Review by Spacegoat
At last! A deck from Lo Scarabeo that is (mostly) faithful to the traditional (Golden Dawn) meanings of the cards. Most importantly however, here is a deck into which a great deal of love and care has been poured. Thank you!
Fans of Lo Scarabeo’s Art Nouveau Tarot will recognise Antonella Castelli’s style immediately. However, the Art Nouveau deck (published almost 10 years ago in 1998, one of the first 78 card decks that Lo Scarabeo published), despite its art being of equal if not better quality, doesn’t express the traditional meanings on the majority of the minor arcana. The Sorcerers deck does - admirably.
My first impression of the deck (simply from looking at the image chosen for the back of the box) was ‘oh no, not another deck whose magician looks like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings’. However, I had to remonstrate with my occasional inability to faithfully express the Buddhist ‘assume nothing!’ credo upon realising that ‘Gandalf’ actually illustrates the ace of pentacles.
This is not an adolescent, ‘witchy’, Lord of the Rings or Barbie doll tarot. It contains real magic, amidst some beautiful and imaginative Celtic lattice-work. Many of the images within the deck appear under arcs, as per the Art Nouveau tarot. There is an eclectic mix of imagery from Greek folklore, including a Siren on Judgement, and Chronos on Death, complete with scythe and hour glass. Greece is nominated on the Devil too, in the shape of a happily pipe-playing Pan.
Many of the minor arcana’s protagonists are children. The LWB expresses the reason for this beautifully: ‘Magic is a feeling that accompanies the individual from childhood to adolescence and adds spice to every experience.’ ‘At times it seems like even love and hate are expressions of an indescribable power. And so the magic of childhood clearly and consciously returns.’ ‘This is why Magicians are always young: they know how to find the magic of childhood inside themselves.’
What impresses me about a tarot deck? The artist’s ability to express the traditional meanings of the cards in a unique way. In this deck, although the Waite-Smith occasionally makes its presence felt, there are many unique images which give the mind something new to chew on. My favourites amongst these? The 2 of cups, where (to my perception) a woman admires herself in a mirror, however the reflection is not her. The implication seems to be that sometimes we fall in love with those who look similar to us, and who return our admiring gaze. However, the reflection is surrounded by some mischievous-looking elves/gremlins.
My favourite from the pentacles? The 6, showing a young girl about to kiss a frog. Perhaps this expresses the belief that trust, and the suspension of disbelief, can attract magic into our lives. My favourite from the wands? The 2, which acknowledges the Waite-Smith in an inventive way, by showing a man holding a crystal ball with a blue Dragon within it, instead of a globe showing the continents. My favourite from the swords? The 9, where a huge stage beetle attacks a man who falls with one arm raised to defend himself. This cleverly intimates that our nightmares are made much bigger than they really are by an uncontrolled and unreasonable mind.
There is much to enjoy in this deck. Don’t forget to buy the Art Nouveau Tarot too, if you can find it.
SpaceGoat is a music-therapist and teacher, based in London, UK. His current music project can be heard at MySpace and if you have time on your hands and love the guitar, you may also like to visit his works at Youtube.