The Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot by Poppy Palin (Llewellyn, 2002) is amazingly vibrant and playful. It is peopled by fae creatures with pointed ears, and a wealth of natural elements and creatures. The artwork is very colourful, as are the borders (not so keen on the latter).
The Majors have all been renamed, and Majors and Minors alike have a keyword or phrase to describe them. Thus, Temperance becomes Inner Child, with the phrase “Spirit of Purity”. For me, Temperance is generally about either healing, or getting the right mix of ingredients, a balancing of opposites. Both of those are implied in the Inner Child. We heal ourselves when we embrace and love our Inner Child, and this is also a balancing of our Adult and our Child. I like that the image includes a unicorn, revered for their ability to purify any poison. There is also an aspect of balancing opposities in the two fae below the little girl: with one red hat and one blue, one smiling, the other holding their head in their hands.
As well as renaming the Majors, the suits are given their elemental associations, rather than being related to suit objects. So, Wands become Fire, Cups are Water, Swords are Air, and Pentacles are Earth. The Courts retain their traditional titles: Page, Knight, Queen and King. However, the Pages encompass a young woman (Water), a young man (Earth), an old man channelling many animal spirits (Fire), and a probably male sprite (Air). The Knights are all male, and the Queens and Kings are traditional. Still, in terms of their representation and imagery, there is a personal take. We see this, for instance, in the King of Water, titled The Soothsayer. He wears a blue-hooded cloak decorated with golden stars, and there is a raised finger in the foreground, pointing the way the man is looking. He sees beyond the everyday, and can point us in the right direction, the direction of our hearts, perhaps.
The Ace of Water is titled Spring, however this is not (just) a seasonal attribution, and is specific to the card rather than forming a structure for the suits. The Ace of Earth is “Seed”, the Ace of Air is “Egg” and the Ace of Fire is “Spark”. So, this Spring is where a river starts from, an outpouring of water from the mouth of a stone cave, that is also a water spirit. In the foreground, the spring is toasted or tasted by a little green sprite, which could be linked to the budding of the Green Man in spring time. So, both meanings of the word are available to our interpretation.
As for the Minors, they are not always obviously related to traditional RWS concepts. For example, the Ten of Fire is titled Glow, and does not have a burdened feeling like the Ten of Wands, though it could be taken as having to provide a lot of abundance and variety. Likewise, the Seven of Air is titled Migration, and with it’s image of a gypsy caravan, thoughts of sneaking away with things are available if we want them, but the card opens up a far broader set of ideas. Do we move with our thoughts and with the seasons? Where are we headed? Where do we call home? Similarly, the Seven of Fire (Wands) shows a cat leaping amongst butterflies and flowers. This could be a mock battle, similar to the Seven of Wands, a testing of mettle against imagined foes. It could also be the willingness to embrace change, to leap into the unknown without fear…
Altogether, this deck is a wonderful one for connecting with elemental energy, for playing with the fae, and for opening your mind to alternative interpretations.