Der Ägyptisches Tarot by Kamilla Szij (artist), book by Bernard A. Mertz   
Review by Diane Wilkes

This petite black, white and gold Egyptian-themed Major Arcana deck is really quite endearing. The pen-and-ink drawing is playful and well-drawn. Certain Egyptian symbols are repeated throughout the deck (snakes and birds appear in almost every image) and the loose-but-elegant style makes these cards somewhat thought-provoking at times. The gold ink adds a dramatic frisson to the clever, but somewhat stark, drawings.

The Fool, numbered O and 22, not only has a dog nipping at his clothes, but an alligator that dwarfs him in girth and fluidity of motion. The Fool also appears to be blind--he grips a cane and a black visor of some kind hides his eyes. He reminds me of Oedipus at the end of his trials or an Arabian Roy Orbison, and the dog looks remarkably like the Simpsons' pet. Wrong cultures, all, though.

The High Priestess is seated between slim pillars of black and white, but she is also encircled by profiles of wisdom (one side is outlined in gold, the other in black). There is something about the image that puts one in mind of guardians of the Akashic records, adding strength to this already-powerful archetype. The Empress dandles a babe on her knee, but she, too, has guardians, only in animal form--a bird and a lion stand by her side. Her Pharaoh spouse has the same totems of protection.

The face of the High Priest has the same vacuity of the Impressive Clergyman played to perfection by Peter Cook in The Princess Bride. Two women kneel by his side, showing that curatolatry has a long history. Also surrounded by two women is a strapping young Pharaoh on the Lovers card, who must choose between beauties, yet his feet are bound by the snake of desire, making movement of any kind a challenge.

The Chariot and Strength present interesting reversals; two lions, one black, one white, ride in the carriage, transported by an Egyptian man in Card VII and the Strength card shows a woman standing like a conqueror on the back of a rather tame lion.

Many of the images allude to Egyptian culture and history. Justice, numbered eight, depicts Maat's judgment: one side of the scale is a heart, the other holds a feather. Death is a lovely woman who seems to be a guide for the dead, bridging the worlds. Lightning emerges as bold tears from the eyes of Horus in the Tower card and the bodies reaching up in the Judgment card are entombed.

The cards are of a reasonably sturdy, bright white cardstock, but the edges are rough, as if they have been punched out of a book (they have been). The book, Der Ägyptische Tarot, is authored by Bernd A. Mertz, a well-known writer of tarot and esoteric books in Germany. The cards come in the back of the book in sheets and are easy to remove. The cards are designed by Kamilla Szij. The book was first published as a hardback in 1987 and later republished somewhere in the 90's. The second publisher was Verlag Hermnn Bauer in Freiburg, Germany. (Thanks to Saskia Jansen for this information.)

The card backs are not-quite-reversible and depict numerous symbols associated with Egyptology.

The titles are in German and are as follows:

The Fool                            Der Uneingeweihte
The Magician                     Der Magier
The High Priestess              Die Hohepriesterin
The Empress                      Die Pharaonin
The Emperor                      Der Pharao
The Hierophant                  Der Hohepriester
The Lovers                        Die Zwei Wege
The Chariot                       Der Wagen des Osiris
Justice                               Die Gewissenswaage
The Hermit                        Der Einsiedler
The Wheel of Fortune        Sphinx
Strength                             Die Kraft
The Hanged Man               Der Hängende
Death                                 Die Schwelle
Temperance                       Die Zeri Urnen
The Devil                           Dämon
The Tower                         Der Turm
The Star                             Der Magische Stern
The Moon                          Der Mond
The Sun                              Die Sonne
Judgment                            Die Auferstrehung
The World                          Das All

While hardly essential, this little deck is a fun addition to any tarot collection. It's more of an art deck than a reading deck, but I especially recommend trying to track down a copy of the Agyptisches Tarot to Egyptogists. The book is occasionally for sale on the German eBay and is now available as a deck only via the German Amazon website for approximately twenty-one dollars. (Thanks to Saskia Jansen for this information.)

Der Ägyptisches Tarot by Bernard A. Mertz; Kamilla Szij (artist)
Publisher: Verlag Hermnn Bauer
ISBN#: 3762603243

  Yes No
78 cards   X
Reversible Backs   X
Strength VIII, Justice XI   X
Color Images   X
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana   X
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks) N/A N/A
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions N/A N/A
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                     X
Smaller than standard
 (approx.  2 1/2" x 4")                                         
X
Larger than standard                                                X
     
     

Images © Verlag Hermnn Bauer
Review and page © 2003 Diane Wilkes
On loan from the Brigit Horner Collection