Review by Talisman
In her book, "Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom",
Rachel Pollock relates the story of how in the winter of
1969-70 when she was teaching in upstate New York and it
was 30 degrees below zero, she searched for weeks to
find her first Tarot deck, finally locating one in a
little shop in Montreal.
That's how it was back then.
No internet, of course. Just a few years later, when
I was searching for my first Tarot deck, I had no
such problems. I found a little shop that had an
enormous selection. They must have had half a dozen
different decks. Let's see, there were probably several
versions of the Smith-Rider-Waite, the Thoth, perhaps the
Morgan-Greer, and the Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini, which I
The little white book, actually a fold-out, that came
with the deck, first published in 1970 by Morgan Press,
described the Aquarian as an "authentic interpretation of
the medieval Tarot". Actually, of course, the deck is
an interpretation of Smith-Waite. To give you
another touch of the flavor of those times, the fold-out's
introduction begins: "In this the dawning of the Age of
Aquarius the Tarot cards are enjoying a revival of interest
. . ." Although the deck does not seem to attract
much interest, it has not fallen by the wayside, but is
still being published by U.S. Games Systems.
This is a
"traditional" deck, consisting of 78 cards, 22 in the Major
Arcana and 56 in the Minor Arcana, divided into four
suits -- Cups, Swords, Pentacles, and Rods. There is a
white border (in my old deck the white has turned a pale
ivory) around the cards. In the majors the card title is
worked, often elaborately, into the design and a Roman
numeral tops each card. The minors are titled at the
bottom of each card.
Palladini is a graphic artist, and
the cards are designed in Art Deco decorative style.
Art deco originated in the late 1920s and was derived
from cubism and based on geometric forms. The style
was experiencing a revival in the 1960s when this deck
The colors have a muted, melancholy
feel, as if seen by moonlight. This makes the
occasional spot of bright color jump out, as in the Death
card, which shows a close-up of a skeleton wearing a
helmet and carrying a black banner with a gray rose,
while in the distance a blood-red sun glows as it sets
behind hills and two towers.
The minors are very much
Smith-Waite, if you can imagine the camera dollying in close on
the scene for a tight focus, and then the whole thing
rendered in art deco style. The court cards are close up
portraits. Faces are mostly shown as serene and thoughtful,
lost in the world of their own contemplation, unaware
that you are even looking at them. Many seem sad.
Skies in this deck are often left white, but other times
they are watercolored and often stormy, in soft and
strange contrast to the rigid geometric
Palladini took greater liberties with the majors, although
his preference is still for close-ups. We see the
Hermit partially from behind, hooded, cloaked, and
holding a lantern. The Fool is a close-up of a youth
elaborately costumed with a plume on his cap, holding his
staff and a white rose. He, too, appears lost in
thought. The Sun is a round face with elaborate geometric
rays. I always liked the form at the bottom of the
card, which to me looks like an open book. The Star is
a peacock with a strangely designed star in the sky.
In the Lovers, the couples' elaborate costumes are
so intertwined you can't tell where one begins and
the other ends. In the lower right corner is what
looks like a Japanese print.
One of my favorite cards
is the High Priestess, shown contemplating a flower
she holds in her hand. A butterfly is perched on a
leaf of the flower. She wears a black gown printed
with oak leaves, and a string of colored beads falls
across one shoulder. Next to her are two scrolls, B and
J. Behind her is a red veil printed with
pomegranates, often seen as both a feminine symbol and a symbol
of hidden knowledge. The veil is pulled back to
reveal mountains in the distance, and a castle in those
mountains. In front of the mountains is a lake, which
reflects a path to the castle.
In 1996 Palladini published
a second deck, the New Palladini, which I find more
conventional and less interesting than the first.
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
I had two immediate reactions to
this deck: I disliked the blue/white backs as being too
busy and distracting, and I was drawn to the style of
the cards themselves.
The colors are soft and muted,
the style very old world. There is a quarter-inch
white border on all of the cards, with a heavy black
line delineating the inner portion of the card. The
courts and pips are titled at the bottom of the card,
black on a white background. The lettering is very
stylized, and distracting to me.
The portrayal of the pips
and courts is fairly traditional, a la Waite, and so are most of the major arcana. My favorite would be the High
Priestess - shown holding a single rose and gazing intently
into it - clearly in another world, and quite ready to
take us with her!
The majors are titled at the bottom in black
lettering. The position of the title, as well as the size and
style of the lettering vary, and again I find them distracting.
(Perhaps I need to say here that Mr. Palladini is a graphic
artist, and this is where the 'feel' of his cards is
There are other majors that are much less traditional
- the Moon, the Sun and the Star in particular. The
Moon shows a large white circle with a face, which is
fine, but then there is a large blue blob to the left of
the circle - perhaps meant to convey the illusionary
nature of the Moon, but the point never got across to
me. The Star shows a peacock, above which is a stylized
multi-colored star. Absolutely no sense of opportunity that is
The Sun is again very stylized - showing a
large circle with a face in it and multiple bands of
color radiating from it. Actually, this looks more like
what one would think the Moon would be like.
said all that - I do find the Aquarian Tarot attractive, and readable. I think it would be also good for
© Bonnie Cehovet
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 William ReMine
The reviews of the various Tarots disclose a bias against the Rider-Waite cards and other decks, such as the Aquarian Tarot, that are derived from the Rider-Waite. So, let me offer a suitable counterpoint.
What makes the Rider-Waite and the Aquarian so powerful and enduring is the symbolism embodied in the artwork - a symbolism that evokes profound responses from the Unconscious mind. I happen to prefer the Aquarian (as I have for the past thirty years) because the artwork is cleaner and contains some subtle touches that make the cards more meaningful for me. One of those touches is the way the faces of characters in the cards tend to be somewhat ethereal, showing less of the underlying personality than the Rider-Waite.
For me, there is more focus in the Aquarian Tarot on what the card as a whole represents. But in the end, I like the system of the Aquarian, the Rider-Waite, the B.O.T.A., the Universal Waite because of the responses they evoke from the Unconscious.