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Pagan Tarot (mini) Review

This article was written by Donald Michael Kraig, Certified Tarot Grandmaster on March 16, 2009
posted under

Summary:
A brilliantly drawn deck using images of contemporary Pagans in ritual and everyday situations. Although the meanings are the same as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the new images may be jarring to those not involved in Paganism. However, for Wiccans and Pagans who have some knowledge of Tarotóthe Little White Booklet could be betteróthis deck is perfect to carry with you. The lack of a coating on this deck may make it difficult to shuffle and not last as long as some other decks, but the brilliant and amazing imagery, along with its mini size, make this deck more than worth your use.

Review

One of the difficulties in using the Tarot is the simple act of carrying them with you. Not only are most Tarot decks larger in dimensions than a regular deck of playing cards, theyíre also much thicker. You canít carry them in your pocket, and they practically fill a small purse. No wonder many Tarot sets have drawstring bags to make carrying the decks easier.

Lo Scarabeo, the prolific Italian publisher of some of the most beautiful Tarot decks in the world, has an additional solution, printing several of their decks in a "mini" size of 44 x 80 mm (about 1.73 x 3.15 inches), about 1/3 smaller than most Tarot decks. This makes them very easy to carry with you anywhere and everywhere.

Besides the smaller size, the next thing youíll immediately notice is that these cards are not coated. Most Tarot (and playing card) decks are actually made of three layers glued together and then covered with a coating that makes them glossy and slippery. The coating also seals and protects the card. Because this mini deck is not coated, the images donít "pop" as much as on the coated version, they are slightly tacky and a bit more difficult to shuffle, too. Although Iíve only worked with the deck for a week, itís clear that they will attract finger oils and dirt more easily, meaning that the deck may not last as long as a coated deck. Therefore, if you like this deck, my suggestion is that you get several copies so when you wear out a copy you will still have one to use even if the deck goes out-of-print.

My guess is that Lo Scarabeo decided not to coat the cards to save costs and also shrink the thickness of the deck a tiny bit. My reason for this guess is that the Little White Booklet (LWB) that comes with the deck is not only smaller in dimensions than that found in the full size decks, but also has half the page count. As a result, the LWB is of little value to the beginner, and not helpful for those who are more advanced. Therefore, I would suggest that beginners obtain the complete set in full size that includes an informative book by Pace and leave this mini deck to those who are already familiar with the Tarot. Alternatively, you may wish to get both, the full size version to learn the deck and how to use it and the mini to carry with you. The LWB does include a 5-card spread called the "Personal Pentagram," however the instructions for using this spread consists of a total of 30 words.

The next thing youíll notice is the artwork. Itís simply brilliant. Following in the comic book tradition, the lines were drawn by Luca Raimondo. They depict people of all ages and appearances doing things that Wiccans today might do, from shopping in a grocery store (4 of Pentacles) to playing with your daughter in the backyard (6 of Chalices), from working at a computer (3 of Wands) to curling up hugging your legs because of a broken heart (3 of Swords). All of the lines are very realistic, and theyíre brought to life by the coloring of Cristiano Spadoni, whose use of shadows is striking, giving very clear indications of where the light source is. The result is incredibly dramatic, adding to the realism of the imagery. In short, the art is striking, realistic, and involving.

But the big question is, how does it work as a Tarot? I have to say that will depend upon you. If youíre a traditionalist for whom the only acceptable Tarot symbolism is based on the RWS deck ("Itís okay to eliminate or add to the symbolism, but nothing different, please!") youíre really not going to like this deck. No matter how much the imagery means the same thing as the meanings usually attributed to the RWS deck, the illustrations are just completely foreign.

Letís examine some of the scenes on the Major Arcana. Here, The Fool shows a woman in a white robe, groping in the dark with her familiar, a cat, at her feet. I can see how this has the same meaning as the RWS version of the Fool, but it is different in appearance. The Magician shows an outdoors scene at night. A robed figure is on the ground, casting a spell, with tools all around. The High Priestess shows a white-robed woman leading a coven outside at night. In the distance is a shadowy face of the Goddess. Perhaps the High Priestess is about to (or already has) Drawn Down the Moon and invoked the Goddess. The Empress shows an older woman watching and sharing wisdom as her daughter works in a well-tilled garden and a granddaughter plays/assists. In the background is a statue of the Goddess. The Lovers shows a robed woman with two paths in front of her. One leads to a similarly robed coven and the other leads to a figure with a child. The Chariot shows a young woman sitting on the bumper of a dirty, well-packed station wagon. The Wheel [of Fortune] shows a woman at a computer with a pie chart on the monitor. The Hanged Man shows a woman being blindfolded and having her hands tied in preparation for her being led to initiation into a coven. The Tower shows what appears to be a sexual orgy with one woman in the foreground walking away. The Sun has a woman at the beach casually drawing a pentagram in the sand. Judgement shows a woman in a trance with another leading her to experience a past life. In the background is a scene from that memory, with Witches being hanged.

This deck is creative and clever. Itís absolutely perfect for anyone involved in the study or practice of Paganism, especially Wicca. I was unable to use these cards for any magickal purposes. Somehow, shopping at a grocery store, getting reports from a doctor etc., just didnít appeal to my magickal sensibilities. Also, I didnít find this deck particularly useful for giving readings on specific topics such as travel, romance, etc. However, it was excellent for giving general readings to people who have Pagan interests. People whom I showed this deck to were intrigued by the imagery and either wanted to try it or wanted a general reading.

Some of the reviews Iíve read about this deck didnít like the coloring. They claim there is either little or no use of the color red. While it is true that the deck uses lots of earth tones (Duh! Itís a Pagan deck), I saw red or the use of red in numerous cards. More than likely, what they wee commenting on was the feeling of shadow and darkness (in the sense of shade) that is all over this deck. That was necessary to allow for the exaggerated use of shadow. You donít have long shadows at noon. So I disagree with those who didnít like the coloring. I think it is fantastic.

The one disagreement I would have with the design of this deck is with the elemental associations for the suits. In ceremonial magick, the tradition is generally Cups are Water, Pentacles are Earth, Wands are Fire and Swords are Air. In most Pagan traditions Swords are Fire and Wands are Air. This deck follows the ceremonial magick associations. I think for a Pagan deck it would have made more sense to use the Pagan associations. However, this is a minor quibble.

So I would say this deck is not good for meditation or magick or readings on specific questions. However, it is perfect and highly usable for giving general readings to people of a Pagan persuasion. This goes in my stack of decks to give readings for specific types of people.

Name of deck:Pagan Tarot (Mini)
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN: 0-7387-1236-1
Creatorís name: Gina M. Pace
Brief biography of creator: Ms. Pace, also known as "Wicce," is a Wiccan who has been reading and teaching the Tarot for over 25 years. Her popular wicce.com website is a focus for many people seeking reviews and information on the Tarot.
Artistsí names: Luca Raimondo, coloring by Cristiano Spadoni
Brief biography of artists: Luca Raimondo illustrated Tarot of Casanova, Olympus Tarot (with concept by Manfredi Toraldo) and Pagan Tarot. Artist and comic book illustrator, he is renowned in Italy and France for his historic reconstruction and stories. Cristiano Spadoni has worked on numerous Tarot decks and was the costume illustrator for the film, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou."
Name of accompanying booklet:Pagan Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 32 (8 in English)
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes, but only with the full sized version of the deck.
If yes, are there extras in the kit?: Yes, a full-sized book by Pace and a beautiful bag to hold the deck.
Magical Uses: None
Reading Uses: All general purpose readings.
Artistic Style: Realistic
Theme: Wicca in modern life.
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Tarot
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Yes in name, if not in image.
Does it have extra cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: Just the standard Lo Scarabeo differences: The Wheel of Fortune becomes The Wheel, and The Star becomes The Stars.
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: Cups are called Chalices.
Does it have alternate names for the Court Cards?: Yes. Instead of Page, Knight, Queen, King they are Elemental, Novice, Initiate and Elder.
Why was deck created?: The Tarot was designed to depict the life of a contemporary Witch dealing with modern issues but who allows her spirituality to flow in harmony with common events in daily life.

When Lo Scarabeo asked me to create a Pagan-based casting kit, I was excited for a number of reasons. I love crystals. I love challenges. I loved the idea of creating a system that is complete in itself but also open to expansion and personalization. Although I wasn't sure what the kit and packaging would look like (sometimes a lot gets lost... read this article
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