by Giovanni Vacchetta,
colored by Michela Gaudenzi
Review by Lee A. Bursten
Six of Coins
The Queen of Swords
I was very intrigued by this deck when I first saw it. It was created in 1893 by Giovanni Vacchetta along decorative lines, not unlike the Classical Tarots deck also published by Lo Scarabeo. It’s an attractive deck, with expressive faces and interesting touches, such as the leopard on the Fool card, or the orthodontic Devil. But what’s really interesting about this deck are the tantalizing suggestions of esoteric content, such as the bat, lizard, star and snake decorating the Magician’s table.
Since this deck was created some 17 years before the Rider-Waite-Smith [RWS] deck, and in an environment presumably unconnected with Golden Dawn influences, one is left to wonder to what extent Vacchetta had anything more in mind than simply creating a decorative deck. This is especially apparent in the Minors, which are the most illustrated pip cards I’ve ever seen. In fact, they are so fully illustrated that I would categorize them as scenes. Some look as if they almost could have been included in the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck, such as the Nine of Cups. And many, although not all, seem to suggest fortune-telling meanings, such as the Nine of Swords, which, amazingly, shows a heart impaled by swords. And can it be entirely a coincidence that the Four of Wands shows a tree laden with fruit, which is certainly suggestive of the common R-W-S meanings of a happy home, celebration after labors, or harvest?
Lo Scarabeo has done an excellent job producing this deck. The coloring by Michela Gaudenzi is vivid yet sensitive. The cards are bordered by dark green, which richly complements the colors. And each card contains a keyword, discreetly placed running up the left border. Unlike past Lo Scarabeo decks, these keywords have been thoughtfully done and could be quite helpful in deciding what the Minor cards might signify.
Dealing with any creative work from a different culture can be very educational regarding the attitudes held by those who lived in that time and place. Unfortunately, this can have a negative side to it, when those attitudes are unacceptable from today’s standards. The King of Coins for this deck is pictured as, to quote the Little White Booklet, “a Jew intent on coining money”. I decided long ago that while one must understand that anti-Semitic novels, such as those of Dostoyevski or Edith Wharton, were products of their social milieu; that doesn’t mean I have to read them. Likewise, I’m certainly not going to put up with such things in a Tarot deck. Of course, many people will think I’m overreacting, so rather than make a recommendation, I’ll just invite my readers to look at the picture and decide for themselves. I don’t fault Lo Scarabeo for this, of course. In fact, they’re to be commended for making such an attractive and interesting deck available to the modern reader.
Lee A. Bursten is the creator of The Gay Tarot, and has been studying Tarot off and on for about 20 years. He enjoys reading about Tarot and searching for the “Perfect Deck,” which is always just around the corner but out of reach. He is very grateful to Michele and Diane for posting his reviews [at Tarot Passages], and especially to his significant other, Larry Katz, for his superhuman patience.
Tarot of the Master is available at www.tarotgarden.com
This review, reproduced with reviewer’s permission, first appeared on Tarot Passage’s website
Images are from the uncoloured 1893 Giovanni Vachetta edition, also recently reprinted