You got to hand it to Schiffer publishing - they know how to present a tarot deck very well. From great card stock to superb packaging, they never skimp. Their new deck, The Secret Language of Birds by Adele Nozedar and Linda Sutton is no exception.
The deck comes packaged in a gorgeous, big solid box with a magnetic closure and ribbon pull, giving it a cigar box feel. The publisher seems to be quite fond of this style of packaging as many of their decks have the same type of box. I must say, I am a huge fan of the magnetic closure and sturdy construction - these boxes are built to last and keep the deck well protected.
The deck is also well constructed with heavy, glossy card stock that will hold up to many years and many shuffles. And oh the art work! This deck is breathtaking with lively, bright colors and striking imagery. The artist's color choices and style really make this deck a standout amongst others. When I first got this deck, I couldn't stop thumbing through the cards and gazing at the incredible art work. Aesthetically, this is a feast for the eyes!
Some of the cards are playful with pop culture references such as the Johnny Depp figure in the Magician or Pavarotti as the Hierophant. And then there are others that are more ominous such as the 5 of Swords, which reminded me of a scene straight out of Hitchcock's "The Birds". If you like your deck creative, artsy and fun, this is one for you.
There is a book included but this is no ordinary "little white book" - this is a full sized book with lengthy interpretations, reversals, tarot history, keywords, quotes and more. I especially enjoyed the questions provided for each of the Minor Arcana - this paved the way for deep contemplation which is great if you wish to use the deck as a meditation aid (I feel these are very well suited for that purpose, by the way).
The deck has the standard 78 cards with Majors and Minors represented. The backs are midnight blue with a reversible diamond image. Minors are "pip" cards similar to a Marseilles deck - this is not based on the Rider Waite so if you are looking for an "easy to interpret" deck, you'll want to keep that in mind. You'll have to knuckle down with the book if you are not familiar with the "pip" cards.
The Minors suits are represented by specific birds but retain the traditional elements:
Cups - Water - Kingfisher
Wands - Fire - Skylark
Swords - Air - Seagull
Coins - Earth - Wrens
Each Major also has a bird (as expected). For example: The Raven for the Tower, The Swan for the Moon, and The Ostrich for Justice. The authors provide detailed stories about the birds and how they relate to these particular cards (for example, the Vulture for Death represents "the stripping of the flesh from the bones, for Buddhists, is analogous to the revelation of truth"). Whether you are a lover of birds, tarot or fables and myths, you'll find those interpretations and stories to be quite interesting.
There are a few problems with this deck. First of all, they are VERY large which makes them a wee bit tough to shuffle for those of with small hands. Also, the writing on the cards is in Italian. Seeing as I don't speak Italian, at times I had to dig through the book to figure out what I was looking at. That didn't bother me but it might be a problem for some.
Also curiously, the Court cards are not labeled at all. Instead they are numbered as 11, 12, 13 and 14 - and they are listed as Kings, Queens, Gods and Goddesses in the book. The author writes: "the Gods and Goddesses have shapeshifting abilities, and so the birds on these cards transport us to fantastical realms". I found this confusing and it made the deck challenging to read.
The spreads in the back of the book are also too large in my opinion for these cards. Laying out a Celtic Cross with a deck this big required a lot of table space which makes it difficult if you are using these cards in a limited setting. Of all the spreads provided, I found the Flock spread to be the most useful as it didn't take up too much space. I know I am being a nitpicker on this point but if I want to deem a deck as useful I need portability. One and three card spreads work perfectly with this deck and I highly recommend that you read them that way. I've been able to deliver some spectacular one card readings with this deck - so yes, they do work once you get past the problems.
I will say that this deck was incredibly researched - the information about the legends of birds was astonishing. There is a lot to digest here and any tarot (or bird) lover will be delighted with the stories presented.
I would recommend this deck for tarot collectors, fans of anything bird related as well as those who are looking for an interesting meditative tool. If you are searching for a standard deck that is easy to use though, you may want to think long and hard about this one.