between you and the energy of the chosen Animal Spirit Guide.

The authors mention Ted Andrews as a “distant mentor” for this deck. They also pay homage to Jamie Sams and David Carson, creators of _Medicine Cards_ in 1988, a foundation for many decks that have followed.


card back
This set is packaged in a sturdy, attractive box with a lid. The guidebook is also very attractive, a few steps up from the Little White Book included with many decks. The cards are printed in color on good quality stock with a glossy finish. At 3.5 ̎ x 4.85 ̎ , they are small enough that you can probably poker-shuffle them if you insist on using that method.

The cards have a patterned border in colors that include shades of brown, gold, green, blue, purple. I was not able to determine a particular reason for the color chosen for each card.


These cards are alive with color, creating a “mood” that flows into and around the person viewing and using them. Artistic interpretations of the animals (and trees) are at various times whimsical (Baboon, Frog), realistic (Mountain Zebra, Wildebeest), and what I would call “psychedelic” (Black Mamba Snake, Flamingo). Then there’s the Honey Badger, assigned the perfect keyword: Fierce.

The style is, in one sense, primitive, but also quite complex. Many of the images are not what one traditionally expects. For example, for “Gorilla” we might expect shades of black and gray, a large lumbering creature – but instead we see eyes and nose peeking through vivid green foliage.

If you are interested, you can purchase 11” x 14” prints of many of the cards:

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, I hereby disclose that this product was provided by the publisher for free. Other than the occasional review copy, I receive no monetary or in-kind compensation for my reviews.  The substance of my reviews is not influenced by whether I do or do not receive a review copy.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Reading About a Friend's Marriage

This post contains a reading for a friend who is going through significant challenges related to her marriage.

My friend has been separated from her husband for over a year. He says he still loves her, but is battling psychological issues that prevent him from living with her (or anyone else, apparently) in the role of partner or husband. He has said he will not file for divorce. A recent “meeting” with him was extremely disappointing for my friend.

I am using The Prague Threshold Spread, which I believe was created for use with the Tarot of Prague by Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov (The Magic Realist Press).

I am using a deck gifted to me by my dear friend and former blog partner, Helen, when I met her in person on my recent trip to Australia. This is the Llewellyn Tarot by Anna-Marie Ferguson (Llewellyn Publications).

Here is the layout:

3               5

(1) Current situation
(2) What lies on the other side of the gateway (outcome)
(3) and (5) Issues that need to be considered or actions that need to be taken
(4) Influence that lies over the steps being taken

Let’s see what the cards can tell us about my friend’s relationship problem.

(1) Current situation: FOUR OF WANDS
This card is often seen as indicating a celebration, sharing, equilibrium, and contentment. Anna-Marie Ferguson writes “virtue, vigilance, and restraint are rewarded.” To me, it seems like the opposite meaning is more appropriate here. My friend thought her marriage met all of the above criteria but found out that the “sharing, equilibrium, and contentment” was an illusion. I suppose it is possible that this card refers to an underlying stability that remains between her and her husband in spite of all that has happened. The number four can also suggest stagnation, and the relationship has been “on hold” for more than a year.

(3) and (5) Issues that need to be considered or actions that need to be taken:

My friend needs to call on her inner strength and convictions in this situation. Ferguson writes that STRENGTH means the “ability to endure failures, losses, and disappointment, and yet keep the faith.” My friend must rely on a balance of reason and passion.

I see JUDGEMENT here as, literally, a “wake up call” for my friend. She needs to “wake up” to the reality of this situation. Ferguson writes that this card means “having the courage to make necessary changes to bring about growth and purpose.”

(4) Influence that lies over the steps being taken: JUSTICE
It is encouraging to see JUSTICE in this position. Key phrases used by Ferguson include “honesty and honour,” “the triumph of reason,” and “favourable judgment in legal matters.” The truth will out. Fairness will prevail. Negotiations will succeed.

(2) What lies on the other side of the gateway (outcome): ACE OF PENTACLES
Aces usually represent a new beginning, the start of a new phase or stage in one’s life. We have the suit of Pentacles here, which tells us this new start may take place in the physical, material realm, which includes money, possessions, and health. This suggests to me that unless current conditions change, my friend and her husband are likely to divorce and divide up their property so that she essentially “starts over” on her own, responsible for her own financial security and stability (Ace = 1).

The presence of three Major Arcana cards in this five-card set makes it clear that this situation is of great significance in my friend’s life. I don’t think anyone needs the Tarot to recognize that. I find it reassuring that JUSTICE appears in position 4. When a marriage dissolves, the best we can really hope for is that the outcome is fair/just.