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Review of The Gilded Tarot

This article was written by > Donald Michael Kraig, Certified Tarot Grandmaster on October 17, 2008
posted under

Summary: A spectacularly beautiful Tarot deck using modern digital art that is firmly based on the Rider-Waite-Smith model—making it easy to use for traditionalists and beginners, as well as a compliment for any book—yet significantly original so it is not merely another RWS clone. Highly recommended as a 21st century replacement for the RWS.

Name of deck:The Gilded Tarot
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN: 0-1387-0520-9
Creator’s name: Ciro Marchetti
Brief biography: Ciro Marchetti (Florida) is an award-winning artist from the United Kingdom. He studied art in London, followed by a career working in Europe and South America before settling in the United States where he opened a design agency in Miami. In addition to managing his company, Ciro also gives workshops and lectures on digital imagery and illustration at the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute, and continues to create his own visionary art.
Name of accompanying book:The Gilded Tarot Companion
Number of pages of book: 168
Author of book: Barbara Moore
Brief biography of author: The Tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the Tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the Tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has been active in the American Tarot Association and has spoken at Tarot conferences around the United States. Barbara’s articles on the Tarot have appeared in several Tarot publications and in Llewellyn Publications’ New Worlds of Mind and Spirit magazine. She has also been on the Tarot Journal editorial board. Barbara’s own education in the Tarot has been and continues to be broad and enlightening. She has studied under renowned Tarot scholars Mary K. Greer and Rachel Pollack, and she has taught the Tarot to all manner of would-be Tarot readers. Barbara has written books for several decks, including A Guide to Mystic Faerie Tarot, The Gilded Tarot Companion, The Hip Witch Tarot, Enchanted Oracle and The Mystic Dreamer Tarot.
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes. Inside the box is the deck, the full-sized book, a box that can protect the deck, and a sheer, black, organdy, drawstring bag for the deck.
Magical Uses: Meditation
Reading Uses: All general uses
Original Medium: Digital
Theme: Medieval/Renaissance with original additions to RWS model.
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Yes, but with original interpretations to some of the symbolism. The Hanged Man becomes The Hanging Man.
Why was deck created?: Although always intrigued by the symbolism of the Tarot, it was a suggestion by Llewellyn that interested him in the project. After further research, his goals for this deck included that it should be based on and pay homage to the Rider-Waite-Smith deck so most users would immediately be comfortable with it an be able to use it, that it should be visually attractive to enrich the reading experience and be of value to collectors, and that it should incorporate a number of original touches and not be just another RWS clone.
The 21st Century Tarot
Until 1910, the field of Tarot design was both rarified and highly varied. In that year, Waite and Smith published their Tarot with Rider. At the same time, Waite and Rider did something quite unique—they published a book that was designed to go along with a new Tarot. This was the first time such a combination had ever been tried. Combined with Waite and Smith’s pictorial designs for the Minor Arcana, a literal revolution in Tarot began, and over the next century, the RWS has become the model against which all other Tarot decks are measured.

The result of this has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s been a blessing because so many books have been published that could apply to the RWS model. It’s been a curse in that any valuable variations have often been overlooked or even shunned, and a huge number of decks have been nothing more than a redrawing of the RWS. So how many copies of the Mona Lisa do we really need? Do we really need the Mona Lisa redrawn with the face of a cat? And yet, that is what so many artists and designers have done with the Tarot.

This leads to a definite problem. How do you create something really new with the Tarot while following close enough to the RWS model as to keep it acceptable to Tarot aficionados? That is, how do you keep it the same, but different?

Perhaps the most ambitious and successful solution has come from Ciro Marchetti in a remarkable deck, The Gilded Tarot. It follows the RWS model, so you can use all of the other books with it. Everything you’ve learned about the Tarot is easily adaptable to this deck. Therefore, there is no reason for me to repeat all of that here.

What is startlingly unique yet comfortingly familiar is the art. The messages of each card are the same as those of the RWS, but the art is frequently and refreshingly new. It is the RWS for the 21st century. I’d like to focus on in the art for the next few paragraphs.

The typical image of The Fool is that of a young man with a staff over his shoulder that has a sack or bag attached. He’s looking up and doesn’t see the crevasse he’s about to walk into. A small dog is at his feet.

The Gilded Tarot shows a harlequin-like figure, a joker, a fool, in brilliant blues and reds. He juggles the symbols of the zodiac above his head. He balances on a staff and behind him, in the distance, is dark planet.

The precarious balancing on the staff corresponds to the traditional walk off a cliff. Here, though, the character stares intently up at the zodiacal signs rather than merely out toward the distance. The meaning is the same, but to me, it adds more. The Fool is the "Divine Fool" who has his mind on more than material interests. Here, it shows that he is looking toward the stars.

The Magician has no altar. He stars out, directly at you, from behind s trimmed beard and long grey hair. Before him dance the tools of the mage—wand, chalice, dagger, pentacle—in brilliant colors and texture. He controls him. He is using his power.

The High Priestess dances on water in a translucent dress of stars. She bends backwards in front of a crescent moon, looking like a classic lamp from the 1920s. The Wheel of Fortune shows the zodiacal wheel around a solar center as part of a bizarre, almost alien machine. The Hanging Man follows this machine concept, but he is dressed in brilliant reds and greens.

Death is another card that is uniquely different than the RWS, but has the same meanings. A ghostly image with black shrouds had a ghastly and realistic skull in a headpiece. He bears a shield with a drawing of a horse and carries a staff with a white flower on a black banner. The Devil shows a muscular figure with flames below and a pentagram behind him. He wears a unique headpiece that has large horns, but also seems to cover the eyes, blinding him. The Star shows the typical woman pouring out fluids from vases. In one vase is sunflower, perhaps hinting at the nature of the Sun as a star. Behind her is a star as part of a bizarre clockwork machine.

The art on all the cards has brilliant, deeply intense colors that are almost metallic. The art is just superb. But as was learned in 1910, for a deck to be successful, it needs more than just art, it needs a thorough accompanying book. The Gilded Tarot Companion is just such a book. It contains the meanings of all the cards, as well as instructions for five spreads. In the section called "The Basics," there is a brief but surprisingly thorough introduction on how to use the cards, including information ranging from how to store a deck to how to ask a question. No, it’s not an advance book, but it does give the beginner more than enough information to become a good Tarot reader.

The Gilded Tarot Companion is an ideal replacement for the RWS with colors and design that are both traditional and new. If you’re already used to the RWS, you might want this as another deck to use when the RWS "isn’t speaking to you." If you’re a professional reader and give clients a choice of decks, this one will appeal to those who are attracted to new things and bright colors.

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