Much sought after in the US because of its beauty, the Favole Tarot is a unique Marseilles-style deck. Adding to its gothic aesthetic are the creative suits: butterflies, masks, flowers, and crosses. Vampires, clowns, Witches, and ghosts mingle among the ruins with humans, all sharing and experiencing the exquisite romance of life, love, and death.
Every time I see the Favole Tarot, I am struck almost breathless with its beauty. While I am a long way from a teenage girl and adolescent angst, my inner romantic (in the literary sense) responds almost physically to these images. For many years it was only available in Europe or in the States at Tarot conferences.
Because it is a Spanish deck, it follows the European, Marseilles-style tradition. These decks have minor cards that are not illustrated, but are instead true pips. They have only the suit designators on them. Not many American readers use Marseilles-style decks, although that is changing. In recent months, I’ve noticed more teachers and more classes on the subject. Interestingly, these teachers seem to be mostly male; Tarot is traditionally a female-dominated audience.
Over the years, I’ve collected a number of decks in this tradition. So many of them have art that takes my breath away. But I never learned to read Marseilles pips. Instead of giving them away or selling them, I use only the Majors, which works well with a variety of spreads, or in conjunction with other decks. One of the wonderful things about Tarot is that there is room for creativity.
The minor arcana pips are made more alluring and interesting because they are not the usual cups, swords, wands, and pentacles. Instead the cards are adorned with butterflies, masks, roses, and crosses. For those who like reading pips, these will add to the overall tone of the experience. The booklet, however, uses the traditional names, so there is some confusion. I think the Flowers are Cups; Butterflies, Air; Masks, Pentacles; and Crosses, Wands.
The court cards are traditional (although the Page is called Knave, a fairly common substitution). Overall, the court cards are interesting and evocative. I do have one small complaint. One appealing aspect of Tarot is the structure. Our minds are hardwired to see patterns and systems. This deck starts out doing something interesting with the Knights. They are all statues…except the Knight of Masks. It would have been more satisfying if they were all statues. As it stands, it seems like a lost opportunity. I could discern no symbolic reason for only three to be statues. The closest I came was that the Knight of Masks (Pentacles) in traditional decks isn’t moving at all, so to have him (actually in this deck a “her”) be the only one in this deck that can move does have some irony. Perhaps this is it and I’m simply not young enough to appreciate the cleverness of it all.
The major arcana are fairly recognizable to anyone familiar with the trumps. Most are simply beautiful or moving or both. I’ll note here some particularly interesting ones. The High Priestess concerns me. I’m not sure if this is a mistake or intentional, but the Priestess looks as if she is meant to be a Witch, because behind her is a cauldron with a pentagram on it and she wears a crescent moon on her forehead and throat. However, around her neck is an upside down pentagram, indicating the elevation of the material over the spiritual…and not a symbol used in Paganism or Wicca…and I’ve not seen it used in Witchcraft, although perhaps it is. The Emperor sits on a balcony high above the city he helped create. Next to him sits only a gargoyle, stonily silent forever. It is a very poignant image. Death is a beautiful young woman lying dead in a pond, amongst lily pads, flowers in her hair. She makes me want to recite “The Lady of Shalot.” Temperance was very interesting: a ghost holding a candelabra walking/floating through a church. The idea of transience, being both spirit and flesh (her feet are ghostly and she becomes more corporeal up her body toward her head), being in a dark church and shining light. The church is a place for spiritual life and also for the end of physical life. The layers of opposites is stunning. The Sun is hands-down the most bittersweet Sun ever. But also beautiful; tender, not morose.
The booklet contains information that alarms me. For example:
“The majority of tarot experts admit that most probably tarot cards were first used in Europe and the western hemisphere by gypsies.”
“It is most probably that the Tarot or Book of Thoth, originally The Book of Life, originated in ancient Egypt.”
It annoys me to no end that these stories are still told when we have perfectly good historical evidence that documents a good portion of Tarot history.
There are other useless bits, but I won’t waste pixels or whatever typing them here.
That said, the card interpretations are not horrible…standard little white booklet fair.
This is one time I will say with no regret…throw the booklet away and just read the cards.
Name of deck: Favole Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Creator’s name: Victoria Francés
Brief biography of creator: Francés was born in Valencia in 1982 and stuided Fine Arts at the Facultad de Bellas Artes de San Carlos. While there she worked as an illustrator for book covers and other pieces. Her own first illustrated book was titled Favole, a remembrance of Venice, Genoa and Verona. She is influenced by the pre-Raphaelites and Gothic Romanticism.
Artist’s name: Victoria Francés
Name of accompanying booklet: The Favole Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 75, 15 in English
Author of booklet: Victoria Francés
Available in a boxed kit?: No
Magical Uses: None
Reading Uses: General
Artistic Style: Surreal
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Tarot, Marseilles Tradition
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: No, it is Marseilles tradition
Does it have extra cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: No alternate names, just alternate numbering: Justice is 8, Strength is 11
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: Butterflies, masks, flowers, and crosses
Does it have alternate names for the Court Cards? Page is called Knave
Book suggestions for Tarot beginners and this deck: Any book on the Marseilles tradition.
Book suggestions for experienced Tarot users and this deck: Any book on the Marseilles tradition.