Tarot of Avalon by  Joseph Viglioglia                    Review by Lee Bursten

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This is a new deck by Joseph Viglioglia, published by Lo Scarabeo, based on Arthurian mythology. The most striking thing about this deck is its beauty. The art is wonderfully complex and detailed, although the style is basically comic-book art, which isnít my favorite. I could pick any one of a number of cards to illustrate the stunning artwork, but I particularly like the Three of Wands, showing a seated woman, although the LWB doesnít enlighten us as to what she has to do with Arthurian legend.

Viglioglia seems to have worked out his own interpretation of the Arthurian legends rather than relying on past versions. Itís a romantic, comic-book version, with lots of blood-soaked violence and some female nudity, seemingly meant to appeal to teenagers with no previous knowledge of or interest in King Arthur. For example, the Two of Wands shows Arthur and Guinevere. Arthur is shown as a much older man, a stern warrior, while we are obviously meant to sympathize with Guinevere, a statuesque but innocent young girl.

The artist or editors have gamely tried to match up the Major cards with figures from the legends, but itís not always successful. Temperance shows Vivien, whom the LWB tells us was "daughter of Diones and lover of Merlin from whom she learned magic and the occult arts; she raised Lancelot and delivered Excalibur to Arthur." The divinatory meaning is given as "Harmony, serenity, healing, moderation, ability to change." One would be hard pressed to find anything suggestive of these qualities in the portrait of a woman in fancy get-up with flowing hair and metallic eyes. By the way, Iím not too knowledgeable about the Arthurian legends, but Iím not at all sure that any of the versions mention Vivien raising Lancelot or delivering Excalibur to Arthur.

The LWBís entry for the Tower states, "The usurper Vortigern decided to construct a tower as a symbol of this power, but it always collapsed because of two dragons who slept under the foundation." Now, this is actually a valid combining of Arthurian legend and traditional Tower symbolism, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with the picture, which simply shows a horseman with shield and lance approaching a tower. Itís a beautiful picture, though.

In keeping with the appeal to teenagers, the Hierophant is shown as a withered, weak old man, while the Devil is a vibrant, lively picture. The Devil is another example of the sometimes lame effort to link some of the pictures to the Arthurian mythos. The LWB says, "Also called the Enemy, the origin of all evil and also inspiration for the worst actions carried out by the companions of the Round Table."

Although no effort is made to show traditional symbolism, we do have a glimmer of it on The Chariot, where an armored warrior carries a shield with the Marseilles image of the Chariot drawn on it.

The setting of these pictures is not only pure fantasy, but seems to exist simply for the purpose of providing impressive pictures rather than to be a world which we could take seriously. For example, in Justice, Arthur and his barons sit at a table which looks as if it could as easily be taken from Star Wars as from Camelot.

The two final cards Iíll discuss are more examples of the appeal to todayís youth, but are strangely inconsistent with each other. The Fool is fashionably scrawny (not to mention appearing quite anachronistic), but the male figures on the Judgment card are all smooth-skinned bodybuilders, while the women are surgically-enhanced Playboy centerfolds. I guess I was wrong -- the appeal is not to teenagers in general, but rather to teenage boys in particular.

This deck is worth having for the stunning artwork, if you like to collect art decks, or if you are so interested in things Arthurian that you must own everything that calls itself Arthurian which you can get your hands on. If youíre interested in acquiring decks solely for reading purposes, Iíd skip this one.

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Avalon Tarot by Joseph Viglioglia
Lo Scarabeo s.r.l. Via Varese 15 c - 10152 Torino - Italia
Tel. 011 283793 - 011 283978 Fax. 011 280756
E-mail: info@loscarabeo.com

Lee A. Bursten 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, and especially to his significant other, Larry Katz, for his superhuman patience.

Review © 2001 Lee A. Bursten
Images © 2001 Lo Scarabeo
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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