This is one of the not-so-well-known animal totem decks out there, specializing in birds as opposed to a wide variety of animals. The specialization is a definite plus, because it allows for a number of birds that normally don’t get a lot of attention in commercial totemism books and decks. Along with some of the usual suspects like Crow, Raven, and Owl, there are some birds I haven’t really seen covered–Thrush, Roller, and Gannet, for example. There are a few surprises, too–Phoenix as a representative of mythological beings, and Dodo as an extinct totem.

The overall tone of this book/deck is intuitive. The author (and artist) relied primarily on a series of direct contacts with the totems/spirits of each bird in a personal ritual setting. This carries over into the individual messages associated with each bird. In fact, the entries are almost uniformly based on the author’s intuition and observation. I wish that she had balanced them out with some biology or lore from various cultures, though. Relying only on an author’s Unverified Personal Gnosis can lead to an imbalanced understanding of the possible teachings of each animal. Additionally, be aware that the writing tends towards New Age language (”deva”, “angel”, “light” and “special bird” are just a few terms to be found). The meanings are also primarily positive, with no warning of potential negative traits of each species–IMO/IME, it’s important to have a balanced approach when working with totems, or other spirits for that matter. I do have to say I’m glad the deck is remarkably free of cultural appropriation–one of the advantages from working with one’s own experiences. So that’s a definite point in its favor.

It is a very useful deck. Toerien offers a nice variety of layouts for the cards, and isn’t dogmatic in how it must or mustn’t be used. And it’s quite possibly one of the loveliest decks I’ve ever seen! van Dobben is an incredible artist, bringing vivacity and brilliant color to each of the birds.

Overall, I think this deck is a good one. I would strongly suggest researching beyond the book when working with an individual bird totem, and also be aware of the “white light” bias of the text. But it’s a nice alternative to some other decks out there. Good stuff!

~review by Lupa

Authors: Jane Toerien and Joyce van Dobben
Altamira-Becht, 2003/Binkey Kok, 2007
158 pages plus 55 cards, $24.95

Please see our other review of this book, HERE.