by Pamela Chen, illustrated by Mindy Zhang

Published by Llewellyn Publications
ISBN: 978-0-7387-6219-7

This deck takes us on a journey with young witchling Charlie and her familiar, parakeet George, as they encounter many magical adventures. With help of Charlie’s best friends, Charlie and George face the Shadow Witch to save the Light Realm. As we learn, the Shadow Witch is someone very close to Charlie, but if you want to know more you will have to find out yourself!

The Witchling Academy Tarot follows the standard RWS style. The print quality is phenomenal, with beautifully vibrant and sharp colours. This deck is a few millimetres shorter than a standard RWS deck, and card stock is thinner with glossy finish.

Chen did a fantastic job with the accompanying 92 page booklet, which begins with basic information about the author and the illustrator and a few words of acknowledgement. We next learn about the Academy’s mission; the Letter of Acceptance then opens the doors to the Academy and our studies can begin.

The Orientation explains that only the chosen ones – prospects with magical abilities –  are accepted to the Academy so they can learn how to use their powers safely. Every witchling starts their studies by being placed into an Elemental House according to their personality and natural assets. In the next section Chen explains what Tarot is, how to prepare and use the deck and, since this deck has reversable backs, how to use reversals.

Next, we finally dive into the main section of the booklet. And, as I mentioned above, I really love Chen’s approach in writing it. Usually when learning Tarot the cards are explained individually, but Chen has written a beautifully flowing story which makes it easy for beginners to understand even the challenging cards. Every card follows its predecessor, every card has its place in the story, and it’s clear that, even though one will not use the whole deck for a reading, Tarot is a complete system and needs to be understood as such.

For every card, there is an explanation of its upright position (‘Magical meaning’), but also reversal (‘Shadow magic’). Each card is also followed by its Daily Incantation – a one-sentence explanation that, again, helps a beginner reader incredibly. For example, the Daily Incantation for The Fool is ‘I am ready to experience a fun new adventure.’

Although the booklet is not illustrated, a few black and white drawings appear here and there – a curious parakeet George greets you on every page, and we see snippets of conversations which, I think, fits into the overall style beautifully.

Before finishing the booklet, some extra credits can be earned by attending the Spell class that helps witchlings craft their own spells and, of course, what kind of Academy would this be without Final exam spreads?!

The last pages are dedicated to the Academy’s most important Witches, Wizards and Magical Beings, listed in alphabetical order.

The Witchling Academy Tarot is a simple and easy to use deck. If you’re looking for any connection to numerology, astrology or kabbalah, you will not find it here, but that is not this deck’s mission. If you ask me who I think this deck is for, the answer would be very easy and straightforward – for beginners. But don’t let this deck deceive you! It may look all cute and sweet, but it gives very direct messages without sugar-coating!

Even though I think that this is, overall, a great set, there are two things that I wish were created differently.

Firstly, the packaging. The box itself is beautiful, but the cards slide below the insert and, since there is no ribbon, it is difficult to take them out. Also, there is a sleeve on the left hand-side that accommodates the booklet, but since the booklet is heavier it makes the whole side slide and not align with the main part.

Secondly, as I mentioned, this deck follows the standard RWS system, including the court card names – you will meet your Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings – all of them with female features. The Kings, for example, are described as the elemental goddesses, but they are still called Kings and we see a picture of a cute woman. Unfortunately, there is no explanation for this in the booklet, so my understanding is that it is Chen’s decision to show women’s empowerment. But even though I believe that this is a great deck for beginners, I find this very confusing. I have nothing against a full-female deck, but why not change the names accordingly? Why didn’t we get Page (or even Baroness), Duchess, Princess, and Queen instead, for example? There are a total of two men in this deck –The Emperor and a witchling from the male academy (whom Charlie just met but didn’t hesitate to share a kiss with…).

To summarize, despite these issues, which only relate to my personal preference, I truly like this deck. For some, it may look a little too childish. And some may argue that the resemblance with Harry Potter stories is way too obvious. But I like the art style and the story, therefore I’m happy to be using The Witchling Academy Tarot regularly for quick and easy, straight-to-the-point readings.

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