Initiatory Tarot of the Masters by Danièle Didier; Artists: Tristan Ra and Cleremonde
Review by Diane Wilkes

Rarely do I go into raptures about the beauty of a deck. There are many tarots that I find lovely, even beautiful, but few take my breath away. One that does is Tarot of the Millennium and I did rhapsodize about it in print. The Initiatory Tarot of the Masters not only makes me weak in the knees because of its beauty, it even reminds me of that beloved deck in terms of size, color, and compositional design.

But there's one thing this deck has that even Tarot of the Millennium does not--there's gold in them thar cards! Silver, too. And these shimmering colors look like they were liberally applied by hand, giving these cards a rich and luxurious feel. When I look at these cards, I feel like a wealthy patron who commissioned an artist to create a deck for me.

Card titles are re-named, but the images are archetypally Tarot:

The Fool                           Le Maitre D'Arcane
The Magician                    Le Chevalier Baucens
The High Priestess             La Gardienne du Temple
The Empress                     Eve Anastasia 
The Emperor                    Adam Kadmon
The Hierophant                 Le Guardien du Temple
The Lovers                       Le Maitre de Choix
The Chariot                      Le Maitre d'action
Justice                              Le Couple de Justice
The Hermit                       Le Maitre de Lumière
The Wheel of Fortune       Le Maitre de Cycle
Strength                            L'Eau de Force
The Hanged Man              Le Prisonnier
Death                               Le Passage
Temperance                     La Vierge Bleue
The Devil                         La Rose Noire
The Tower                       La Tour D'Arcan
The Star                           La Source Aux Étoiles
The Moon                        Nuélis
The Sun                            La Croix Soleil
Judgement                        La Rèvèlation
The World                       The White Rose

Some of these retitlings are familiar (Adam Kadmon), but I was unfamiliar with several, such as Eve Anastasia (The Empress) and Nuélis (The Moon). But, as stated earlier, the images are not just uniquely beautiful, they are quite understandable to tarot enthusiasts of any language. The reading I did with these cards seemed particularly profound and powerful, despite my lack of familiarity with the history/myth of  Le Chevalier Baucens, one of the cards that came up in the reading. The richness and beauty of the images conspire with the reader to form deep conceptual interpretations. The cards connect with one another in a way that builds continuity and pattern, aiding in sharing a cogent tarot story.

You can see connections to the traditional Fool in the Hermit (top right), as he stands on a precipice. One of his feet has wings, yet the lantern he carries indicates that the inner flame he has nurtured can now guide him into typically dangerous realms. The Lovers card (Le Maitre de Choix) emphasizes choice, as opposed to a more love-oriented image. There is only one person on the card, yet he is the picture of duality. He carries two books, one red, one blue. The blue book is emblazoned with the glyph of Mercury, indicating the life of the mind; the red book's glyph is Venus, denoting love. Even his outfit and shoes illustrate the split between red and blue, and his hair is half-black, half-white.

The Wheel of Fortune (Le Maitre de Cycle) shows a Sagittarian archer (Jupiter-ruled, after all) as he stands by the Wheel of Life, focusing and aiming towards heights unseen. A snake is wrapped about his leg, a white dove flies upward--there are so many symbols to interpret, some traditional, some unique. 

The "little" white booklet (LWB) that comes with the deck is almost 100 pages, making it not so little. However, this length is mainly due to the fact that the deck information is in three languages: French, English, and Spanish. The LWB contains an introduction to the deck, lists of colors and numbers and their symbolic meaning,  and short descriptions of each card, including a positive and negative meaning. These are rather unusual--often the negative meaning includes a dis-ease, such as psychosomatic illnesses for the Magician, and "arthritis, rheumatism, broken bones, skin problems, viral infections, and allergies" for Death (Le Passage). The LWB ends with a "Reading Guide to the Tarot of the Masters" that includes three spreads. There is also a full-sized book available on this deck, Tarot of the Masters: The Twenty-Two Keys.

Cards measure two and a half by four and a half inches and are on sturdy matte cardstock. Backs are blue and gold and are reversible. Justice is VIII, Strength, XI, as is typical of European decks. The name of the deck is Tarot Initiatique des Maitres on one side of the box, Tarot Initiatico de Los Maestros on the other...and the LWB calls the deck Tarot Des Maitres, which is confusing indeed. 

But this is the only inconsistency in a cohesive and magnificent deck, certainly not one that should stop you from grabbing it if you see it anywhere. As it was a gift, I unfortunately can not give you any purchasing information, though it is possible you can obtain it from Yves Daniel.

I can, however, share an amusing insight I gleaned from this gift. A friend gave me two decks, telling me that one was the most beautiful deck in the world. While I like (and plan to soon review) the deck she thought so exquisite, I fell in love with this one, about which she was much less enthusiastic. This reminded me anew that what I find beautiful is not remotely universal, but purely subjective. A good and humbling aide memoire for a reviewer, but scans protect me from projecting my concept of beauty onto an unwitting public!

You can view a sample reading with this deck here.

Tarot Initiatique Des Maestres by Danièle Didier; Artists: Tristan Ra and Cleremonde
Publisher: Editions Parientès

Images © Editions Parientès
Review and page © 2002 Diane Wilkes