Universal Tarot Reviews
The Universal Tarot is a multi-lingual basic tarot deck suitable for beginners. Pamela Colman-Smith's Rider-Waite images have been recoloured and redrawn in a more Italian, dynamic style.
Roberto de Angelis
Tarot Deck - 78 Cards - Lo Scarabeo 2003
Review by Kate Hill
Looking for a Rider-Waite style tarot deck but not keen on Pamela Colman-Smith's original drawings? Take a look at the Universal Tarot, a deck in which the legendary images have been reinterpreted in a more refined, realistic and modern style.
Redrawn by Roberto de Angelis, an Italian painter and comic illustrator, the Universal Tarot keeps closely to Rider-Waite imagery and esoteric symbolism but does not exactly replicate the art in the way of clone decks like the Albano-Waite Tarot or the Colman-Smith Tarot.
The symbols, layout and scenic positions of the Universal Tarot are very similar to the Rider-Waite, but the pen-and-ink lines have been drawn with a lighter hand than the standard RW and the colours are paler, more real. There is also more detail in the images, as though the focus had been sharpened. Faces have more individuality, the sky has blended colour variations, extra objects have been added and the perspective sometimes changes to give the cards a more photo realistic illustrated effect. Fashion styles and people have a more dramatic, Italian look.
The tarot scenes are constrained by a thin white border, on which the titles and numbers are printed in pale blue ink. The titles are printed in six languages: English, Italian, French, Spanish, German and Dutch. The backs of the cards are a reversible white and purple design, and bear an eight-pointed star in a circle motif repeated on the back eight times.
The LWB is the usual foldout leaflet provided with Lo Scarabeo decks. It has a timeline of tarot history, a nine card spread called 'Search for the End' and a list of basic keywords to explain each card. An excerpt of the text for the major arcana:
"VII - The Chariot - Victory, success, conquest, material evolution, honors, acknowledged rewards. Violence, conflict. Resolution of a situation, radical behavior."
The suits have an affinity with an element and 'Sphere' - Chalices are associated with the Sphere of the Spirit, Pentacles with the Sphere of Matter, Wands with the Sphere of the Body, and Swords with the Sphere of the Intellect - but divinatory meanings are even shorter. For example: "2 of Pentacles - Gaiety, fun, play."
For more experienced readers, all the card meanings are probably superfluous. For beginners, I would definitely recommend a generic instruction and interpretation book like Learning the Tarot to assist reading with these cards.
It's faithful to the esoteric and occult symbols of the Rider-Waite images, but displays them with a little more heroism, more dynamism, and more emotion. The Universal Tarot deck, with its multi-lingual titles and attractive artwork, is a very suitable alternative.
Kate Hill is the owner, founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.