The Celtic Dragon Tarot by D.J. Conway and Lisa Hunt (the Shapeshifter Tarot), appealed to me because of the difference in the dragons. There are reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, blues, greens, whites, and blacks, each placed into their elements: Mountains, Forests, Seas and Waters, the Elements, Wind, Storm, Weather, Volcanoes, Fire, Chaos, Light, and Deserts. Combined with the beauty of humans dressed in medieval Celtic clothing, and authentic Celtic landscapes, the dragons look as if they are right at home. New Age symbolism isn't in many of the cards, but ancient Celtic symbolism is. Instead of Devil, card 15 is now Chains, and what was the Hierophant is now the High Priest. The Sword suit is of the element Fire, and Wands is now the element Air. Out of the entire deck, I would have to say my favorite card is Death1.
"A large dragon is shedding its black skin and scales, emerging in a new identity of sparkling white. Its wings are spread in triumph and its head thrown back in a roar as it completes the successful transformation. Out of dark stormy clouds comes a bright beam of sunlight, which illuminates the moment of victory. What was perhaps looked upon as a painful death or great loss has been revealed as a rebirth into something better. Knowledge, willpower, and trust in spirit have helped to create gold out of dross. Like the fabled Phoenix, the dragon rises from the symbolic ashes of an outworn existence or experience into a new and brighter cycle of life.1"
That is why I like that card, for the dragon is not a skeleton, nor is it dead, it is shedding its skin. There's no way I could have put that into words that would reflect what she has said. The cards are wonderfully powerful, reading just like my first set on the first spread. The book of this deck explains all symbolism used in each card, major and minor. It also has spreads, spells, and meditation techniques for everyday life1.
If any other deck doesn't meet your standards, or if you really love dragons and medieval Celtic art, I recommend the Celtic Dragon deck and book. The pictures are powerful, you feel like the dragons are there with you, watching what you're doing. Try it out, and see for yourself why the Celtic Dragon is one of my favorite decks1!
The dragons are from all cultures, spectrums and Elements, representing the ever present magic that is all around us. The beautiful Celtic symbolism speaks to me on a level that relates to my Irish heritage, while the strong magical elements are not too strong, so the non-practicing person won’t feel threatened. The imagery isn’t too dark, which does a great job of keeping the reading light1.
I like how some of the more commonly “dark” images are altered to be more approachable and not so dark. The dragons are not threatening, instead interacting with the humans in the cards in a positive and everyday type way. The “Death” card isn’t necessarily about death as an end, but about death as a part of a cycle, even a new beginning1.
The guidebook does an excellent job of explaining the card meanings in great detail, and the layouts and spells to do with the deck are a great reference for all kinds of uses. I love that the book includes a picture of the card in question along with a description of the images and an explanation of what the card stands for. Having a picture to go by is a wonderful help when you are first learning how to use a tarot deck1.
For me, I have to say that the aesthetics of the deck are a little hard to work with sometimes. The general size of the deck is a little too big for me to handle sometimes, especially if my hands are tired or sore for some reason. Other than that, the deck is a great joy to use1!
Recently, I have been looking at the nature of heroes, and how many heroes and gods of myth suffered from some flaw or punishment. Samson lusted for Delilah, leading to his downfall and victory. Hercules, after being made crazy by Hera (she was actually mad at Zeus, but turned in toward Hercules because, well, he was Zeus!) killed his wife and children. In penance, he performed his twelve amazing "labors." Hanuman, possibly the greatest mythic hero of India, was a nasty little boy and was cursed to not know of his great powers unless someone reminded him of them2.
At this point you are probably wondering what this could possibly have to do with a Tarot deck that focuses on Dragons. Well, it has to do with the nature of Tarot and the book that accompanies this deck2.
The Tarot can be used for many more purposes than just giving readings. One of the most powerful uses of the Tarot is as part of performing magick. I even wrote an entire book, Tarot & Magic about it. So I would claim that I have some knowledge on this subject. Few books really go into this, especially books that come with a deck, and I was pleased to see that A Guide to the Celtic Dragon Tarot included such a section. But as I looked through the section, I saw that there was also a focus on colored candles and gemstones. There was no real need for the cards that were suggested. In fact, when I tried out some of the spells, I found that the Tarot cards actually got in my way. That may not be your experience, but it was mine2.
However, the book also includes a section on using this Tarot for "meditation" ("guided visualization" might have been a more accurate term). "Okay," I thought, "I’ll try one of these visualizations." Bam! In no time I was out on the astral plane. Why was this2?
The answer, I believe, can be found in the very design of the artwork of the cards. Most decks either have art that goes all the way to the edge of the card or have a clear and precise boundary and a clear border. This deck has a grayish border, but the artwork seems to feather into it. There’s no clear line where the images end and the border begins. So for me, by looking at a card it was easy to "go off" the edge of the image and onto the astral plane2.
By the same token, I found this lack of precision to be incompatible with practical magick. With magick I don’t use something that fades into something else. I want to use precise, clear concepts and practices2.
So the hazy edges of the art made this deck impractical for use in magick. But by the same token, it made it ideal for meditation and astral projection. It provides both power and problems2.
However, most people will get this deck to do readings. As the names pretty much follow those of the Rider–Waite–Smith (RWS) deck, just about anyone will be able to use this Tarot. The images, however, can be somewhat jarring and can be quite different from the RWS. The Fool isn’t walking off a cliff, the Magician is a woman, the Lovers are two dragons, the Chariot has no chariot, the Hermit shows a dragon studying and not being a guide, Justice has two people being challenged by a dragon holding a scroll, Temperance shows a three entwined dragons, the Moon is simply an image of the moon with a dragon in front of it, the Sun shows three dragons around a fiery sphere, and the World shows a couple surrounded by dragons2.
That said, Lisa Hunt’s art is quite remarkable. Although done in watercolor, it is not limited to the pastel-like wimpiness of the paints we used as a child. There is also brilliant, intense color used to amplify the meanings of the cards, just as the wispiness that can often be found in the use of this medium is also used to good effect. In short, Hunt’s mastery of the medium is used to great effect. Her studies of different types of animals allowed her to create different types of dragons that are filled with passion and life, sometimes even more than that of the humans on the cards. The backgrounds are supposed to be Celtic in nature, but they are primarily simple watercolor washes or stones with some plants. There is some hint of Celtic imagery here, but it is not a primary focus. So if you’re looking for a Tarot with Celtic symbolism, you’ll need to look elsewhere. This is primarily a deck about dragons. The choice of clothing seems to range from motion picture Arthurian myth (think "Camelot")2.
Because the symbolism of the cards is so unique, the key to understanding this deck should be in the accompanying book. It should be pointed out that Ms. Conway is primarily known as an author of Pagan books. Many people getting this deck, I am sure, will be fans of her Pagan writing and not people with a strong focus on the Tarot. Therefore, I would think that her book should appeal to Pagans, beginning and experienced Tarot readers, Celtophiles and lovers of dragons. While A Guide to the Celtic Dragon Tarot Will be of assistance to experienced Tarot users, the lack of practical information on how to do Tarot readings (other than brief descriptions of four layouts) will disappoint. There’s no information on the meanings of reversed cards. She associates Wands with the element of Air and Swords with Fire (a switch in the tradition) but does not explain the use of the elements symbolically or why this matters2.
It has been my experience that when working with a Tarot deck, even if a message seems negative, the cards provide information to alter the effect of the information or overcome it completely. Unfortunately, some of the divinatory meanings are relentlessly negative2.
To sum up this review, the beautiful art of Lisa Hunt is enough to make this deck a part of any Tarot reader’s collection of decks. It’s great for meditation and to help people achieve astral projection, but not so much for magick. The spells in the book could easily be accomplished without the use of the cards at all2.
Dig into ancient Celtic lore as your magic and divinations bask in the fiery breath of The Celtic Dragon Tarot by D. J. Conway and Lisa Hunt. Using her knowledge of the ancient Celts and working with the ancient dragon energies, Conway has designed one of the most vivid and powerful Tarot decks ever.
- Celtic Dragon Tarot. Celtic Dragon Tarot Reviews | Aeclectic Tarot. December 20, 2022. https://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/celtic-dragon/
- Review of the Celtic Dragon Tarot. December 20, 2022. https://www.llewellyn.com/encyclopedia/article/23761