Arcus Arcanum Tarot Deck - Review by Michele Jackson

This deck is a collaborative effort by German "Tarot Expert" Gunter Hager and artist Hansrudi Washer. Herr Washer is primarily a comic strip artist and this shows in the art style used in this deck. Overall the style reminds one of "Prince Valiant" in the Sunday Funnies. The Major Arcana have the standard titles with the exception of the Hierophant, who is the High Priest in this deck. Justice is card eight and Strength, card eleven. Although the art looks like comic book art, the scenes are detailed and colorful. There is an abundance of black shading, as one sees in comic strip art, and the physical perfection of the bodies and rendering of faces also put one in mind of comic strips. Liberties have been taken with the symbolism, and the artist seems to have drawn from several different decks for inspiration. The Wheel reminds me of the same card in the Robin Wood deck, with its blonds portraying various emotions. Using a tip from an on-line friend, I found a boat in the six of swords, a sure sign of Waite-Smith influence. However most of the cards seem to have been based on an unique perspective. The suits are Wands, Disks, Swords and Cups and the Court is King, Queen, Knight and Page. There is an extra card in the deck which depicts a woman standing in the center of an ouroborus, with a Wand in each hand and the other three suit symbols around her. The four creatures from Ezekiel are also there. It looks like an alternate rendering of The World card, though the little booklet does not address it. Some people like to use these extra cards in readings.

The little booklet that comes with the deck was obviously translated from the German. Typos and grammatical errors abound. There is an introduction which provides a short history of Tarot and some information that is specific to this deck. The writer advocates a less traditional approach to the cards, preferring to let the symbolism speak for itself vice memorizing book meanings. The Major Arcana interpretations provide a description of the scene and two separate interpretations: "A - comprises aspects which refer to the mental part of a personality, i.e. the inner spiritual world." and "B - corresponding to A, but the generic, outside aspects, i.e. the manifestations of the outside world in a more general context." The "B" interpretations tend to be predictive. Two spreads which use only the Major Arcana are provided at the end of the section containing Major Arcana interpretations. A sample reading is given for illustrative purposes. The section for the Minor Arcana provides information on the suits. Only one interpretation is provided for each Minor Arcana card. The booklet specifies that this deck is meant to be read without reversals. The interpretations are traditional in some cases and idiosyncratic in others. The court cards are provided with two sets of interpretations: "a) = as a person; b) = as a function". Finally a description of the Celtic Cross Spread is provided with no sample reading. The little booklet is more robust than most, but I got the impression that the author would have said a lot more if he had been given the space, his disdain for "book interpretations" notwithstanding.

I recommend this deck for those who are looking for something different. The deck is different enough from the traditional to require a minor investment of time to become familiar with it. Collectors will want it for its unique art style. The booklet promises a separate book for the deck, but it may have been released in German, if it was released at all.

See more cards from the Arcus Arcanum or read another review on this deck

Arcus Arcanum Tarot Deck
Publisher: AGMuller
Distributed by US Games Systems, 179 Ludlow St., Stamford CT 06902, (800)523-2637, Fax (203)353-8431


Review Copyright 2000 Michele Jackson
Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes