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Sacred Sites Tarot Deck
A product by Lo Scarabeo Sacred Sites Tarot Deck

By: Lo Scarabeo
Imprint: Llewellyn
Specs: Boxed Deck | 9780738735009
English | 3 x 5 x 1 IN
Pub Date: September 2012
Price: $22.95 US,  $26.50 CAN
In Stock? No, expect a delay in shipping

Product Summary
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The Sacred Sites Tarotis an impressive achievement of uniting a relevant theme and traditional Rider Waite Smith meanings. The images are clear and pleasant. The associations are clever and illuminating. Journey to seventy-eight sacred sites, both real and imaginary, and discover seventy-eight doors to spiritual insight.

Lo Scarabeo is a publisher famous for creating tarot decks that push the boundaries of tarot with commendable creativity. While their attempts are almost always fascinating, some are great in theory but fall short in the execution. When I first received the Sacred Sites Tarot, I was worried that it would simply be a collection of 78 sacred places, with no real connection to the structure of the tarot. For me, this is a deal breaker. If they 22 Major Arcana and the four suits have nothing to do with the meaning of the cards, then it becomes an oracle deck rather than a tarot.

Happily, the Sacred Sites Tarot follows the idea through to the deck. The sites associated with each Major Arcana actually make sense. And the suits are as follows:

Swords: Places of the Air
Wands: Places of Fire
Cups: Places of Water
Pentacles: Places of Earth

Not only that, but the site chosen also connect with traditional Rider-Waite-Smith meanings. That is pretty inventive. The creators evidently put a lot of effort into this project, which I appreciate.

But in my excitement over the lovely use of structure, I forgot to discuss the relevancy of the theme to tarot. The sacred sites included are both real and what some might call imaginary. The creators state that one possible reason that sites come to be known as sacred is ley lines, lines of energy that run through the earth. They also acknowledge the possibility because these sites become a place where prayers and rituals occur over sometimes centuries that they gain in superterrestrial power. This is why "imaginary" places are included; enough people have put enough energy into them over the years, energy that is the essence of magic, that they have become real, if not on this plane, somewhere in the human experience.

So sacred sites are rather like archetypes of the landscape, just as mythic characters are archetypes of the human psyche. We are not separate from the world; everything and everyone is connected, so there is wisdom to be gained in looking to sacred sites for guidance.

In addition to being an appropriate theme for revealing spiritual wisdom, this deck works in the opposite direction, being also a handy way to learn about sacred sites all over the world.

Now let's look at some of the cards and see how they relate to the RWS traditional meanings.

Hanged Man is Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The 10 of Cups is Sources of the Nile.
The 4 of Swords is the Sepulchre of Charlemagne.
The 9 of Cups is the Fountain of Youth.

These seem pretty clear and, for me, didn't need much puzzling out because I already knew about those sites. I didn't know, thought about Petra in Jordan. The booklet says, "abandoned by its inhabitants around the 8th century, it was long forgotten and never rediscovered until modern times." Although the description is short, using it, I can understand the connection to The Hermit, the card associated with Petra. If I am interested, I can look up Petra and learn more.

For the 2 of Cups, we have Meoto Iwa in Tokyo, Japan, another place I didn't know. The booklet says, "Rocky reefs that are sacred for the Shintoist religion. They represent the two Japanese divinities of creation, Izanagi and Izanami, in general, the union between man and woman."

What I included there as from the booklet is all that is included for those entries. This means that there are no keywords or even a specific divinatory meaning. It is up to the user to translate. This is not difficult, but many readers come to depend on such textual support. While I am so impressed with the careful association of sacred site with the RWS meanings, I am slightly less impressed with the "places of fire" such as The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, and St. Patrick's Well as well as the "places of air," such as The Cave of Cruachan, The Bermuda Triangle, and The Oracle of Delphi. But I suppose that is being too picky, for surely one could make an argument that these sites represent the spirit of fire or air.

Now, to the images. The art is pleasant and illustrative. The images are generally rather full and detailed with a soft color palette. They are what I think of as generic illustrations. There doesn't seem to be much style, so there isn't much to thrill the eye or inspire the soul. There also isn't anything to offend or detract from the scene depicted. I think this is a great choice for this deck, because honestly, there is enough going with learning new sites and mentally translating them to RWS meanings.

The question next is, how is this as a reading deck? Personally, I think it is a given that any deck that is based on RWS automatically qualifies as a "reading" deck for those who do use RWS meanings. But doing a reading is more than just using card meanings. If it weren't, we would use index cards with "Hermit," "Ace of Pentacles," and "6 of Swords" written on them. The images are part of the reading, too, and part of how a reader weaves meaning and discovers a coherent interpretation. This is where personal preference and reading style come into play. For me and my reading style, these images are too detailed. Scanning the images, you will be able to tell if they will suit yours. But if you do use RWS meanings, this deck will work for you.

Deck Attributes
Name of deck: Sacred Sites Tarot
Reviewer's Byline: Barbara Moore
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN: 978-0-7387-3500-9
Creator name: Massimiliano Filadoro
Artist name: Massimiliano Filadoro
Name of accompanying book/booklet: Sacred Sites Tarot
Number of pages of book/booklet: 63 pp; 14 in English
Author of book/booklet: Federico Penco
Available in a boxed kit?: No

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