Review by Bonnie Cehovet
This is one of two decks that came
to me in a very magickal way - one of the members of
a Tarot e-list that I am on had purchased them for
herself, only to find that she did not connect with them in
any significant manner. I was absolutely thrilled to
take both decks off her hands!
The journey that is the
Renaissance Tarot spanned a period of ten years - the results
show the care, thought and nurturing that was taken
every step of the way. Brian Williams had a life long
interest in both classical and Renaissance art, which he
has translated nicely into the Renaissance Tarot.
After spending a year in studies at the University of
Padua in Italy. Brian took the illustrations and theory
that would become the Renaissance Tarot and used them
as the basis for an independent thesis and project at
the University of California at Berkeley.
One of the
themes that run through this book and deck is the place
that Tarot held in European culture. Brian's stated
purpose with the accompanying book is to provide a
complete guide to the cards, their meanings and their uses.
He also goes into the historical significance of each
of the cards, which is not something that I have seen
done elsewhere. Each card, including the minors, has a
bit of myth in it that explains the archetypal
qualities of the card, For example, the Ten of Swords is the
myth of Paris and Achilles, while the Chariot is the
myth of Aphrodite and Ares.
accompanying book there are a wealth of black and white
illustrations from the Renaissance period. At one point we see
the game of Tarot being played (as taken from a
mid-fifteenth century fresco in the Sala dei Giochi in the Casa
Borromeo in Milan. At another point we see a manuscript
illumination of Mars (the God) from the fifteenth century. At
yet another point we see an engraving of a Satyr
family by Durer from 1505. The list is endless - and
With each of the majors we are treated to a
wonderful description of the card, quite an involved
background into the archetypal myth, and incredible
illustrations, as well as divinatory and reversed meanings. With
the court cards and the minors we see a description of
the card, an abbreviated version of the myth behind
it, as well as divinatory and reversed meanings. Each
section contains a black and white scan of the card.
the end of the book Brian presents a section on Tarot
spreads, including the Celtic Cross, Tetrasky (also known
as the Pythagorean Tetrad) and the Twelve Houses
spreads. An interesting aside on the Twelve Houses spread
is that it is presented in a square format (referred
to as a quadrilateral design), rather than the usual
The cards themselves are 2 3/4" by 5", on
glossy card stock. The backs have a 1/4" white border,
with a bisque colored center containing intricate work
using triple circles resembling Celtic Knots, upon which
reside the medieval symbols for the elements in the four
corners, with four corresponding animals floating within
them. A male and female figure recline in the center,
with their hands held.The almost blandness of the backs
acts as a kind of foil for the wonderfully rich colors
of the card faces. Again we see the use of a 1/4"
white border, followed by a 1/4" gold inner border. The
top two corners of each of the cards contain figures
(some animal, some human, some symbols) that are there
for ornamental purposes only. The title for each card
is across the bottom, in both Italian and
The overall coloring is a well done pastel, with the
figures dressed, for the most part, in Renaissance
fashion. The pips make basic use of the suit symbol, with
animal and human figures added to them that are not
integral to the understanding of the cards. Each suit has
its own color: yellow for Swords, pink for Cups, green
for Pentacles and blue for Staves.
There are two
small changes in the titling of the Major Arcana: the
Wheel of Fortune becomes Chance and Judgment becomes the
Angel. Each time I return to this deck I find something
new to intrigue me. The accompanying book has lessons
of its own to give. I highly recommend this deck to
all students at all levels of study.
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.