The Fairy Lights Tarot by Lucia Mattioli, published by Lo Scarabeo is surely one of my favourite decks. I bought it at the end of July and one of the first things I did was going into the woods to sit among the fir trees, and admire its fabolous images.
The fairy lights painted on every card give substance to the shadows and revelations of a true faery realm, where memory and dreams are deeply entwined with either a disquieting or an enchanted atmosphere: the fairy-figures are sometimes diminutive beings, but closer to a world of insects and bees than to one of gentle-looking, harmless Victorian creatures. Male and female characters are equally represented; merfolk, inhabitants of nocturnal streams (as in the Star) and lakes, of rocky lands, prairies and meadows, are mingled with a variety of animals from the white bear in the Strength card, to the pigs under a tree of silver apples in the Five of Swords. Though the deck symbolism is mainly traditional, the artist has clearly developed a very personal and consistent vision that shows some significant differences from the Rider Waite meanings.
First of all the 78 cards are originally combined in 39 pictures, so that every single card is only a part of a pair that needs to be recomposed to enhance an intuitive comprehension of the matter.
The Empress, bestowing the earthly gift of natural knowledge and love, sits on the tangled roots of a huge trunk; below her some hooded figures are walking towards an unknown destination, bearing translucent moon-like globes in their hands. It's a clear night, brightened by a strong yellow light, whose source is the full moon in the Five of Wands. This card, generally indicating conflict, becomes a transformation token: the hooded figures follow the path to the incredibly huge moon, leaving behind their human form and freeing their animal soul.
The Nine of Pentacles immediately reminded me of Rackham's Ariel (I'm wondering when an Arthur Rackham inspired deck, or a deck painted by Charles Vess will come out). The fairy and the pixies pick and carry ripe blueberries, highlighting the traditional meaning of abundance and self-satisfaction.
The matching card is The Hanged Man, here trapped in an enchanted spider-web. Hence the whole image suggests that to fully appreciate one's richness, there's always need of introspection and to be ready to accept the unexpected developments of destiny in order to maintain personal balance.
The Four of Chalices and the Two of Pentacles show the two sides of a rocky hill: on one side restless fairies are flying up and down the trunk of a huge tree; on the other a small dinosaur-like being is cautiously coming out from a cave. A pale moon is rising in both the scenes. The dissatisfaction embodied by the Four finds an explanation in the Two, with a slight different interpretation from the most known of playfulness and adaptability.
From the LWB: "You cannot both hide from the world and engage with it. Choose your path and commit to it". I'm quite fond of this card and I see the dinosaur as one's fear to be too different and weird to find a place in the actual world. But then it is exactly one's grade of strangeness and mental independence the most reliable means for a joyful existential path.
One final note is about the card backs' picture: two fairy-children clad in green are respectively riding two robins, but while the child and bird upward are lively, the couple downward is almost dying - an oval of twigs keeps them together. The two figures are a good symbol of life continuously reflected into death, perfectly encapsulating the tarot concept of transition and rebirth through the experience of natural and human limits.