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Interview with Ciro Marchetti & Lee Bursten

by Bonnie Cehovet

I was recently graced with a heads up from illustrator Ciro Marchetti (Gilded Tarot) concerning his latest Tarot project, being done in conjunction with well known Tarot reviewer/author Lee Bursten (Gay Tarot). Ciro Marchetti will be doing the illustrations, with Lee Bursten providing reference material and advice, as well as writing the text for the companion material. Entitled the Tarot of Dreams, this project will include a 78 card deck (including illustrated Minors), with a full description and explanation of the cards and their meanings. The package will include the printed deck and a multimedia CD.

I am very impressed with the scope of this project. The CD will include: an additional set of 40 Minors in the Marsailles style, full written and narrated text for each card, optional background music, larger sized animated images of the Major Arcana for meditation purposes (there is a sample card on Ciro's website that is well worth viewing), screensavers, desktop wallpaper and themed letterheads that can be printed out. Incredible!

I am incredibly impressed with the scope of this project. How did it come about?

Ciro: As you know the Gilded was my first tarot deck, I approached it with considerable caution, fully aware of my limited knowledge of the subject and wary of not straying too far from the traditional norms. Aiming for a balance between a RWS based deck that would be familiar to readers, but not so close as to be a clone, and to have a personal edge to it. Tarot deck art has to pass a rigid gauntlet of opposing opinions and expectations from the community, which all but guarantees that no deck will ever be "the" one. The Gilded is no exception, but I was nevertheless very satisfied with the general response, which was for the most part positive. Having said that, as I do with most of my work, I look back, soak it in and feel with the benefit of the learning curve behind me, that I would like to do it differently......The Tarot of Dreams was born :-)

I don't think that there could be two people better suited to work together on a project such as this. How did the two of you get together?

Ciro: Following the experience with the Gilded, I feel far more confident and educated on many of the aspects of tarot, but I also knew that this would still be inadequate for the depth of deck I was visualizing. I originally intended to invite several different writers to participate, giving them each a selection of cards to work with. But after a few conversations and e-mail communications with Lee I was convinced that it would be better for consistency of writing style, and approach to the subject to work with one author. I was aware of Lee's reputation in the community, I was comfortable knowing that his involvement would add credibility to the deck, and allow me the freedom to be more adventurous with my imagery, with the safety net of his feedback and critique to rein in my ideas if I strayed too far. Last but not least I was encouraged by his enthusiasm and belief in the structure and content I was planning for this project. For me that was important.

Lee: For my part, I felt that just as a deck has more power as a statement when it's done by a single artist rather than a collaborative project, likewise the Tarot of Dreams project would benefit from having a single author's perspective. Needless to say, I'm quite pleased to have been chosen for the task!

What made you decide to present this as a multimedia package?

Ciro: I deal in the digital medium on many projects. I appreciated some time ago the power of multi media to communicate ideas and concepts. When I realized how many in the tarot community also use the cards for personal meditation, I started to considered how could I go about enhancing the whole experience. The larger imagery that can be viewed on screen, the narrative, music, and interactivity are all additional ingredients which I feel will add flavor to tarot dish.

What was the catalyst for including the second set of Minors - the Marsailles version?

Ciro: Beyond the preference of one particular deck over another most tarot enthusiasts tend to fall into Marsailles, prefer it or not camps. With a physical deck its economically impractical to produce what would be a 114 card deck in order to provide both options. At least I can provide the Marsailles (or less illustrated minors) as an optional choice on the CD for minimal extra production costs, beyond the physical effort of designing them.

What made you decide to create a deck that would appeal to what can be a very diverse group - Tarot collectors and Tarot readers?

Ciro: I think that a deck if its well produced achieves both. Probably it's the more extreme decks, extremes in theme, novelty, style, or even size that will tend to exclude themselves from the main reading section, and appeal more as collectibles. Hopefully the Tarot of Dreams will into the first category.

I am someone who enjoys seeing and working with esoteric symbolism within a deck. I like what I have seen in the cards that have been done to date. How are you choosing which symbolism to include in each card?

Ciro: This is a result of discussions between Lee and myself, we have considered and reviewed various approaches, new as well as traditional references before deciding on the content.

Lee: The Golden Dawn system of Qabalistic (Hebrew letter) and astrological correspondences was used due to its familiarity with readers. However, there are a few surprises. For example, I've devised an entirely new attribution of cards to Qabalistic Tree of Life paths.

Specific imagery in this deck stands out for me - the Aces and the Knights in particular. Can you talk about the background for these cards - how they came to be birthed?

Ciro: These two cards for me can capture the essence of the suites they represent. The Aces as the primary element or device, usually depicted at its largest size and greatest details, and as such serve as the visual reference point for the remainder of the suite. The knights, once again offer many visual opportunities to reinforce the suite, their stance, their armor, banners, ambiance, and in my case even the "steeds" they ride.

The animated Majors are such a joy to work with. How did this concept come about?

Ciro: Well with all due respect, no matter how well the text is written, there is a limit to what a companion book can contribute, especially once its been read and is familiar. My aim with the random animated sequences is to essentially provide multiple variations on a theme. I like to use the analogy of an illustrated book where every time you open it, the images are slightly different.

This deck will be a wonderful addition to the Tarot world, and may very well open up what the Tarot can do and be for many people. Having seen Lee's work via his well done reviews, I have a sneaking suspicion that the text for this project will be presented in a manner all on its own. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Lee: Actually the card description chapters will follow a more or less standard format, presenting each card in order, and discussing the imagery and symbolism. I plan to include an in-depth discussion about actually reading with the deck, including several sample readings, which is the one thing I wish more deck-accompanying books would have.

What would each of you hope that the Tarot world would gain from this project?

Ciro: In all probability this will be my last tarot deck. It is also a lot more personal, the imagery is more a natural extension of my other non tarot work rather than a separate project. My hope is that it finds a small but enduring place in the hearts and collections :-) of the tarot community.

This is your time. I would like each of you to have your own time here, to say whatever you would like to say about the Tarot of Dreams, the process of its birthing, and the place in the Tarot world that you feel it will hold. (This is, after all, a project that truly pushes the envelope on what can be done with the marriage between current technology and ancient archetypes!)

Ciro: As I mentioned earlier. No deck will appeal to all, indeed this project may well prove more vulnerable than most to criticism from the traditionalists out there in the community, but my intention with the Tarot of Dreams is that despite that, it will serve as a new reference point in the evolution of the genre. Introducing a new means by which to experience the tarot.

Lee: I see this project as an opportunity to create a deck which will, because of Ciro's skill and inspiration as an artist, appeal to readers because of its unusually vivid and evocative images. There are many decks out there but there are only a few designed by top-notch artists. My own opinion is that these card images provide a wonderful opportunity to connect with our own psyches, and I hope others will agree.

I want to thank Ciro Marchetti and Lee Bursten for taking the time to talk to us. This is an amazing project (hopefully to be available in 2005) - may you make your first run a large one, as many people will want to share in the benefits of your genius. To be so thoughtful as to include things like a screensaver, desktop wallpaper and themed letterhead - you are showing where the Tarot world can go, and the things that it can accomplish. I tip my hat to you both!

© 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.

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