Etruscan Tarot by Silvana Alasia (artwork); Riccardo Minetti (concepts and
Review by Mari Hoshizaki
This is meditative deck, with artwork inspired by Etruscan designs. When looking at art from Greco-Roman times, the intermingling of the Aegean Sea communities, Greece, Rome and even Egyptian artwork shows up in vases, frescos and other ruins found from the edge of African and Egyptian societies to places near Greece and Italy.
Silvana Alasia is known for her Egyptian designs, most notably the glorious gold Tarot of Nerfertari. Her choices of designs for the Etruscan may be familiar to you if you look at books that show Greek vases. For example, my old Ancient and Classical Art by P.P. Kane from Dell Pocket Books showed details that helped me identify some of the sources of the Etruscan Tarot card designs. I could identify figures from Card XI Justice and Card XII The Hanged Man in the designs of the handle of the Francois Vase circa 578 BC from Chiusi, Italy (present day Etruria).
Card XI is Justice with a lion and deer being held by a blue-robed winged goddess. In the Francois Vase, winged goddess is identified as Mistress of the Beasts holding two cat-like lions. The art history book suggests the winged goddess came from a near eastern motif that came through Asia Minor and Crete into Greece--she was originally called Potnia Theron, but later became associated with Artemis. The scene below the Lady of the Beasts in the Francois Vase handle was identified as Ajax carrying Achilles. The Ajax scene is similar to Card XII, The Hanged Man in the Etruscan Tarot. In the Etruscan Tarot, Ajax is the lighter-skinned warrior and
carries the black, wounded figure of Achilles. Note the Greco-Roman convention of having women of lighter
hue than the males is followed in the Etruscan Tarot cards.
In Card XIII the Death scene is represented by Achilles, a black-figure with a red-trimmed helmet and cloak, crouched over a gaming table. He holds four wands, which showed his winnings. In a black figure vase from my Cambridge Art University Press book by Mark D. Fullerton, the full scene is Ajax and Achilles both crouching over the same table. The Cambridge art book notes that Ajax is the second-best warrior and called a three instead of the four chosen by Achilles.
I've only begun to explore this deck and found the majors numbering is similar to the Rider-Waite. The Little White Book (LWB) is very good at explaining highlights of Etruscan discoveries and suggesting two meditative spreads. I was very intrigued by the way it lists the majors with a suggestive phrase, a description sentence and then the title of the card. The minors are noted as Pentacles, Wands, Chalices, and Swords. Each Ace of the suit has a mask. A Mask of Good Fortune is for Pentacles, a Mask of Sensual Life for Wands, a Mask of Beauty and Joy for Chalices and a Mask of Wild Fate is for Swords. Each suit has scenes and titles on the card and a written descriptive line in the LWB. The sunny warm tones of the card borders are enhanced with a soft lighter
creamy coloring of the backgrounds behind each figure/suit symbols. The numbers and titles above and below the scene are typed nicely, but easy enough for me to read. The backs have a interesting and reversible white lacy design on the amber/orange backs.
As an art theme deck, it's well done in symbolic depictions that would be typical of ancient times. I look forward to exploring it more and using it as a companion to any reading on Greco-Roman topics.
I have a sample of how the LWB descriptions and colorful designs inspired me. This past week, when I received it, I was also musing about my young brother and sister, both being hospitalized in their different locations. Some of my musing formed a rather odd story, but it helped me memorize themes that I saw in the Etruscan majors.
It also underlined for me a kind of bond that I normally take for granted among my family members.
Song of the Lost Sister
My brother danced for joy, my poor Fool
He knew not his name, but sang for her, lost sister
When he found her gone, he fell and forgot his name
But he still played and sang the songs that she sang
And the sounds of birds that followed him that day.
He heard these lost voices of Magic, but barely
remembered mine today.
I was the Chantress Priestess for
the Empress in the Temple of the Sun
But I left its peace for the Cyprus Seas
Our Emperor asked for tribute of Man
and Maid to journey to the land of Cyprus,
where Aphrodite dwelled.
The Priest spoke of a Dream for two to journey
and my poor brother sang,
"We will go there, to our lost Lady, sailing in a
Chariot of Victory
And my magic will find her, with the Strength
of my songs."
I gave up my Hermitage to follow his mad quest
For the Priest and my Brother chanted foolish hymns
of the Circle of Life, the Wheels of Time,
how Fortuna favored the valiant under the Full
Moon, the times of the Lady of the Beasts
In such times she divided the Lion from the
Deer, Justice favoring
the Dreamers, Fools and Lost Souls.
I pitied him, dreamed of a Hanged Man dangling:
Achilles over Ajax's
shoulders in a field of war. I dreamed
Achilles, holding four Wands
stared down at the dice before the dawn of his
Death. In sorrow, I went down
to the Holy Waters, filled two flasks of Temperance
wine and water underneath
the Southern Cross. I dropped three drops
before the devilish Inferi grasping serpents, asking
only that we shared the same fate, that my
Brother and I not be split asunder.
My most Towering fear is that he will die alone,
crying for his lost sisters.
Three days later, my brother still sang under the Full
Moon. The sailors damned
and blessed him. They saw a distant Goddess
shimmering across the waters, walking in the sky and
among flowers of the air.
The flowers bloomed, then fell, petal by petal
until they floated in the waters like Eight Stars
reflecting the clearness of the others above.
The Goddess walked into the brightest light
whom they saw at Dawn, the Morning Star.
We landed at Cyprus, and the priests bound him,
In the fullness of the Moon I awaited the night
while my brother sang
the old lullabies that I have not heard
for many years.
"Leave Crete, Lady, raise your cups meant
In meadows of saffron, the mares crunch
into the tenderness of leaves. Come wash in
the waters showing gold over sands,
shining blue under sky."
I poured the last of the water and wine
down his lips and unbound him.
He fell asleep under the dawning Sun.
The priests returned, led by a woman in white,
She cried and laughed and said all night
She heard us sing songs of lost dreams
Her lost youth, her lost name was restored to her:
She kissed me and raised the head of my brother,
singing his name.
He awakened, he knew her; he spoke his own name.
We all joined hands, crying, and birds
and beasts of the field began to call. Priests
threw so many flowers so petals rained
and sprouted beneath the dancing feet.
All the World joined us in song.
May your enjoyment in such tarots also be a shared song,
Etruscan Tarot by Silvana Alasia (artwork) and Riccardo Minetti (concepts and instructions)
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN #: 888395184-0
Mari Hoshizaki is a fan of comparing different art tarots and art history.
Her interests include Renaissance studies, poetry seminars and portraiture,
which seem to relate to tarots. Her paid work is analyzing different numbers, so
art tarots are a joy and a pastime.
Images © 2002 Lo Scarabeo
Review © 2002 Mari Hoshizaki
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes