by Beth Allen
When I first saw The Stolen Child Tarot by Monica L. Knighton I thought, “What a sweet little deck.” And it is a sweet deck and as I continue to work with it, the messages and guidance the deck offers are delivered in a gentle way, holistic even. But it’s also a deep deck. The messages are infused with thought-provoking issues we humans grapple with: generosity, community, acceptance, inclusion, self-love, compassion, social justice, and conservation of our natural world. It stands to reason that because the deck’s title and theme are from the poem “The Stolen Child” by W.B. Yeats, that this deck would be more than simply beautiful art and that it would offer something slightly different than the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith.
The deck’s stunning art is both earthy and fanciful, with illustrations that have a vintage storybook feel. True to its inspiration, the word “enchanting” comes to mind. In the poem’s refrain Yeats wrote:
“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
The poem itself is about children stolen by fairies, taken away from a world that too often is harsh and unfair, to a magicial place where all creatures live in harmony and respect. The cards reflect this with illustrations of children sheltering in a world filled with animals, fairies, and the occasional angel. The deck’s art and theme are layered with the idea of humans integrating and becoming a part of something bigger than ourselves, taking on the attributes of animals and truly becoming a part of the natural world, and the world becoming a safer place for all living things because of it. This would be a good deck for pathworking or inner child work, as well as meditation, because the cards invite you into that protected environment. And although the deck reveals her messages with care, I would not say they are sugar-coated, there is also a darker side, reverse meanings to this idyllic hideaway, which can be getting stuck or complacent and losing sight of purpose.
The cards themselves are slightly larger than a standard tarot card but not unwieldy. The card stock is strong yet flexible with a matte finish and a slightly laminated feel that makes shuffling – riffle or overhand – a breeze. The backs of the cards are beautiful too and fully reversible, if you read reversals. It comes in a sturdy box with two untitled bonus cards. I think this deck would satisfy the itch for an animal-deck lover as well as the lover of the fae.
When I begin reading with any new deck I go through the entire deck card by card, usually more than once, noticing different details, what jumps out at me, what’s slightly hidden, etc. Then I shuffle and begin reading intuitively for a few days. This gives me a personal feel for the cards, a connection. Then I turn to the guidebook. I definitely would recommend you download the guidebook, which is by Knighton and edited by Mia Fitzroy. The guidebook offers a lot of insight and meaning into each card, facts about animals, as well as the thought processes behind some of Knighton’s choices for her depictions.
The 78-card deck follows the RWS system, especially in the Major Arcana, however, there are some changes. In the Minor Arcana the suits are changed to Oak for Pentacles; Zephyrs for Swords; Brine for Cups; and Flame for Wands. Knighton switched some of the traditional meanings as well, for example, the 6 of Pentacles becomes the 5 of Oak because, according to what she writes in her guidebook, she associates the number 5 as being a chaotic number and she views the card as layers of class inequality, and therefore elected to shift the image to the 5. Another example is that all of the 2s have animals on them that have become extinct, the 2s representing concepts of duality of thought, cause and effect, choice of action or inaction, balance or imbalance. Frankly, I’m in love with this deck and was not expecting that I would be. This is a multidimensional, multilayered, life-affirming deck that both inspires and comforts. This is a deck I will be keeping in my collection. I can’t help but think that Yeats, a mystic and dedicated student of magic and alchemy, would feel honored.
“Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.”