• Bee Tarot Deck and Guide Book Box Set
  • by Kristoffer Hughes Author and Nadia Turner Artist
  • Published by Llewellyn, 2024
  • RRP Tarot Deck and Guidebook Box Set: UK £36.00/ US$32.99
  • ISBN-13: 9780738769981
  • Reviewed by Jason C Dean

When I first saw Bee Tarot, I was immediately curious as I had often wondered about the association of bees with divinatory or spiritual practices. I had noticed them elsewhere in the contemporary Tarot community, with various prominent practitioners referring to bees in their products. So, my interest was piqued as I began to explore this curious deck. I discovered that Kristoffer Hughes has revealed to us the what and why of bees and their importance for all of humanity and the planet. He explains the bee’s long association with communities across the globe reaching back to antiquity and how they have a message to communicate to us through the Tarot, and they may even save us from ourselves.

Exploring the Bee Tarot box and guidebook set is a sensory delight. The sturdy box, adorned with a large bee on a honey-coloured, hexagonal hive, is a visual treat. Opening the box’s magnetic side flap reveals the guidebook, titled ‘Into The Hive’, with a captivating cover image of the XIV Temperance card’s art, a honeyed Angel with a knowing look. This visual introduction sets the stage for the immersive experience that awaits within.

‘Into the Hive’, the guidebook to the Bee Tarot, is just an amazing journey. Kristoffer, the author and Chief of the Anglesey Druid Order, first introduces us to his life and the concept behind the design of this Tarot deck. He explains the small changes in the titles of some of the cards in keeping with the bee theme while associating them with mythology and their divinatory relevance. He then explains how the ‘Waggle Dance’ of the bees communicates to the other bees where the pollen is to be collected. It’s a really useful analogy to Tarot in that the bee’s waggle dance is like reading the cards, by which we can interpret the landscape of our lives and communicate advice and options to the querent to make the most of the situation. Indeed, the bees’ figure eight waggle dance may have something to teach the modern Tarot reader just as they taught the old Druids. The entire ‘Into the Hive’ guidebook contains many pages of stunning colour plates of Nadia Turner’s truly amazing art. Every single card in the deck has its own full-colour illustration on a dedicated borderless page. It is truly a feast for the eyes. I found myself saying aloud, “This is amazing!” as I leafed through the 296 pages. It is a wonderfully enjoyable visual exploration of Tarot.

The application of Bee Tarot is not too dissimilar to RWS style Tarot decks. Kristoffer does a great job explaining how to read Tarot in easy-to-understand and gentle terms that are accessible to all interest levels. There are three tables, one indicating the various card title translations from RWS. The suit of Cups are called Jars, and all the Court Cards are titled King, Queen, Prince, and Princess. The biggest visual change is in the Pentacles, where the Court are depicted as bees. However, these illustrations contain appropriate symbology to present the attributes of the Pentacles Court and hierarchy easily. A good example is the Queen of Pentacles, which also has an image of the Bee Goddess from ancient Rhodes on the card, as is explained in the book’s description. Additionally, all cards are given upright and reversed meanings. The third table shows simple numerology applied to the numbered Minor cards.

In this wonderfully diverse deck, the author has also changed the names of some of the Major Arcana cards. Kristoffer’s explanations and application of myth and legend are easily understood and are really part of the charm of this gorgeous deck. The High Priestess is now ‘The Melissae’. A derivation of the name of the nymph ‘Melissa’ who nurtured the infant Zeus and is also the ancient Greek name for bee. There is also a small reference to the kabbalah in the description of the columns in ‘The Melissae’. The Hierophant has become the ‘The Delphic Bee’! I felt this is a great transformation as I have always found the Hierophant a bit dry. But in this Tarot realm, ‘The Delphic Bee’ card, a homage to the Oracle of the Demeter and Persephone Eleusis adventure, is a wonderful inclusion and perfectly aligns with the thematic feel of this Tarot deck. The Chariot becomes ‘The Barrow’, with a beekeeper transporting a small hive structure through a flowering garden. The last change is the Major, Judgement, becomes ‘Rebirth’, the illustration showing a Queen Bee laying eggs in one of the hive’s honeycomb cells, bringing new life to the hive, including her replacement. The guidebook also includes six bee-hive-like spreads. There is a modified Celtic Cross with the charming title ‘ The Hive and Flower Spread’ and my favourite, the eight-card ‘The Waggle Dance’ spread.

The cards themselves feel very comfortable in hand. They are standard Tarot card size, glide effortlessly when shuffling, and have a slightly textured feel. When looking at them at an angle in the light, they have very subtle cross-hatching that allows air to flow between the cards. When comparing them to other decks from other well-known Tarot publishers, they felt about the same thickness, but I thought they were of slightly better quality, the way they felt, glided, shuffled, and looked.

This is a stunning deck. It is a well-researched and thoroughly thought-out project. It is equally useful as a divinatory tool as it is beautiful, educational, and fun. Kristoffer Hughes and Nadia Turner have really added something significant to the Tarot landscape with this amazing deck. Applause all round! Thank you!

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