A Review of the Dark Fairytale Tarot

A new deck arrived in the mail today. Well, actually, two new decks–Lo Scarabeo’s Dark Fairytale Tarot, which is the subject of this present post, and the beautiful Anna K Tarot, which I’ll talk about in a later review. In my usual style, I bought these decks (because somehow I can never buy just one deck at a time) and then spent the ensuing 48 hours moaning about my budget and trying to live on nothing but Cheerios and dried pasta to make up for the expense. But when the UPS man arrived today, all of those worries melted away, and after a look through this deck, I can honestly say I’m glad I purchased it. It’s definitely not my favorite deck, and won’t be a go-to in readings for others, but I think it complements the rest of my collection rather nicely.

Before we go any further, we’ll do a small sample divination, to help acquaint you to the deck and show how it reads. Ask a question, pick one of the three cards below, and then I’ll reveal what you picked at the end of the review.

DF divination

Technical details first: the card stock is pretty standard for Lo Scarabeo, which is to say it’s awful. I’m not really a card stock snob, and some of my favorite decks (such as the Contemplative Tarot and the Tarot of the Absurd, two of my earliest acquisitions) are on the thin side, but this is definitely a deck that won’t stand up to rigorous shuffling. Riffle shufflers in particular will have to be wary of potential rips.

The Little White Book is both little and white. In Lo Scarabeo’s style, it has 14 pages in English and then repeats exactly the same information in four other languages. The first page has a fun little description of the world of the deck, talking about the “land of Faery” as a dark place that’s been whitewashed by modern popular culture, but the rest just contains one-sentence descriptions of each card’s divinatory meanings. Pretty standard stuff. My LWB came with a couple of weird manufacturing errors, where pages where printed at the wrong angle and stapled weirdly into the book, but the problems were in the Italian and French parts of the book, so they didn’t end up affecting its readability.

As for the artwork of the deck itself, I have to confess, I like it. It’s a weird mish-mash of photography and digital image manipulation, which many people in the Tarot community find abhorrent, but I dunno. I think it sort of works. At first, it was a bit jarring to see such photographic realism in a fantasy-themed deck, but the deck has such a rich color palette and is so unabashed about its use of Photoshop that I’ve come to appreciate it. (Then again, maybe that’s just me trying to rationalize the purchase. Judge for yourself.)

DF colors
Top left to bottom right: Knight of Pentacles, Ten of Swords, Wheel of Fortune, Nine of Cups. Sorry about the glare and general poor quality of the picture. I can’t operate a camera.

The scenes do sometimes look a bit posed, and the costuming could perhaps have been better. I confess that the way the women are made up tends to look like a cheap “Bride of Dracula” costume from the Spirit Halloween store. And the biggest thing that bothers me about this deck–probably the single greatest block and the reason I’ll only be using it in very specific circumstances–is that it feels too… Well… Sexy. This deck is so overloaded with risqué clothing and provocative posture that I would be really uncomfortable using it for a reading that didn’t touch on sexuality in one way or another.*

DF sexy
Blurry picture and a lot of glare, so you can’t really see what I’m talking about. Sorry. The cards are the World, Ace of Cups, and Queen of Swords. Color me prudish, but really? That’s how you choose to pose the Queen of Swords?

Some individual cards also just don’t really resonate with me. The Empress kind of looks like a stripper (see the above remark on the general sexy-sexy tone of the deck). Death looks like Johnny Depp in that God-awful remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And I started laughing hysterically when I saw that the woman in the Eight of Swords literally has the word “vampire” scrawled on her (noticeably bared) chest in black ink. That might have been a detail to include in the LWB rather than literally writing it over the card.

DF bad cards
Stripper, Willy Wonka, I’m-a-vampire.

However, all of that aside, some aspects of this deck really do shine. Each of the suits has a delicate border: pale yellow for the Major Arcana, ochre for the Cups, gold for the Pentacles, green for the Wands, and blue for the Swords. And actually, I find the borders quite tasteful.

DF borders
Four of Cups, Five of Pentacles, Six of Wands, Two of Swords. You really can’t see the Five at all, can you? I apologize. I have another picture of it later in this review.

Justice is Key 8 and Strength is Key 11. And I have to admit, I really like the Strength card.** It puts the vampire-blood-dribbling-from-mouth motif, which is overused elsewhere in the deck, to very good use.

DF Majors
Strength, the Hanged Man, a washed-out Magician, and the High Priestess.

And some other cards are just so stunningly beautiful and so powerful. Interestingly enough, the cards I like most in this deck are those that deviate from the traditional RWS imagery and that will take me some time to get to know. The suit of Pentacles in particular is a knockout on this front, and the Four, Six, and Ten are some of my favorite cards in the deck.

DF minors
Ten of Wands, Five of Swords, Eight of Cups, Four of Pentacles, Six of Pentacles, Ten of Pentacles. And the Fool is hanging out on the side, because I shot this at a weird angle (trying–and failing–to avoid glare) and had empty space to fill.

In some ways, this seems to be a “dark angel” deck more than a “dark Faery” deck. Not necessarily a bad thing, and I’ll be happy to work with it just the same. But I certainly did notice a preponderance of fluffy white wings, and the image of the Hanged Man in particular (shown above) seems to be a direct reference to the Fall of Lucifer. For those who are looking for a more distinctly Fae deck, then, this might not be for you. On the other hand, anyone interested in looking into work with fallen angels might find this deck to be a good introductory tool.

DF angels
Justice, Two of Cups, Four of Wands.

All in all, this deck is interesting, engaging, and has a lot of material for a Tarot practitioner to work with. There are definitely some problems, and depending on the kind of reader you are, those problems may be insurmountable. As I said above, this deck is probably only going to come out in very specific circumstances for me, when I feel that reading with it is appropriate. Still, I’m glad I purchased it. Before we finish, though, let’s take a look at our divination. Which card did you pick?

DF turnup

If you chose the card on the left, you got the Five of Cups. This is a beautiful card, and is another one of my less-than-traditional favorites from the deck. A woman in a dark cloak holds a blackbird close to her ear, listening to the story it tells. At her feet are three spilled cups and one full one–but interestingly, the fifth cup is absent. She hasn’t discovered it yet, and she’ll need the blackbird’s guidance in order to find the fulfillment she’s looking for. If you chose this card, the message of your reading is to keep seeking and striving for happiness, even in difficult times. And know that you may have to get inventive, to look where you wouldn’t have thought to, and to find help in unexpected places before you can reach your goal.

Those of you who picked the central card got the Five of Pentacles inverted. And gosh, this card is stunning. Sunlight streams in through the open roof of a ruined church. Inside, two women (one young and one old) have come across a cat, and are feeding and comforting it. Much like the Five of Cups (and how interesting that we have two Fives here!), this card speaks to hard times and difficulty in getting what you want. But unlike the Cup, which in this deck seems to be largely about the drive to seek what you want, the Five of Pentacles here makes me think of spirituality, comfort, and respite from your troubles. If you chose this card, the message of this reading is that you need to find sanctuary. Take some time away from your worries to rest and lick your wounds. You’ll be more prepared to face the outside world once you do.

And finally, anyone who took the card on the right chose the King of Cups. This is a powerful card, and a bit more sinister than you’d see in the RWS (which, I suppose, is fitting for a dark deck). Dressed all in red, the king sits on a gilded throne. One hand is clutching a steaming goblet; the other is extended toward you, palm open, waiting for a gift. Traditionally, the King of Cups implies compassion and a desire to help others, but in this deck, I see less of that in him. He’s willing to help with whatever you may need, for sure–but for a price. If you chose the King of Cups, remember that nothing comes for free, and whatever you’re looking for in your life right now will only come your way if you pay the piper his due.

That’s about all I have on the Dark Fairytale Tarot. Stay tuned for my review of the Anna K, and for the continuation of my post about the elements in Tarot. Otherwise, feel free to leave your thoughts below, and I’ll catch you on the flipside!

*Plus, I’m a feminist, and it really does irk me to see women so blatantly objectified in this deck when nothing about any of the male figures says “come hither”. But we’ll leave that by the wayside. Tarot is no place for politics.

**Strength tends to be a very important card for me in evaluating a Tarot deck, one of the make-or-break ones. You can see my affinity for Strength in my deck choices: the aforementioned Tarot of the Absurd, the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, and the Anna K Tarot I acquired in tandem with this deck.


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