Better Together: Animal Wisdom + Animal Spirit
Reading with animals isn't easy for me, and I imagine there are a lot of people out there too who don't immediately connect to these kinds of cards. When The Wild Unknown released its Animal Spirit oracle cards, there was no question about whether I would get them or not… The Wild Unknown has always been my #1 deck and every time an email alert from Kim Krans pops up in my inbox, I'm there—no question. I snapped up the Animal Spirit deck immediately, knowing that it would be a great partner for the original deck. The Animal Wisdom Tarot, however, was another story altogether.
There aren't a lot of options when it comes to decks in bookstores here in Manila, and I'd seen this one on and off several times. It looked too fairytale-ish for me, however. Just from the box, you can tell that the Animal Wisdom Tarot has that airbrushed art aesthetic that I'm really not fond of. I watched several YouTube reviews of it, just in case I could be convinced otherwise, but it still didn't take. One animal oracle was enough for me. Every time I was at the mall, I would check if the deck was still around, and the minute it disappeared from the shelves of Fully Booked, something in me kind of snapped and I "had" to have it. (Tell me I'm not the only person this has happened to!) As soon as it came back on the shelves, I immediately bought it cementing its place as my very first deck purchase of 2017.
The Animal Wisdom Tarot comes with a hefty, full-color guide book which I find extremely useful, especially since animal symbolism just doesn't come naturally to me. I've only read a spread using these cards once; for the most part, I stick to one-card pulls and thoroughly read the description (they're usually the length of one page—meaty!) in order to get to know the deck better.
The Animal Spirit comes with a handy foldout that outlines keywords for every card. I did purchase the more thorough guidebook however, that offers keywords, a short paragraph or two about the animal, plus very helpful one-liners that explain what happens when every particular energy is positive, out of balance, or in "reverse."
Stock-wise, Animal Spirit is the winner, here. The stock of this deck is much like the second edition of the original tarot deck. Thick and matte enough to stay pristine yet thin enough to riffle shuffle. The Animal Wisdom Tarot's stock is pretty thin. The lamination is also the kind that could wear and chip pretty quickly so I try to take more care in shuffling this deck.
That said, I love how both decks take on a very light presence when it comes to the card backs. Snakeskin usually makes my skin crawl, but I love the subtle gray lines that play against the Animal Spirit's stark white background. The Animal Wisdom Tarot, like I said earlier, is a little cheesy and storybook-like when it comes to its illustrations, but I am a fan of the sky blue background.
While both decks rely on animal imagery and animal symbolism, they are very different in feel. The Animal Wisdom Tarot is pretty broad and relies on everything from domesticated animals to those in the wild. As a tarot deck it's pretty traditional, following the 78-card structure we all know. The Animal Spirit on the other hand is an oracle deck with a tarot-ish structure. It utilizes mystical animals as its substitute "Major Arcana"—seven cards depicting mythological creatures like the Unicorn or the Sea Serpent (my personal fave) to represent major shifts in our energy points.
The Animal Spirit converts the four suits of the tarot into the four elements, which makes a lot of sense since a lot of times, we tie the Suits to corresponding elements (Fire = Wands; Water = Cups; Air = Swords; Earth = Pentacles). The Animal Wisdom does the same, converting the traditional suits into more animal-friendly themed categories: Branches, Fossils, Feathers, and Shells.
Pitting these two decks against each other is fun because there are some animals that appear in both oracle and tarot. I don't know how effective it is to actually use both decks together in a reading, but if the Deer or the Tiger comes up twice then you know the cards are definitely sending you a message.
It's when the similar cards come up that you can definitely tell the difference in the voices of these two sets of cards. The Animal Wisdom is gentle and almost kid-friendly; while the Animal Spirit is raw in its energy, very much like the wild animals chosen for the deck.
I thought that the Judgement card or the "Masters of Discernment" in the Animal Wisdom Tarot was particularly interesting because it combines two poignantly different animals, both present in the Animal Spirit deck too. You see the docile, patient, cool Crocodile paired with the flitting, colorful, whimsical Butterfly. The meanings you can derive from such an oddball combination are endless! Yet when these animals are taken separately, your reading can offer a different kind of impact as well.
In any case, I'm finding both decks to be very educational as a non-animal lover. I don't think I'm ever going to be able to read with either one intuitively, and when I do client readings with the Animal Spirit (I'm still using the Animal Wisdom for purely personal reads), I always tell the querent that I've got the guidebook with me because I still haven't really learned all the symbolisms and meanings by heart. That said, I don't think the goal of these decks is for us to figure things out right away. The Animal Kingdom has a ton of wisdom to offer us, but we've got to play it cool and patient (like the Crocodile) to really get to the heart of everything.