The Tarot of Bones® is modeled after the traditional 78-card deck, plus the Happy Squirrel card. Each section of the deck–the Major Arcana, the Court Cards, and the Pips–is represented by a particular type of bone. More specifically, each of the Majors and the Courts are associated with an individual species of animal. Here’s a bit more of a breakdown:
Major Arcana: The assemblage pieces for these twenty-two cards each feature a complete animal skull, jaw and all teeth included. I’ve worked hard to select the very best skulls I can find; in a minority of cases I’ve had to opt for a resin replica either because the original was illegal to obtain or I didn’t feel that a real skull could be sustainably obtained.
Court Cards: Like the Major Arcana, these are represented by skulls; however, these cards only use the upper portion of the skull, minus the lower jaw. The skull is joined with a second bone signifying the card’s suit; for example, the Knight of Cups will have a red fox skull (top only) and a red fox rib bone incorporated into its assemblage piece. This signifies that the Court cards are a step above the Pips, but not comparable to the Major Arcana.
The Pips are represented by other sorts of bones in a vertebrate body. The species the bones come from are not as important as in the Court or Majors; it is how the bones are arranged and their functions in the vertebrate body that inspires their symbolism.
Cups: These are symbolized by rib bones, as the ribs are the containers of many of the most vital organs of the body, to include the heart. Traditionally the suit of Cups is associated with emotions, and ribs not only protect the symbolic center of one’s feelings but also have a cup-like shape to them.
Wands: I chose the long bones–femurs, tibias, and the like–for Wands, not only for their shape but their purpose. Wands direct energy; they denote action and choices. The long bones of the legs and feet (or, in fish, fins) carry a vertebrate animal from place to place and are the most obvious source of movement.
Pentacles: Vertebrae are the bones chosen to represent Pentacles. Without a backbone, there would be no vertebrate, and without resources, there would be no life, no activity, no growth. Before a person can achieve loftier goals of enlightenment, they need their basic needs met; the backbone, similarly, was the first part of the skeleton to evolve, and all else radiated out from it.
Swords: Teeth and similar structures are the weapons of many vertebrate animals; they’re also located in the mouth, the source of many forms of communication in the animal world. A vertebrate animal’s teeth and jaws say a lot about how they interact with the world around them, from eating food to carrying other resources around to grooming fellow members of their species.