Since my childhood, animal bones have fascinated me. So I’m excited to review Lupa Greenwolf The Tarot of Bones, and the companion book.
The Tarot of Bones is a portfolio of photographs of assemblage art pieces created by Lupa, a photographer and hide-and bone artist. Images of a Tarot deck tell stories. Through those stories, we can see our own life story. Oracle bone divination, which is as old and as well-known as tarot decks, tells stories. The Tarot of Bones is derived from this premise.
The Fool, Key 0, is a coyote skull atop a field full of flowers. The Magician is a corn serpent skeleton that has been transformed into an ourosboros. The skull of a wolf is placed over a moon-shaped mirror to create the High Priestess. An assemblage of trees can be seen on either side. The Empress is a whitetail doe, while the Emperor is a skull of a goat.
Lupa’s companion guidebook is full of wonderful stories. She reveals, for example, that Key V: the Hierophant was not only the first card she designed in her tarot deck, but also the last. We see a javelina head among religious texts. The Lovers is a pair if albatross skulls that are placed in an assemblage to signify a marriage ritual.
For easy handling and shuffling, the cards are borderless and made from high-quality cardstock. This deck could be considered an art deck since it is an artist’s portfolio. There is an overall theme here , andthe intention of the artist behind the majority of assemblage pieces here was to create a deck around bone art. It’s also a themed deck.
We see The Devil in a skull of a lion. The imagery behind the skull is symbolic of wildfire burning over grasslands. Through the archetypal structure of a tarot card, The Tarot of Bones tells a story of natural history. The Tower is a good example of the European starling skull. The European starling, which is an invasive species and considered a pest, is wreaking havoc on natural ecosystems. It was brought to North America by humans. The starling was brought to New York by one particular person who believed we should move about flora, fauna, and manipulate Mother Nature. This hubris was what caused the ecosystem imbalance. The story of The Tower card is told through the eyes of the European starling.
Lupa’s Happy Squirrel card is a wonderful addition to my collection. Lupa’s explanation of the meaning of Happy Squirrel cards in a Tarot reading is amazing.
The card’s message is about something that may seem insignificant at first glance, but has deeper and more profound implications. A seemingly meaningless event in a seeker’s daily life may actually be synchronistic or even karmic.
The Minor Arcana suits allow us to see more flora. Deer vertebrae are the common theme in the suit of Pentacles (pictured above). The art is now enriched by petrified wood and moss as well as green vines, fruits, and moss.
In the suit of Wands we find intermediate bones such as the metacarpal bone of deer, wolf Fibulae, coyote Ulnas and leg bones. The skull of a bobcat is the Queen of Wands. The color palette doesn’t have any sub-divisions, but I love the earth tones in the cards. They can be used to add color symbolism and color meaning to a tarot deck.
The Five of Wands is a collection of five coyote legs bones that have been entangled. To show combat and play, the background has scuffle marks. This is a wonderfully creative interpretation of the Rider-Waite Smith card that refers to the Five of Wands.
The Ace of Cups is both a dried lotus pod, and the rib bone of an animal. The Two of Cups shows two python-ribs that remind us of the caduceus. Here, rib bones join the suit of Cups. The Ten of Cups is a ladder-like pattern of ten rib bones that runs across a rainbow.
The Page of Cups depicts a chicken skull, while the Knight of Cups represents the skull of a fox. Lupa provides valuable insight into natural history as well as the artist’s perspective when you read the companion book. Below you can see the companion book, and how organized it is. The entry describes the card imagery, artist inspiration, and card meaning. Lupa’s interpretations are very close to mine throughout the book.
The suit of Swords is finally here, united by the theme of teeth assembly. For example, in the Ace of Swords we see a horse’s incisor and in Two of Swords a pair of muskrat tooth. The Three of Swords concept is great. It features three fox fangs that have been sunken into a red heart above a stormy gray background. Lupa says that the Four of Swords is her favorite card. The image depicts four fox-canine teeth wrapped around a piece red agate. It’s a reproduction of a red-tailed Hawk skull set against a background that reminds me of clouds.
This guidebook includes original tarot spreads that can be used with the Tarot of Bones. These include a Horse Spread and Wolf Pack Spread as well as a Cycle of Seasons Spread. The companion book, which measures 152 pages in length, is essential for understanding the Tarot of Bones. Lupa offers additional wisdom and insight on bones, natural history and wildlife.
Lupa’s The Tarot of Bones is for you if you work with bones and like art decks. The Tarot of Bones is a visionary, provocative, and a new approach to tarot architecture.
Lupa is an ecopsychologist and artist living in the Pacific Northwest. Her main focus is natural history. She has been a practicing pagan for more than 21 years. She is also the author Fang and Fur and Blood and Bone : A Primal Guide to Animal Magic. Both books are published by Immanion Press/Megalithica Books. Her assemblage bone art has been featured in numerous galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest. Read more about Lupa’s work at www.thegreenwolf.com. Sandra Swan, Wild Hunt Photography took the photos of the assemblage bones for the tarot card deck.
FTC Disclosure I was given Tarot of Bones by the deck creator in exchange for prospective review. All that I have written here is honest and accurately reflects how I feel about the deck and book.