Creator: Wilder Hearts Studio
Publisher: Wilder Hearts Studio, 2020
Where to buy: wilderheartsstudio.com
Instagram: @northernanimaltarot

The Northern Animal Tarot by Wilder Hearts Studio is one of the most beautiful and thoughtfully created animal decks I have ever seen! 

This deck felt like an old friend from the moment I first held it in my hands. Faithfully based upon the Rider Waite Smith deck, it takes no time for those who are already familiar with this system to understand its messages. Furthermore, these anthropomorphic animals are reminiscent of stories we hear and tell ourselves as children. They remind me of my childhood sense of wonder and the belief that the natural world is filled with magic and possibilities. It’s a world in which everybody belongs. All of this comes together to create an immediate sense of familiarity and belonging. 

I absolutely adore anthropomorphic animals – when they are done right. One of the most tragic downsides of imposing human qualities onto animals is that they can feel a little creepy sometimes. I’m thrilled to say that this deck does not have this problem. Even though they are donned in human attire, they still look like animals. At the same time, however, these animals are able to display emotions through incredibly subtle expressions in their eyes and the corner of their mouths/beaks. 

These expressions make these animals lovable and relatable without making them too cute. While I love cute animals, I find it hard for me to take them seriously. Thankfully, the artwork in the Northern Animals deck is that perfect sweet spot. They induce that warm and fuzzy feeling without being overly cartoony. 

In addition to the way the animals are drawn, I also love the warm autumn tones of this deck. I never realized it before, but after I began working with this deck, it occurred to me that if I had to describe how the northern hemisphere/Canadian landscape feels to me, these rich earthy colours is also how I’d paint the landscape. Even though there are a full four seasons where I live (in Southern Ontario), it is the colourful autumn foliage that captivates my heart and soul. And this gorgeous and soothing colour palette is what breathes life into this deck. 

One thing that is truly unique about this deck is the number of extra cards it includes. While it’s relatively common for decks to include a few extra cards, the Northern Animals Tarot goes all out. There are a total of not 2, not 3, not even five – but 20 extra cards! These extra cards are:

1. 4 extra cards
It starts with Spring, when the snow begins to melt and the first signs of vegetation return with the rain. The Summer card is one of my favourite cards in the deck. Not only is it filled with life and energy, it features the snake – my favourite animal! Next, we see leaves falling in Autumn followed by the snow covered landscape of Winter. 

2. Moon phases
The four moon phases depicted are the full, half, crescent and new moon. All are presented with serene faces that invites readers to immerse in the stillness of the night. There is something about the full moon reflected on water that I find incredibly peaceful. When it came up in a reading, it acted as a kind and gentle reminder to check in with myself and examine why my emotions appeared to be running wild at the time. 

3. Shadow cards
The four shadow cards are Goblin, Sasquatch, Old Tree, and Ghost. While the Goblin possesses a sly and confident smile, the other three are the saddest looking creatures in this deck. My favourite in this set is the Ghost. It reminds me of the way kids used to put a bed sheet over themselves for Halloween way back in the days before it was a thing to spend loads of time and money on kids costumes. The message of this card, however, is anything but childish. It speaks of the ghosts of memories we keep around to give ourselves reasons and excuses from moving on in life. 

4. Extra Hierophant card
I love, love, LOVE that the extra card is the Hierophant! I have always felt that this card is most reflective of what tarot means to me. I see the Hierophant as a wise teacher who guides our minds and spirit. In many decks with more traditional imagery, this card is featured as a religious figure (which may not resonate with many modern spiritual seekers). But here, the sage is seated in a relaxed posture, gently inviting the reader to step inside this magical world and absorb the lessons it offers according to our own pace and will. 

5. Spread cards
Instead of being included as part of the guide book, the spreads are printed on 3 cards. These are 3, 4 and 5 card spreads designed to help readers increase our self-awareness. The Busy Bee Spread is action orientated; the How’s My Heart spread encourages understanding in order to heal and the All About Me Spread is a great meditation spread to keep ourselves grounded. 

6. Bonus cards
These bonus cards include a Seed to help us focus on new beginnings, Owls carrying letters to open our hearts to divine messages, a Shooting Star for us to make wishes upon and a card that carries the logo of the deck itself along with a line that says ‘Time to Adventure with Northern Animal Tarot’. As the entire deck feels like an illustrated fairy tale novel, this last card feels like the cover page of a book. 

If all these goodies aren’t enough, this deck is printed on a sustainably sourced paper. According to the deck’s Kickstarter page, both the cards and the tuck box they come in are made of 30% recycled content. Furthermore, they are 100% handcrafted and made in Canada. 

The best part is that the printing material isn’t just environmentally friendly – it is gorgeous. The 3’ x 5’ cards are UV and linen coated, making each card feel like a painting. The tuck box is debossed, giving the appearance of a well-loved vintage book cover. 

Every aspect of this deck was thoughtfully designed and extremely well executed, making this a deck that will surely withstand the test of time.