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The Fantastical Creatures Tarot

by Lisa Hunt & D.J. Conway

The Fantastical Creatures Tarot
Price: $22.00

Number of cards in deck: 78

Measurements: 2.73 x 4.72 inches, or 69 x 120 mm.

Back of card: Solid cream, with an ornate Celtic circle in browns in the center. May be inverted.

Booklet included: Yes, 72 pages, 2.55 x 4 inches, or 65 x 112 mm. English only.

Publisher: US Games. Printed in Italy.

Comments: This is the third deck from these two. The earlier decks:

The Celtic Dragon Tarot, and,
The Shapeshifter Tarot. These were both published by Llewellyn.

In the book, delineations of the minor arcana cards start with the ace & continue with the Page, Knight, Queen and King, in that order. In the deck, as packaged, the order is Queen, King, Knight, Page, and then 10 to Ace. This is not the reverse, as the Queen & King have changed places, which is significant.

The mythical creatures are extracted from all sorts of places. Here is how the text describes the Fool:

0 - THE FOOL (Amphisbaena)
According to Greek legend, the Amphisbaena can move in the direction of either head, if the two halves hold on to each other, creating a circle, which enables it to roll. The two heads are capable of acting independently, although the often think & work together, as if of one mind.

The Amphisbaena aptly portrays the Fool, who, when faced with choices, often can't make up his mind, or decides without enough information. If this is the first card in a layout, it may indicate that the wrong question is being asked, or that the questioner is hesitant about making choices. (pg. 7)

This made me curious, so I went to Wiki and read,
Amphisbaena.... a Greek word, from amphis, meaning "both ways", and bainein, meaning "to go", also called the Mother of Ants, is a mythological, ant-eating serpent with a head at each end. According to Greek mythology, the amphisbaena was spawned from the blood that dripped from the Gorgon Medusa's head as Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert with it in his hand. Cato's army then encountered it along with other serpents on the march. Amphisbaenae fed off of the corpses left behind. The amphisbaena has been referred to by the poets, such as Nicander, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and A. E. Housman...

and,

The amphisbaena has a twin head, that is one at the tail end as well, as though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth.
--Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia, ca. 77 AD

This early description of the amphisbaena depicts a venomous, duo-headed snakelike creature. However, Medieval and later drawings often show it with two or more scaled feet, particularly chicken feet and feathered wings. Some even depict it as a horned, dragon-like creature with a serpent-headed tail and small, round ears, while others have both "necks" of equal size so that it cannot be determined which is the rear head. Many descriptions of the amphisbaena say its eyes glow like candles or lightning, but the poet Nicander seems to contradict this by describing it as "always dull of eye". He also says: "From either end protrudes a blunt chin; each is far from each other." Nicander's account seems to be referring to what is indeed called the Amphisbaenia.

Wiki lists its abilities as including,

Wiki has this to say about its uses in folk medicine:

In ancient times, the supposedly dangerous amphisbaena had many uses in the art of folk medicine and other such remedies. It is said that expecting women wearing a live amphisbaena around their necks would have safe pregnancies, however if your goal is to cure ailments such as arthritis or the common cold wear only its skin. By eating the meat of the amphisbaena one could attract many lovers of the opposite sex, and slaying one during the full moon could give power to one who is pure of heart and mind. Lumberjacks suffering from cold weather on the job could nail its carcass or skin to a tree to keep warm, while in the process allowing the tree to fell easier.
Which make me wonder just how "mythical" this two-headed creature really was. According to Wiki, T.H. White says the mythical creature was based on a worm lizard of the same name, native to the Mediterranean.

As for modern uses, while Wiki hasn't yet heard of the Fantastical Creatures Tarot, it has heard of Dungeons & Dragons:

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, the Amphisbaena is depicted as in traditional myth as a giant serpent with a head at both ends. It travels by grasping one head in the other and rolling like a hoop. The fangs of the Amphisbaena are so poisonous that anything successfully bitten by it dies instantly.
This interesting creature has now been asked to play the role of the Fool. Sounds like a stretch to me. Perhaps Conway & Hunt will update the Wiki entry so that we can know more. Until then, they give these instructions:
Most ancient cultures believed that it was possible to make contact with these mystical creatures. The priests, magicians & shamans understood that contact would not be on the Earth plane, but on the astral level. They followed certain traditions that allowed them to tap into this source of power, using it in their spiritual & magical rituals.

Today, most people have lost touch with these ancient sources and most no longer believe in them. It is possible, however, to relearn the ancient art of communication with fantastic creatures. When approached in the proper ways, these powers can help us. By tapping into these astral sources, we can use the ancient images in divination to gain a clearer picture of what is causing life-problems and what we can do about it. By meditating upon an image, we can gain insight into ourselves and our sitiation. By focusing on an image during a candle spell, for example, we can use its energy to help manifest a desire. (pgs. 5-6)

This raises all manner of questions. I am in agreement that creatures such as Amphisbaena exist on astral levels, and I am in agreement that humans, properly trained or not, can, by an exercise of the will, come into contact with them, for better or worse. I am satisfied the sources Wiki cites were not imagining things. So why are Conway & Hunt pretending a creature that seems quite nasty is the most harmless of all tarot cards? I am curious about this. I chose the Fool at random, I did not know anything about the Amphisbaena before I looked it up on Wiki fifteen minutes ago. Are Conway & Hunt ignorant of what they are peddling, or are they trying to lead innocents into a trap? Think what you like about "fantastic creatures" and the "astral plane". Back 20 years ago Dungeons & Dragons got a nasty reputation when players turned up dead. Looking at Wiki's entry for D&D, I see that history has been whitewashed. Which is one of Wiki's flaws.

The Fantastical Creatures Tarot didn't quite "grab" me, but now that I've had a look at one card, chosen at random, I'm not sure I even like it. "Do no harm" is still the prime directive.

The Astrology Center of America

207 Victory Lane, Bel Air, MD 21014
Tel: 410-638-7761; Toll-free (orders only): 800-475-2272

Tarot Home Tarot Decks Tarot Books Astrology Home E-Mail: Dave

Established 1993, The Astrology Center of America is owned & operated by David Roell. Except where noted, this entire site (AstroAmerica.com) & its contents are Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by William R. Roell. All rights reserved. Tarot card images are Copyright © by the copyright holder (generally the publisher).