The Crystal Unicorn Tarot by Pamela Chen and illustrated by Lisa Higuchi lets the unicorns and rainbows loving child in you become the Oracle. With the standard symbology of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck in place, this deck is interchangeable with the original Rider pack.
This deck was blowing up everyone’s feed a while back, and I can totally see why. They are absolutely adorable. Like the extra card, “Donut Worry.” That the Donut Worry card is a cheeky bonus the way the Happy Squirrel card is and this one features a little squirrel by the unicorn… Omg. ::dies::
Candy colors remind me of the pre-Kindergarten girl I used to be, getting up early on weekday mornings to watch cartoons. (My personal favorites, if anyone’s asking, were My Little Pony, Glo-Worms, Strawberry Shortcake, and Care Bears.) By the way, a world-renowned psychologist and professor did research on beneficial effects of kawaii on us, which I’ll get into toward the end of this review, reinforcing why a deck like Crystal Unicorn holds such power.
The cards feature two unicorns, one with pink hair and one with purple hair, and they’re the two protagonists that appear throughout the scenes. The Fool’s Journey becomes a story of love, or maybe friendship, or both.
Crystal Unicorn Tarot reminds me of my girlhood because in my grade school years, I loved sketching unicorns. One time my father sat down and observed me doodling unicorns (horse figures), but didn’t voice any comment. A short while later, there was a hardcover drawing reference book on horses waiting for me on my bedroom desk. Unfortunately I was eight years old and the drawing reference book was most likely intended for university-level art major students, so it went straight over my head and I absorbed nada.
You’re going to love how easy-to-read this deck is, how familiar it’s going to feel in your hands, with zero barrier of entry. You know how sometimes you get a contemporary tarot deck that’s supposed to be based on one of the popular systems, say, the RWS, and you would consider yourself well-versed in the RWS, but there are legit cards in that new deck that you cannot for the life of you guess what it is? Not the Crystal Unicorn Tarot! What I really appreciate about this deck is anyone familiar with the RWS can guess, without those captions, what card is what.
Like the Witchling Academy Tarot (though Crystal Unicorn pre-dates Witchling), Chen has built a well thought out, comprehensive, fully-formed world. Here, tucked beyond a hidden fold in the astral realms of magical tarot worlds is a land of crystal unicorns. Though normally we can only see these crystal unicorns if we really concentrate and trust our intuition, this tarot deck will reveal their world to you, and if you present your questions to the unicorns of this world of “rainbows and gemstones . . . in a magical forest,” the unicorns will “look up in unison,” hear your question, and talk back through the language of these mystical cards.
I love that world-building, when a deck creator is casting an experience for you to engage with.
Chen operates a metaphysical shop that sells crystals, and she’s worked her industry knowledge into a set of correspondences that you’ll find in the guidebook. The Magician corresponds with quartz crystal, for instance; The High Priestess with moonstone; The Empress with emerald, etc. I love this for so many reasons. You can transfer this knowledge to your general tarot practice, beyond Crystal Unicorn.
The crystals and gemstones correspondences are for the Majors only, however. I love that concept of working with tarot and crystals together, and using crystal correspondences to enhance your divinatory and also playful-spiritual work with the cards. The guidebook also provides card interpretations and keywords written in a tone that is accessible, fun, and relatable.
This deck is fantastic for all ages, and yes, I’d absolutely feel comfortable handing this deck to a child, or reading tarot for a child with this deck and having the child look up card meanings on his or her own in the LWB.
In terms of production quality, top notch. Really nothing at all to gripe about. It’s a nice, sturdy totally matte cardstock, no gilding, which gives the edges a natural kaleidoscopic candy-like wash of multiple colors (you’ll see a photo further down in this review), and will definitely withstand wear and tear. You can really work with this deck.
For those looking for RWS-faithful decks, this is one of them, not just in terms of the compositions, but right down to the details, like the W or reversed M on the Grail in the Ace of Cups to the red feather cap on the unicorn in the Nine of Cups.
What I most appreciate about this deck is the depth of knowledge that is embedded into the crafting of the Crystal Unicorn Tarot. This isn’t someone waking up one morning and deciding to create an RWS deck with unicorns supplanting people. There’s care here, attention to detail, and a very close study of the RWS that informs the creative direction of these cards.
One thing I always like to do for my reviews is to look up the illustrator and get a sense for the artist’s point of view. These tender-pretty works were done by Lisa Higuchi in what looks like watercolor and ink. But then she’s also a fashion designer, and launched Tanroh, a ready-to-wear womenswear line based out of Los Angeles.
The clothes she designs is essentialist, aesthetically neutral, which I’d even describe as aloof, with some notable urban KoreAm street fashion inspiration. Not in a million years would I have guessed the designer of that style of womenswear would also be an illustrator with this pink-and-purple schoolgirl aesthetic. The creative range is pretty impressive.
Pamela Chen, the creator behind Crystal Unicorn is a spiritual life coach, healer, and also created the Witchling Academy Tarot published by Llewellyn, which I reviewed here. Chen’s book, also by Llewellyn, Enchanted Crystal Magic, is now available for pre-order and will launch later this year.
There’s inspiration taken from Japanese pastel kawaii subculture, which has become a signature style to Pamela Chen’s brand. You’ll see it in the Witchling Academy Tarot as well. Kawaii aesthetics intersecting with tarot makes sense to me, or at least I see why it’s trending right now.
The art style is heart-warming and subconsciously conveys safety. To feel kawaii, in the context of East Asian contemporary culture, is to physically embrace something you find cute, evoking a strong desire to protect that which is cute. Prof. Hiroshi Nittono of Osaka University is a cognitive psychophysiology researcher who has been studying the kawaii phenomenon. His research has found that feeling kawaii, or that which cuteness triggers, is a positive stimulus that heightens our ability to systematically process the world around us.
Kawaii art such as that found in Crystal Unicorn Tarot is a form of cute engineering that can, according to research, positively modify your behavior so that you are more focused and attentive to the tasks at hand. How fascinating is that! In other words, this deck isn’t just for cute’s sake– there could very well be a scientific reason for why it opens up your channels of intuition.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the deck for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion.