Tarot of the Secret Forest Artwork by Lucia Mattioli
Review by Arielle Smith

If you would like to pre-order the deck, click here.

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” ~ John Muir

Artist, Lucia Mattioli, lives at the edge of the forest. She sees--really sees--the miniature worlds, the orchestration of life that is there. While the untrained eye might see only a tangle of weed, Mattioli sees insects, lizards, faeries, love, war, struggle, success. Is that a butterfly flitting through the air--or is it two faeries dancing with delight? Is that a beetle crawling in the grass--or is it a chariot driven by the king of caterpillars? In the Secret Forest, there is mystery. In the Secret Forest, there is music. In the Secret Forest, there is magic.

The cards in this deck are muted, soft, earthy colors of brown, green, burgundy. While numbered and suit-designated, the cards do not have any words on them to distract from their main purpose, which is to draw you in, to let yourself get caught up in the beauty and mysticism of each scene. It seems entirely possible to spend hours staring at each card and still not see it all. Gentle, beautiful images soothe the spirit and stimulate the imagination.

But that’s just one side of the card. On the other side, the same scene is repeated but in stark black and white. Each card becomes amazingly different this way.

The King of Swords appears quietly powerful in color. Without the color, we get a sense of the agony involved in his decision making.

On the Seven of Swords in color, we see a serene walk among the butterflies; in black and white, that same scene looks somehow threatening, even dangerous.

The colored building on the Four of Cups is peaceful and inviting. Without the color, it becomes a tower with no apparent way in or out.

Stripped of color, many scenes are more powerful, more intense. The beings shown appear more exposed, more vulnerable.

How does all this work for the reader? Any way the reader wants. These are cards that invite introspection, intuition, deliberation, reflection, even soul-searching. Experienced readers will figure out how to shuffle this deck (eyes closed?) and will pre-determine how to use the shadow side of the cards. Not a deck for everybody, Tarot of the Secret Forest is powerful, deep, and decidedly unique. (It’s also a deck where the little white booklet (LWB) is actually useful, both for clues on using the deck and for some very expressive writing.)

In the mid-80’s, there was a television show called Tales from the Darkside, which opened with a pretty pastoral location which then gave way to an ominous scene. The narrator’s voice declared: “The Darkside is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us. Until next time - try to enjoy the daylight.”

While it does remind me of this television show, Tarot of the Secret Forest is not ominous, but neither is it a frivolous deck. Tarot of the Secret Forest ~ It has heart. It is unique. It is a true treasure.

Click here for a sample reading with this deck.

Tarot of the Secret Forest
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN #073870763-5

If you would like to pre-order the deck, click here.


Arielle Smith, well on her way to becoming a weird eccentric, is a Certified Tarot Grand Master living in Florida with one husband and five cats. Both tree-hugger and animal lover, she is also a part-time teacher and lifetime student of the Tarot.


Images © 2005 Lo Scarabeo
Review © 2005 Arielle Smith
Page © 2005 Diane Wilkes