1JJ Swiss Tarot Reviews

The 1JJ Swiss Tarot is an older style of tarot deck, a Marseilles variant. The cards are reprints of early woodcut designs, printed in black and coloured with blocks of red, blue, green and yellow. Titles are in French.

Created by Stuart Kaplan
Tarot Deck - 78 Cards - AGM-Urania 1970
See card images from the 1JJ Swiss Tarot

Review by Steve Gustafson

This was my first Tarot deck. It was not my last. Early on, I became somewhat uncomfortable with it, because of things I was reading. I bought it at a Spencer Gifts or some such purveyor of enlightenment. This would have been in 1975 or so. I would have been around fifteen.

First, most of the books assumed that you owned a Rider-Waite-Smith deck. I found it less than adequate because the RWS deck had all the extra pictures and mystic symbols and this one did not. Then I checked out some library book that said that the Marseille cards had all of this arcane lore connected to the colours and shapes of the original Marseille. And this isn't one of them, either.

But I stuck with it, learning to read it by studying the RWS images in the book and calling them to mind with the pip cards of this deck. This perhaps was not the easy way, but I stuck with it. And later, when I (moved beyond)/(rebelled against) some of the imagery of the RWS scenes, the 1JJ was accomodating, but the RWS scenes are much harder to ignore. You try telling somebody that the RWS Ten of Swords might just mean a looming bar exam.

This would be a "Soprafino" Tarot if it were Italian. The images are finely detailed coloured engravings. But it's a Soprafino that has remained in production to the present day, so what you get are new printings rather than faded reproductions. This will be to some people's tastes, but not everyone's. The colours will be much louder than a reproduction deck.

The deck is a Marseille variant. The most obvious difference between the Marseille and the 1JJ is that Juno and her peacock, and Jupiter and his eagle have been swapped in for the Papess and the Pope. This continues a tradition that began in the Tarot de Besancon. The decks were apparently sold throughout an area that contained both zealous Catholics and zealous Protestants, who didn't want a Pope or a Papess for rather different reasons.

It seems that many current Taroteurs don't want a Papess or Pope either, for reasons of their own. Using the Roman gods gets around them in an insightful way that keeping the old images but renaming these trumps to "The High Priestess" or "The Hierophant" doesn't. It also works better than some other substitutions that have been made in historical decks. In "The Magical World of the Tarot," Gareth Knight praises this substitution as appropriate and insightful.

There are other merits to the Trumps of this deck. Dame Fortuna has been restored to her role as the turner of the Wheel of Fortune, and the figures rising and falling have recovered their humanity as well. The Death card is one of the best Deaths of any deck I know of, traditional, esoteric, or modern: the usual image of the reaping skeleton, but drawn well, unlike the crude skeleton of the original Marseilles.

There are other less successful innovations that have been made here, though. Two of the sacred animals have gone missing from the World. The Fool is a particular failure here; he's been turned into a standard court jester in motley, and has lost his dog, his backpack, and his setting.

My 1JJ is in French. Get the French version if you can find it: this is the original. An English version exists, but in it the Deniers have been made into Pentacles, and the Batons into Wands; this strikes me as anachronistic on a traditional deck.

Used to be that the 1JJ was one of the easiest to find Tarots. There are many more on the market now, and you'd probably have to look for this one a bit harder now. If you attach special significance to the presence of every Marseille symbol, it will not get the job done. But if you are comfortable reading a pip card deck, this deck has both nineteenth century and twentieth century tradition on its side.

Review by Bonnie Cehovet

This deck came to me in a very magickal manner. A friend of my sisters mentioned that she had been gifted with the deck from her brother. I had always wanted to see the deck, and had never had an opportunity to do so. I asked my sister to ask Lori (her friend) to bring the deck with her when she came to visit, as I was going to be there also, to gather some holly for Christmas decorating. Lori gifted me with the deck - saying that she felt that it was time to let it find a new home, that she had other things from her brother that meant more to her. I was humbled and quite eccstatic! I immediately placed it with the decks that I draw a card a day from. It has a very happy home right by my computer.

The IJJ Swiss is a reproduction of a 19th century Tarot deck, somewhat in the Marseilles tradition. The "J's" stand for Jupiter and Junon, Roman equivelants for the Greek Gods Zeus and Hera. They were substituted in this deck for the Pope and Popess, in an effort not to affront the Catholic Church.

The IJJ's one claim to fame is that it was the first Tarot deck presented by U.S. Games. The LWB that came with the deck in minimalist, to say the least. The court cards are named but not discussed, the suits are named but not discussed, the major arcana are named and minimally defined (the cards themselves are in French). The spread presented is the traditional Celtic Cross.

The pips do not show people or scenes, they show just the symbol for the suit. Some readers may find this difficult - I am very attracted to the deck, and do not find this to be a block of any kind. What I do find difficult is that the cards are labled in French - but it is not difficult ot determine which card is which.

The numbering is in Roman numerals, but very different than I have seen before. Temperance (14) is written as XIIII, rather than XIV. Le Soleil (19) is written as XVIIII, rather than XIX. L'Ermite (9) is written as VIIII, rather than IX. The nine of Coupes is written as VIIII, while the other suits are written as IX. L'Empereur is written as IIII, as is the four of Coupes and Deniers. The four of Batons and Eppes are written as IV.

The pictures are done in a very fine line style, colored in with red, gold blue and brown. The major arcana are depicted as very close to the traditional portrayal.

The cards are smaller than a regular size deck - very easy to handle for smaller hands. Even without pictures on the pips, the deck reads easily. This deck could be used without a problem by someone just learning the Tarot or by someone who has been reading for a long time.

Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.

Review by medusawink

For those who live in the city divorced from their natural surroundings there is often a longing for the enigmatic connection to the unknown which nature possesses. For those who live in rural areas, natural beauty and natural ferocity walk hand-in-hand, and often signpost the future. Nature is a medium for prophecy harking back to ancient times. A cursory glance at any list of divination methods will show that both animals and natural phenomena have been used for thousands of years as a method for predicting the future. Roosters, spiders, frogs, dogs, trees, flowers, lightning and thunder, insects, rods and sticks among many others have been 'read’ as a method of predicting events and fortunes. The Wild Unknown Tarot links itself to this ancient tradition and connection with our natural surrounds; and its eldritch and beautiful illustrations perfectly capture mysterious and potent powers of nature.

The cards measure 70 x 120 mm, which makes them a fairly average sized tarot deck. This is a 78 card deck, with 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards. There are no renamed or reordered Major Arcana cards. The Minor Arcana consists of four suits of 14 cards each – Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles. Each suit has 10 number cards and 4 Court cards – Daughter, Son, Queen, and King.

The card stock is light and flexible yet also sturdy. The cards have a smooth, satiny finish and no gloss on them at all, but rather a strange laminated texture. The deck has a nice weight to it, they sit comfortably in one's hands, they are very easy to shuffle, and handle superbly.

The cards come packaged in a solid cardboard box with a lift-off lid. The box is black and painted with watercolour designs from the deck. There is a message of welcome for the Seeker inside the lid. The cards sit on a textured black ribbon which helps the user to lift them out of the box with ease. This packaging is solid and can withstand the rigours of travel. The box is small enough to put into a shoulder bag or backpack without being too bulky.

The artwork is idiosyncratic, and on some cards perhaps a little eerie. The illustrations are largely black and white pen and ink drawings, which are highlighted with watercolours and/or inks. The images are of powerful animal totems such as owls and other birds, horses, cats both large and small, as well as details of nature like twigs and flowers, as well as the sun and moon. The artwork is beautiful and touching and in some places quite foreboding. The background features parallel lines, swirls, and geometric patterns which create a hypnotic effect. The flashes of colour which have been added to some images are vibrant and striking.

Each card has a narrow white border around the central image, and the title is handwritten at the base of the illustration. The image on the back of the cards – white crosshatching on a black background, giving a scaly effect – is reversible. The cards, in their box, are included in a larger box set. The card box sits in a well, atop a long textured ribbon, which is folded to help the user lift out first the guidebook, then the box of cards. The box itself is also made of solid, sturdy cardboard. It has a fold back lid, which is held closed with magnetic clasps. The box is finished in black, with titles and details in stark white.

The 207 page guidebook is written by the cards creator and illustrator Kim Krans. The book itself has lovely production values, with a solid cover and stitched spine. The text inside is handwritten – in an easy, legible script. The contents includes an introduction by the artist/author who describes her motivation and process for creating the deck. There is a short outline of the purpose of both the Major and Minor Arcana.

The Chapter Titled Reading The Cards Has sub-chapters about Getting Readings, What To Ask, Shuffling, Cutting, Spreads, Reverse Cards, and some sage advice about respecting and caring for your cards. Each card has its own double page, one side featuring a full-size reproduction of the card’s illustration, and on the opposite page are keywords, a short description of the card, and a divinatory meaning. The author does not give reversed meanings. Each card is given equal weight in this deck, and the Major Arcana are not given any greater explanation than any Minor Arcana card. While the interpretations themselves are fairly conventional there are many surprising insights and observations scattered throughout the text which makes this guidebook well worth reading.

Everything about this box set speaks of attention to detail and an appreciation of high-quality production values. From the little hidden messages such as the cosmic lemniscate beneath the box of cards to the subtle little arrow indicating the opening on the box set lid, as well as the messages intended for the reader/Seeker – everything has been thought out with great care and with an eye to permanence. The satiny non-reflective surface on the cards, guidebook, card box, and box set have a touch of luxury about them. Even the box set itself is protected by a cardboard dust jacket, which features information about the deck and many images of the cards.

This is a really beautiful box set which any tarot card reader would be happy to have and use. While I wouldn't recommend it for novice readers, anyone with a little experience could use this deck easily. If you love tarot decks featuring animals and the natural world then this is a deck for you. If you like black-and-white decks then the Wild Unknown Tarot is highly recommended. If you are looking for a tarot deck which is idiosyncratic and individualistic, yet also traditional then look no further than the Wild Unknown. Beautiful and highly recommended.

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