Review by Solandia
The concept for the Tattooed Tarot is one of Pietro Alligo’s endlessly inventive ideas, and has been illustrated for these cards by Cristiano Spadoni. “Tattoos as symbols painted on skin: reflections of the soul on the body… a symbol that expresses or completes the personality of an individual, stressing the person’s potential and desires”.
The Tattooed Tarot is very consistent in look; both the majors and minors feature scenes with similar layouts - a tattooed human against a fairly abstract background, and an individual tattoo symbol inscribed above their heads. Minor characters wear the same tattoo symbol on their skin as is picture on the card, while the majors have an associated tattoo symbol but the people themselves have the woodcut-look Marseilles trump images on their bodies.
The people in the major arcana have become ‘living emblems’ of the qualities and archetype of that card. While The Devil card is also a modern person with tattoos and piercings, he appears in similar pose to the historical Devil image on the Marseilles card painted on his chest. In other majors, The Fool is a Jim Morrison-like character, wearing a bead and a leather necklace, with the Marseilles Fool and his dog tattooed on his chest and stomach. He has a flower in his hair, bluish sky behind him, and a feather symbol in the upper right corner. The Magician has the infinity symbol over his head, and holds a candle burning at both ends. Strength holds a kitten on her shoulder, and has a breaking column as her symbol. The Devil is very modern – he has a tongue-piercing, a shaved head, a goatee, and wears earrings in each earring, pirate-style.
The 56 minors are also associated with tattoo symbols, and linked to specific parts of the body. The Kings have a tattoo on the nape of the deck, the Aces have it on their forehead, the Fives are tattooed on the stomach, and so on. The minor cards are also very similar in look to the majors, just with a colour shift in each suit. The Chalices are blue-greens, the Pentacles in yellow-oranges, the Wands a kind of reddish-orange and -yellow, and the Swords are in pale blues.
The imagery and interpretations are generated from a combination of body language, facial expression, and the (sometimes rather strange) tattoo symbol that has been linked with that card. There are Chinese characters, cherubs, abstract eyes, cartoon witches, bikies, Jesus with a crown of thorns, pirates, skulls, naked women, Aztec masks – all of the symbolic images that make the world of tattooing. Almost all of the people on the cards are showing bare skin, and have been illustrated with detailed musculature and a close realism as though they were drawn from photos. A few women wear skimpy tops and bits of material, the men occasionally wear a t-shirt. (Imagine a tarot deck designed for a very hot summer, spent by the beach.)
The faces of the cards have black borders, while the backs are mirrored halves with the tiger of the Five of Wands on a psychedelic green and black striped background.
The 64-page multilingual booklet explains the meaning of each symbol, not just the meaning of the entire card (though that is included as well) as a ‘sentence’ meaning.
The Fool – Flower: innocence, sensitivity. Necklaces: eccentricity, frivolity and a pinch of folly. Feather: a care-free spirit, irrationality. Sentence: free yourself of the weights holding back your ambitions, but keep your feet on the ground.
Five of Chalices – A shark devouring a fish: disgust, tears. Loss. Resignation. S: A lie may cause sorrow, pain and regrets.
Pictorially, the Tattooed Tarot is a curious mix of European historical Tarot imagery in a very modern setting, making for one very novel (and occasionally cheesy) tarot deck. I’d advise against beginners trying to read with it, but it could be a deck to offer to male querents in reading situations – it’s not a feminine-looking deck and there is meaning to be drawn from the symbols and the body language.