Comparative Tarot: Concept by Riccardo Minetti with instructions by Valerie Sim
Review by Gavin Pugh
The concept of comparative tarot is one that I have been trying unsuccessfully to use since I first heard about it. It felt rude to invite another deck in to give its interpretation of the cards already chosen. For that is the essence of the comparative tarot method Ė using more than one deck in a reading to bring forward more options in meaning for each card.
This deck brings that concept into one deck of cards. There are four different decks chosen from the Lo Scarabeo catalogue: Tarot of Marseilles, Universal Tarot, Tarot of the Sphinx and Tarot of the Origins. The mix of cards here is quite interesting, as we have a Marseilles deck, a Waite-Smith clone, a themed deck, and one that is totally unique. The good thing about having a Waite-Smith clone is that almost everyone will have a good knowledge of that deck and will be able to get using the deck straight away even if they are not familiar with any of the other decks used. The same is true if you know any of the other decks; it's just that the main voice that you hear at first will be different. The main voice I heard was the Universal Waite, not that I know this deck, but I know the Waite one well enough to get going.
This brings me to another point: the Universal Tarot is a unique take on the Waite-Smith, as it alters the images just enough for you to have to see them afresh. I love this idea and it helped me explore the rest of the cards. The deck that I find hardest to gain meaning from is the Tarot of Marseille, for the reason that I tend to use the images of the cards to provide meaning, and with these Minor Arcana images I have to look to other things like patterns of numerology to give them a voice. The other two decks are unique and form a challenge for interpretation. The Egyptian theme of the Sphinx gives very stylized images that require some knowledge of Egyptology to fully grasp, but are not so obscure that meaning can't be read from them. The Tarot of the Origins breaks the tarot mold. It has a strong primal voice that means that I keep looking to the little white book (LWB) for ideas--with time, I think this will be one of the strongest voices for me.
Speaking of the LWB--here is my only minor irritation with the deck. The images on the cards I read left to right, so I would expect the book to give meanings for the card in the order of: Universal, Sphinx, Origins, and Marseille but the actual order is Universal, Marseille, Sphinx, and Origins. This for me makes it harder just to pick up the book and check the meaning of an individual image. I can see no good reason why they are written in this pattern. However, moving on, there are only 14 pages to the LWB that are in English. I know that Valerie Sim tried very hard, with the encouragement of Riccardo Minetti, to squeeze as much information as possible into those few pages. I have a couple of Lo Scarabeo decks which only come with a set of divinatory meanings on cards so this book format does expand the space a bit. The book also includes a quick introduction of the deck, the method and the individual decks, divinatory meanings for the theme of each card and the individual meanings and an example of how to read with the cards.
The first thing I noticed when I got this deck out of the box was the quality of the cards themselves. They are glossy, but not too much so, and they are the right size for me--not too big and not too small. The other striking thing about them is the blueness as both the backs and the borders are in blue. As I said above, I felt confident enough to put this deck to work as soon as I shuffled it. The readings I have done with this deck take longer, as the threads of meaning can be more complicated to draw out and weave together. This is one of the deck's strengths--being able to see voices emerging. This is something you donít get with a standard deck. You also have to take care to listen to the quiet voices, as they might contain the strongest message.
One point that irritates me about the cards themselves is the naming of the pages as knaves and pentacles as pentacles rather than coins. I canít see a reason to name them knaves, and as for the pentacles, only one set of images here are pentacles and coins would for me have been more appropriate. This is nit-picking really.
All the decks used are established and are strong. The way they have been brought together makes a unique, challenging, and strong whole. I wholeheartedly recommend this deck to collectors and people with a good grounding in tarot. I would not recommend this deck for beginners, as the voices take a while to get used to and if you donít have a good basic knowledge, this may confuse the meaning of the cards rather than give you space for exploration.
Comparative Tarot: Concept by Riccardo Minetti; Instructions by Valerie Sim
Published: Lo Scarabeo
Gavin Pugh has used tarot over five years. He is currently a Committee Panel Member for the TABI (Tarot Association of the British Isles). He owns over twenty-five decks but swears he is not a collector.
Images © 2002 Lo Scarabeo
Review © 2003 Gavin Pugh
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes