For the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn, we were fortunate enough to have two full reviews by in-house Tarot experts. Publisher Review #2 is included below.
Publisher Review #1:
The Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn is an evocative and provocative deck exploring a new vision of tarot that is fresh and exciting while remaining consistent with the Golden Dawn tradition. This deck would be suitable for someone with an interest in or experience with the Golden Dawn teachings. An ambitious and curious new Tarot reader would be exhilarated (or perhaps overwhelmed) by the possibilities of this deck. Two extra cards are included so that you can use Strength VIII/Justice XI or Justice VIII/Strength XI.
The concept of this deck is fascinating. A knowledgeable deck designer and historian, Giordano Berti, used primary source material to create instructions and direction for an artist who has not viewed other versions of Golden Dawn or Golden Dawn-tradition-based decks. This allows for an entirely fresh composition and depiction of these meanings, including illustrated pips. This deck moves away from numeric pips, expanding on the original design (just as Waite and Smith did) to create the first truly all-pictorial Golden Dawn deck What an exciting technique to create a deck that is based on a specific foundation but not derivative.
Patrizio Evangelisti’s images are almost all amazing. While not the familiar Rider Waite compositions (they are not meant to be that at all), there is still a fleeting familiarity in the feeling of the images, which makes sense because it is based on the deck that both Waite and Smith used before they co-created what has become the RWS standard. The familiarity may be somehow in the composition or in the reaction evoked. Even better, the familiarity is just enough to set you at ease and allow you to respond to the image.
The Court Cards are appropriately named Princess, Prince, Queen, and Knight and follow the Golden Dawn astrological associations. The little booklet’s author includes an explanation of the Golden Dawn court names for those who may only be familiar with the Rider-Waite-Smith names. His reasoning for the composition of the courts is elegant and useful: the Knights (aka Kings in RWS decks) are on horseback and show rapid and energetic influences that soon pass; the Queens are on thrones showing solid, long-lasting influence; the Princes are in chariots representing power contingent on another; and Princesses have nowhere to sit and nothing to ride because their power is illusionary.
This deck includes at least one panoramic, a wonderful and intriguing surprise for the alert reader. If you lay the Empress, the Emperor, and the Hierophant side-by-side, they form a kind of circular court with the Emperor in the middle, his bare feet resting on a Ram as if it were a pet dog. Behind the figures are windows looking out on a lake and mountains. The sky changes from daylight to sunset. It’s quite a lovely image and is an interesting observation of how these three arcana play off each other.
There are plenty of individual cards and you’ll want the joy of discovering most of them yourself. The 4 of Swords is a very tender and poignant card. Usually this card shows someone apparently sleeping—a momentary rest from troubles. It’s usually very calm, but otherwise devoid of emotion. Here you see a warrior at the dinner table, laying back in his seat, his bare foot and bandaged ankle visible under the tablecloth. His battered armor is on the floor. He looks a bit worried as if thinking about going back to the battle. The poignant touch is his wife. She is sitting next to him, her head on his shoulders, her eyes closed. The LWB (Little White Book) says "rest following a struggle. Comfort following exertion. Relief of anxiety." This image shows all of that so beautifully. What the LWB doesn’t say is that the man and woman in the picture know that this is just a temporary respite. Another of the Swords, the 9, is also very moving. It shows a bloodied battlefield, bodies and swords strewn here and there, a city burning in the distance. In the foreground, crouching near on of the bodies, a white-haired old woman holds a bloodied sword and weeps. The LWB says "Dejection. Despondency. Depression. Sense of loss." Indeed.
In the RWS deck, the 9 of Cups shows a smug, self-satisfied man nearly gloating over his good fortune. In this deck you'll see something completely different. A man stands on the bank of a lake in midst of 9 cups overflowing with different beautiful fruits. His eyes and arms are raised heavenward, and he seems to be signing with joy as the rain falls. If we consult the LWB, we find: "Lovableness. Near-perfect happiness. A wish come true."
Finally, for those of you who are never quite satisfied with those 8 wands flying through air and who yearn for a less abstract image, this one should do the trick. A woman is racing up stairs. The stairs rise through the air and are held in place by hands that seem to appear out of the clouds. It implies that if you’re inspired and moved to do something and act on that, then the universe will put things in place and meet your needs. It’s magic, really. You intend a certain outcome but let the universe do its thing to make it happen. From the beloved LWB: "Rapidity. Impulse. Enthusiasm. Great trust."
As far as LWBs go, this one is great. It doesn’t feel at all arbitrary in its lists of assigned divinatory meanings. And if they do seem at first glance to be arbitrary or puzzling, just think about it a bit while looking at the images. Doors will open, light bulbs will go on, you will be amazed.
Name of deck:The Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn Publisher: Lo Scarabeo ISBN: 0738713872 Artist’s name: Patrizio Evangelisti Brief biography of artist: Patrizio is a comics artist. Name of accompanying booklet: The Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn Number of pages of booklet: 63, 14 in English Author of booklet: Giordano Bertia Brief biography of author: Giordano is an expert in the history of Tarot and all things esoteric. He has designed many decks, has written many books, and serves as a consultant for Lo Scarabeo. Available in a boxed kit?: Yes What are the extras in the kit?: A red satin bag for the cards Magical Uses: Path working, rituals Reading Uses: General divination Theme: Golden Dawn Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Somewhat Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: No Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: No Why was deck created?: The artist, Patrizio Evangelisti, had no prior knowledge of any previous Golden Dawn decks. He made this deck based on the direction provided by Giordano Berti, who used (among other sources) a 1904 Golden Dawn document by Soror Quaero Lucem (alias Harriet Miller Davidson). This was done on purpose so that the artist would be free to interpret the descriptions and create a completely fresh deck. This can be seen as an evolution of the Golden Dawn Tarot tradition rather than a derivation.
Publisher Review #2:
The brilliance of the art and the deck’s adherence to the original concepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn helps make the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn the ultimate deck for doing readings according to the Golden Dawn tradition.
Before discussing the deck itself, let's look at the LWB (Little White Booklet) that accompanies the deck. This LWB uses its limited space very effectively. It doesn’t describe the symbolism on each card (you can look at the card), but does give the divinatory meaning based on the Golden Dawn system. The creative force behind the deck, Giordano Bertia, only gave basic information about the meanings of the cards to artist Patrizio Evangelisti, so on this basis, the deck is a Golden Dawn deck. The LWB also includes an original six-card spread called the "Method of the Rosacroce." It has a unique method of selecting the cards for the layout that will intrigue you.
The thing about the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot that made it unique is that for the first time it had a fully illustrated Minor Arcana. Until that deck was published in 1909, all Tarot decks were mainly numerical for the Minors. That is, they were closer to a deck of common playing cards than an RWS illustrated Tarot. The Golden Dawn used a numerical Minor Arcana rather than a heavily illustrated one, so this deck, which is fully illustrated, varies from the original Golden Dawn concept in imagery, but not in meaning.
Strictly on an art basis, these cards are beautiful. The drawings are wonderful and well formed. The coloring is elegant and expressive. It is more like a modern illustrated novel than most Tarot decks. Some of the images are at what might be called "comic book angles." Instead of straight on, you get images from below (such as The Wheel of Fortune) or from above (such as The Devil). This brings exciting new life to the designs and puts this deck in a completely different category than other Golden Dawn decks.
How close are they to the instructions for designing a Golden Dawn deck? The Major Arcana is amazingly close and is really going to do the job. The High Priestess is a powerful woman in the midst of controlling powerful energies as she casts a spell. The horses of The Chariot are in full gallop, almost falling over themselves pulling the chariot. The charioteer can barely control them. The lion in the Strength card looks like he could tear your arm off and eat you for lunch without even panting. The Devil shows an odd-looking creature, Levi’s image but from above, revealing that he has both womanly breasts and a penis. Yes, this deck does have full frontal nudity, so if that would offend you, be aware.
The art on the Minor Arcana cards matches the Majors, so they are powerful, evocative, and beautiful. If you look at the Golden Dawn manuscripts, you’ll see that although the descriptions of the Minors are minimal, they do give some basic ideas. Aces have hands coming out of a cloud holding the symbol of the suit. That’s the extent of the description for most of the Minors. Take those brief descriptions, look at the meaning of the card and throw in a person or two and you have the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn One card that is completely unique is the six of Wands, meaning "victory following a long struggle." It shows a scene of celebration. The six wands are part of a victorious headpiece. The point of view is personal, and you are about to be crowned with the headpiece, drawing you deeply into the card.
Simply put, this deck is extremely well drawn, better than any other Golden Dawn oriented deck. It’s an absolute delight to give general purpose readings with. The drawings are very realistic. If you want to give readings following the Golden Dawn system, this is the finest deck of its kind ever published.
Name of deck:Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn Publisher: Lo Scarabeo ISBN: 0-7387-1387-2 Artist’s name: Patrizio Evangelisti Brief biography of artists: Patrizio is a comics artist. Name of accompanying booklet:Initiatory Tarots of the Golden Dawn Number of pages of booklet: 64, 14 in English Author of booklet: Giordano Berti Brief biography of author: Giordano is an expert in the history of Tarot and all things esoteric. He has designed many decks, has written many books, and serves as a consultant for Lo Scarabeo. Available in a boxed kit?: Yes What are the extras in the kit?: A red satin bag for the cards Reading Uses: Excellent for all general divination, especially in the Golden Dawn manner. Theme: Golden Dawn Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Somewhat—It blends the RWS, Golden Dawn and the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: Following the Golden Dawn tradition, the RWS card The World is named The Universe. Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: No Does it have alternate names for Court Cards?: It uses Princess, Prince, Queen Knight. The Golden Dawn instructions for this are a bit confused, and other Golden Dawn decks use Princess, Prince, Queen, King, but because of the Golden Dawn instructions, this is perfectly acceptable and is described in the Little White Booklet (LWB). Why was deck created?: To express "a new vision that is…coherent with the tradition of the G[olden] D[awn] and with the needs of the contemporary public."
I have always been fascinated with the concept of magic. Fairy tales and science fiction have always filled my bookshelves, and I have favored stories that emphasize characters that have ordinary lives, but have extra-ordinary abilities. As a child, I would read and re-read these tales, convinced that there was something more, something hidden... read this article