The Legacy of the Divine Tarot is the latest (and, according to the artist, the last) tarot deck created by Ciro Marchetti. He sees it as his legacy to the tarot community and the culmination of his own spectacular journey.
The journey began in late 2002. Back in those days, artists sent portfolios to the art department. The portfolios were kept in boxes, which we called the “slush pile.” The art director and her staff would periodically go through the slush pile looking for new artists to create cover art, illustrations for book interiors, or images for our calendars. These days almost all portfolios are sent in electronically, so the slush pile doesn’t really have the same feeling. It used to be like a treasure hunt, searching through the boxes and finding so much amazing art.
One day Hollie (then the art department assistant and technical genius) brought a portfolio to me. She said that although it wasn’t tarot art, it somehow felt like the artist had a feeling for tarot. And there were, if I remember correctly, some astrological illustrations. She thought I might like it. She was right. I loved it.
So, out of the blue, I called Ciro and asked him if he would consider making a tarot deck. He did. Like The Fool, he jumped right in, immersing himself in the world of tarot. The resulting deck, the Gilded Tarot, has been printed in many languages and has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide.
After that experience, Ciro realized how much he didn’t know when he created the Gilded Tarot. So he set out to create another, the Tarot of Dreams, self-published in 2005.
But Ciro’s tarot journey wasn’t over yet. As he increased in tarot understanding and artistic skill—both of which were already considerable, he had a vision, a dream, and he knew he had to create one last deck: the Legacy of the Divine Tarot.
Many of us in the tarot community watched this deck come into being as Ciro posted images on his website and on community boards and showed them at tarot conferences, such as the Readers Studio. Last year, Ciro created a special edition package of this deck, with a hard cover book and many wonderful “extras.” It is indeed a treasure and has a cost worthy of such a treasure. The special edition kit was beyond the budget of many, and so most of us waited, with varying degrees of patience, for the affordable Llewellyn edition.
The wait is over and people are starting to receive their copies. The overwhelming consensus is that the wait was worth it for so many reasons. Let’s take a look at a few of those reasons: the concept, the book, and the cards.
Perhaps paying homage to the stories of tarot originating with the ancient Egyptians or the people of Atlantis, or perhaps based on an actual experience, or maybe it was just a dream—or perhaps all three, the Legacy of the Divine Tarot is based on the idea that an evolved civilization knew of its own impending demise and wanted to leave of message to any future beings, a collection of what they achieved, knew, believed, loved, and feared—their Legacy.
There is something about this approach that strikes me as very brave. The recent trend has been toward insisting on historical accuracy (in terms of the tarot’s origin), psychological and empowering methodology (in terms of usage), and practical, cognitive design (in terms of themes and structure). In short, a lot of the mystery has been removed from the theory and practice of tarot. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I just don’t think it should be the only thing. Because of this, I love the fact that Ciro has presented us with a tarot deck that starts, as they say, “shrouded in mystery,” which nicely leads us to a discussion of the book.
The book begins with the beginning of a story: “I assume that at some time in our lives, most of us have experienced a dream so vivid and in such detail that when we wake up we question if it was just a dream or if it was perhaps something more…. Unless, of course, you actually experienced a dream like I did, a dream that left my rational thoughts and logical arguments in disarray. A dream that led me to the only conclusion possible: that it actually happened.”
I remember the editorial board meeting when we discussed this book. People were asking me all sorts of questions. Shouldn’t we have an introduction where Ciro sets things up for the reader? Shouldn’t we say who the narrator is? Is it Ciro or is it some other character? Shouldn’t we say that this is a section of fiction? It is a section of fiction, isn’t it?
It didn’t take much to convince them that all this was part of the experience, that tarot, story, myths, mystical experiences, encounters with the Divine are, by their nature, ambiguous. To insist on imposing clarity would be to destroy the magic. We needed to lead with the story and let each reader define the experience for him or herself.
After the story, the rest of the book provides the clear guidance that most of us expect from a companion book to a tarot deck. But even here, Ciro has done something unique. For each card, he gives his thoughts and notes. In addition, we get insight on each card from four other tarot scholars: Wald and Ruth Ann Amberstone (founders of the Tarot School), James Ricklef (author and deck designer), and Leisa ReFalo (host of the Tarot Connection and publisher). Leisa also shares her wisdom and experience in a section that teaches how to do readings as well as five new spreads designed for use with the Legacy of the Divine Tarot.
And now, at long last, the cards! The cards are probably the most exciting part of this wonderful package, and yet, I hardly know what to say about them. Every once in a while, you come across something that has a certain something, a certain life, a certain magic that goes beyond knowledge and skill. The Legacy of the Divine Tarot has that. They are beautiful to look at. They are easy to get lost in. They contain esoteric symbolism. They evoke immediate reactions. Some decks do one or some of these; it is a rare instance when a deck does them all. Maybe I should just let the images speak for themselves. It was so difficult to select just a few. Can you feel the intense focus of The Magician, the complexity of the idea of Faith?
Seven years ago Ciro sent a portfolio to a publisher, hoping to design a book cover or two, and began a journey he could never have foreseen. Kind of makes you wonder what sort of journeys you’re starting today.