The Labyrinth Tarot takes the reader on a journey, as all labyrinths do. The theme is subtle, woven symbolically throughout the deck by way of evocative imagery, astrological symbols, Hebrew letters, and other symbols. While the feel is esoteric and mysterious, the accompanying booklet provides clear, practical interpretations.
There are two main ways to approach a new deck. One is to flip through the images and see what your immediate response is. The other is to make an analytical overview to determine the system and intent of the creator. Most of us do both, beginning with the flip through. Often, if the reaction in flip through is negative, the analysis will not change that reaction. It may however bring an appreciation and further our knowledge and understanding. So, the next time your immediate reaction is negative, I encourage you to approach the deck on its own terms and learn what you can about it and from before moving on.
My initial flip through The Labyrinth Tarot brought a roller coaster of reactions. Because of the name I wanted to love the deck, so my expectations were elevated. The art is monochromatic, which is not my favorite in a Tarot deck, so my hopes sank a bit. But the art is very nicely rendered and quite mysterious, so I was intrigued. Overall, my journey through the major arcana was positive…and then I got to the minor arcana.
Marseilles-style decks are one where the minor cards 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. In Europe, the Marseilles-style decks are the most favored. This is a Spanish deck, so it is not surprising that it follows the European tradition.
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.
After flipping through the cards, I settled in for some analysis. Being a Marseilles-style deck, Strength is numbered 11 and Justice is 8, the opposite to what most Americans are used to. In addition, the Fool is not numbered 0, but is completely unnumbered. Judgement is numbered 20, as usual, but the World is numbered 22, which is not usual, even in Marseilles decks. This numbering and sequence is not unheard of, but it is unusual. I’ve read of it but have never seen it in practice. The theory is that the Fool exists between Judgement, 20, and the World, 22. But it is not 21. Nothing is 21. And the Fool is nothing. It’s very odd and probably very esoteric and meaningful. However, I don’t completely understand it myself and so I cannot tell you more about it.
The Majors have between 4 and 6 small symbols on them, including two astrological symbols (a planet and a sign) and a Hebrew letter. I am not sure what the other symbols are, as I do not recognize them and the booklet sheds no light on them. Another interesting difference from the Rider-Waite-Smith-style decks is in those decks the High Priestess and Hierophant are usually shown between pillars. In this, The Labyrinth Tarot, the Magician, Empress, Emperor, and High Priest (Hierophant) are shown between pillars, but the High Priestess is not.
The court cards have an interesting difference as well. In place of Pages are Jacks, which in this deck are all female. I already noted that the Majors are monochromatic, rather sepia but more of a grayish-brown than brown. The suits are not true monochromatic but each one leans toward a certain color palette (red, yellow, blue, and green), so much so that you can tell the suits in a spread simply by looking at the color.
As I mentioned earlier, the booklet gives short, straightforward interpretations. For example, the 3 of Cups: Emotional satisfaction. Success in love, pleasurable sexuality, good luck, victory and talent. Happiness.
A few spreads are included (but not explained in depth).
Do you wonder why it is called The Labyrinth Tarot when up until now there is no mention of such structures? A labyrinth is a deceptively simple creation. A single line creates a path that goes to the center, the heart of the space. That same line leads one on the only way out. The journey to the center and the journey out of the center are technically the same. But they are not. They are not because the walker is different. Once they make their way to the middle, they are changed. The person who walks out is not the same as the one who walked in. This deck is not a typical theme-deck. It does not feature pictures of labyrinths. Rather, each card is a labyrinth. If you enter it or them and reach the center, you will come away changed.
This deck would be most appealing to people interested in decks from the Marseille tradition and in esoteric symbolism, particularly those who favor delicate, subtle art and decks that stretch their spiritual and intellectual muscles.
Name of deck: The Labyrinth Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Creator’s name: Luis Royo
Brief biography of creator: Born in Olalla, Spain, in 1954, Royo is known for painting fantasy worlds and mechanical life forms, as well as dark, apocalyptic imagery that is often quite sensual. He became fasincated with comics in the late 1970s and has gone on to work for Heavy Metal magazine. In 1998 he released The Black Tarot. In 2004 he published The Labyrinth: Tarot. In 2009 he published the book Dead Moon.
Artist’s name: Luis Royo
Name of accompanying booklet: The Labyrinth Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 93, 21 in English
Author of booklet: Luis Royo
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? If yes, what are they?: No
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: No alternate names, just alternate numbering: Fool is unnumbered, Justice is 8, Strength is 11, The World is 22.
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: No
Does it have alternate names for the Court Cards?: Page is called Jack.
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.