Got this one for Christmas, but seeing as it hasn’t been formally introduced, I’m including it in this batch of reviews.
Presentation: Storage box, cards, companion book
Cards: The defining feature of this deck – which has received some criticism for being a “novelty” – is that the cards can be laid out, side-by-side, to form a tableau. As an art and history geek, I like this very much and don’t think it detracts from the usability or performance of the deck at all. The art and story has a Christian theme, but the mystic background of the Grail Quest and Templar tradition runs deeper than this. I think it is entirely possible to use this deck effectively even if you don’t follow a Christian path. The art is very authentic in its style, sticking to the composition, figure poses and colours favoured in the early Renaissance.
The cards are borderless and a little larger than standard (I think?), but still very shuffle-able, with lovely rounded corners. Card stock is firm, but not stiff. Titles appear unobtrusively at the bottom of each card; there are no other glyphs or symbols. The fronts are smooth and matte; the backs are slightly roughened, giving a very interesting texture when held. The card backs are wine red, with a “wax seal” in a lighter burgundy appearing in the centre; non-reversible.
LWB: The companion book is 192 pages and begins by briefly addressing the history of the Templars and the Grail Mystery. Roughly a page-and-a-half is dedicated to each card, showing a sepia-toned image of the card. A description, background explanation and meaning is given for each, with 5 keywords or phrases for quick access. The Majors include a “Grail Question” as well. A 15-page section at the back of the book explains how to work with cards and includes spreads and sample readings.
Lo Scarabeo Tarot Deluxe (Art by Anna Lazzarini. Published by Lo Scarabeo, 2007)
Presentation: Medium-sized storage box (not especially useful), cards, over-sized embroidered & lined (gold satin) black velveteen bag, LWB
Cards: The art for this deck is very… girly, painted in watercolours in muted – but not dull – colours in pretty, pastel shades. It’s a very gentle-feeling deck; friendly. The Majors stick closely to the RWS tradition (at least as far as I can tell) and the Minors are easily recognisable, with the suit elements arranged in a combination of Marseilles and Thoth fashion. The Courts are marvelous! The Knights riding their elemental beasts is a wonderful idea and the Knight of Cups on his dragon is my favourite. My biggest puzzle is The Hierophant’s golden mask. It seems I should know the reference, but it’s buried down deep. I’ll get it.
The card stock and lamination is the standard Lo Scarabeo type, nice and smooth and not too shiny, highly shuffle-able. Card backs are reversible and marked with the LS scarab in light grey on a variegated dull black background. The card borders are gold-toned and frame the images well, but I find there’s too much white next to the already light cards images. This one would probably benefit from a trimming.
LWB: Considering the concept of this deck – marrying the 3 major tarot traditions (RWS, Thoth, Marseilles) – I expected more from the LWB, but it offers only the barest bones for card meanings. For Majors and Minors, only 2 keywords are presented, one “light” and one “shadow”! Really? Yep, really. This is vaguely ridiculous and seriously undermines the potential and goal of the deck. It was designed specifically to commemorate LS’s 20th Anniversary and is a very ambitious project; why not do it justice by including a proper guidebook? This could really have been a very interesting and attractive deck to knowledge gluts like myself who would pay the few extra dollars involved, but I am instead left disappointed, annoyed and frustrated.
Tarot of the Dream Enchantress (Art by Marco Nizzoli. Published by Lo Scarabeo, 2009)
Presentation: Standard tuck-box, cards, LWB
Cards: The art for this deck is by the same artist who did the Secret Tarot and it shares something of the same atmosphere. It is almost as if the decks are sisters, this one being the more sensitive of the two. She experiences visions and is prone to respiratory infections, so she stays indoors and daydreams by the window, while her younger sibling goes off to vanquish dragons and spurn the advances of princes. The images are a mix of washes and fine details, filled with pale-skinned sylphs, nymphettes, dryads and their ilk. It is a land where the skies are perpetually heavy and the air is seldom still; wildness abounds, but there is little threat to the visiting traveller. So come, join us in dream…
The cards are nicely smooth and very subtley laminated; they slide around easily. Borders are very simple and inconspicuous, without the trademark LS titles in 5 languages. I don’t normally see the need for deck trimming, but this one seems like it needs to be freed from its borders… guess I’ll have to invest in a corner rounder! The backs have an antique-looking design of floral motifs done in old gold/olive and forest green. They are quite lovely and fully reversible, but I don’t think they match the feel of the deck. Luckily this is purely an aesthetic factor and does not impede the readability of the deck.
LWB: Now compare this LWB to the one above and you see why I am so miffed about the LS Tarot book. In this one, the cards are each given a small descriptive paragraph that – surprisingly – matches the card images. They veer away somewhat from the RWS and are largely positive – even the “challenge” cards -, but this fits the soft, dreamy theme of the deck. A suggestion on how to work with the deck is included.
Tarot of the Magical Forest (Art by Leo Tang. Published by Lo Scarabeo, 2008)
Presentation: Standard tuck-box, cards, LWB
Cards: Needless to say, I’ve wanted this deck from the moment I saw it! It is anerable and kawaii and definitely a little creepy with all the wide, staring eyes and heavy atmospherics. So, in a word, perfect! The colours are very beautiful and there is a depth to the images that reminds me of standing on a windy moor. The artist has somehow managed to convey the environments in way that is palpable; you can hear the rain, feel the sun, listen to the birds twittering… I like that this is a deck I could read with for others – should that day ever come – including children, as it is completely non-threatening, at least on the surface. Despite its cuteness, the deck has weight. There is a certain eerie silence present in the cards… a stillness and seriousness, like the animals are communicating telepathically.
My favourite card is The Lovers, because it features black and white bunnies. “The Rabbit’s Wedding” is one of my favourite childhood books and it still makes me a little teary to read it. I brought it with me when I came to this fair land, in the event that I got married to the man I came to meet. I did and I gave it to him as a wedding present, inscribed with our wedding vows.
The card backs are really lovely and consist of a tessellation of a partial woodland scene, lit up by lots of little “glows” – fireflys? fairies? The colours are deep and mysterious and the construction of the image draws the eye into the centre and down… down… down… They are fully reversible.
LWB: Like the cards themselves, the card description in the LWB are sweet, without being sickening. The Majors include a message from each of the “Talking Animals” and the Minors an explanation of each of the Kingdoms and their character traits. Minor card description consist of a key phrase only. As the deck is essentially a RWS clone, standard meanings can be attributed to each card.
Via Tarot: The Path of Life (Art by Susan Jameson. Published by Urania, 2002)
Presentation: Very sturdy plastic storage box reminiscent of old-skool video cassette boxes (hee!), cards, companion book
Cards: The artist is clearly talented in her medium of choice and in executing the presentation of the card images. Just from looking at the cards, you can tell that there is Deep Meaning in the pictures and they hold your attention unwaveringly. This is a deck for serious work. I really like the mixture of colour and grey-scale that has been employed in the coloured pencil drawings; the contrast effectively highlights certain areas, especially when figures are plain against coloured backgrounds. I’m a sucker for symbolist art and sacred geometry and these cards do not disappoint. I can see myself using individual cards for meditation purposes; there are plenty of circles and swirls to get swept away on.
These cards are big and trimming them down (there is ample border space) would mean sacrificing the lovely backs :( Many decks reproduce the back design on one of the cover cards, but this one does not. The card stock is sooth and slippery and would shuffle well at a smaller size. As it is, they will slide around very nicely in a table-top shuffle.
LWB: The 165-page companion book starts out strong and then peters out a little towards the end. It begins with the history of the deck and its creation – which is very interesting in and of itself – explaining its roots in Qabalah and the Thoth tradition. The Majors are given 2 pages each, with a full-sized grey-scale image of the card on one and a description of the card and its visual components on the other, including titles, planetary association and path on the Sephiroth. The Courts are similarly treated, with a little less detail, but the pips are only given a single page with card image, title, astrological position and short divinatory meaning. I would have liked to read more about the symbols in the pips, as I know that each little element has some significance in the Thoth. Never mind, there are other books to refer to and this is no great detractor from the book’s usefulness.