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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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.