Liber T: Tarot of Stars Eternal by Roberto Negrini, artwork by Andrea Serio
Review by Diane Wilkes

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

My first thought, as I fingered through the Major Arcana cards of Liber T, was, "What's the point?" While I have always been a fan of Serio's artwork (he created the strikingly unique Dante Tarot), these cards are a surrealistic and considerably less detailed version of Lady Frieda Harris' Thoth trumps. As far as I am concerned, you have to go a long way to beat the magnificence and power of those cards--and Serio hasn't done that.  (I am not sure anyone could.)

So the Majors seemed a rather wasteful use of Serio's talent, and the Court Cards, being identical in composition, though simplified and surrealized (new word!), continued on that theme. However, the subtitle of the deck (Tarot of Stars Eternal) hints to the impetus behind this deck; the revisions to the Minors are based on the Decans, also known as the 36 Symbolic Constellations of the Egyptian Star Cult, the SIBU SEPESU (Eternal Stars). Negrini's sources of inspiration include Liber Hermetis of the Corpus Hermeticum, Indian (Vedic) astrology, Picatrix, and the writings of Agrippa and Bruno. The deck is intended for ritual use, based on the spread/ritual provided in the Little White Booklet (LWB).

If one ignores the profligate redundancy of the artwork, the Majors are certainly eye-catching, if not as ominous and powerful as their Thoth counterparts. The Fool's silly face makes him look like a creature of manga and the Magician's pose would make him an ideal candidate as the sixth man in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy ("That athame has to go.").

While I do admire Serio's artwork in general, certain cards really miss the grace and power of Harris' originals. In the Empress, the elegant swan has transmogrified into a Warner Brothers cartoon character and the Chariot rider has gone from a strength born of muscularity into someone in need of a few visits to Gold's Gym. On the other hand, The Hermit is even more mysterious than the Thoth original--he (or she) is unidentifiable as a human except for the tell-tale hand that holds the lantern--and even that could belong to an alien. Disappointingly, instead of the Cerberus at the bottom of the card, we have a three-headed dragon. I find the dragon much less fearsome.

The spirituality of the Hanged Man has been removed--the open maw in the middle of his face makes him resemble a crying baby. The message of Death, however, is particularly effective--the stripped down style is just right for this particular card. I also like think the central image in the Universe card (at top) comes off well under Serio's hand--I can feel the rhythm of the dance--but, the corner animals with their flattened faces deflect from her power. The one in the right hand upper corner especially looks like a pumpkin or an orange South Park character.

The Minors, with their additional scenes, characters, and referents, hew to the original images. The Ace of Cups is psychedelicized and the vessel has "Babalon" stenciled upon it. I'm sure the Lady of the Night is delighted to have a monogrammed mug to call her own. Frieda Harris follows Crowley's color scheme assignments (based on the Golden Dawn magical attributions) conscientiously, but the Liber T artist has taken some liberties. The Thoth Seven of Cups has a coloration that emits a rank odor, but not so the Liber T version. A large red whipping post sits in the upper portion of the card and even the Moon, holding a sword, cries for the flogged man and the woman at the stake (or perhaps the floggers and the scourgers). This image is simply too busy for Debauch, which I have always associated with a kind of world-weary shiftlessness. In the Liber T deck, it has been renamed "Corruption," and the associated terms are "Delirious mysticism, self-destructive behavior, coercive fanaticism and consequent imaginary success." I think this specificity detracts from the card, and is quite a shift from Crowley's simple sinking into the mire of false pleasure.

The Liber T Six of Swords is also quite different in terms of coloration from the Thoth, which reflects the intellectual sphere with its cool and distant hues. The Liber T moves us from a snowy day to a night sky, and speaks of the wish for knowledge in the little white book (LWB). The theme of the card is the same but the timing is different--the Liber T is on the verge of rising to the heights of knowledge; in Thoth, the card speaks of the pinnacle of intellectual success (and its inherent temporal status).

Like the Thoth, the Liber T 10 of Spheres (Disks in Thoth) depicts a a model of the Tree of Life. Again, the coloration is quite different, and it is imposed upon a globe of the world. A figure stands at the top, as if the world is his boardroom. I find the image thought-provoking, but not lacking in hubris--which may well be the artist's intent.

While the Minors are often the same as the Thoth/Golden Dawn keywords, they do differ somewhat. They are as follows:

Card Thoth/Golden Dawn Keyword(s) Liber T Keyword(s)
     
Ace of Wands/Scepters Root of the Power of Fire Root of the Power of Fire
Two of Wands/Scepters Dominion Rule
Three of Wands/Scepters Established Strength Virtue
Four of Wands/Scepters Perfected Work Completion
Five of Wands/Scepters Strife Beginning of the Struggle
Six of Wands/Scepters Victory Will for Victory
Seven of Wands/Scepters Valour Excess
Eight of Wands/Scepters Swiftness Dynamization
Nine of Wands/Scepters Great Strength Vigor
Ten of Wands/Scepters Oppression Oppression
Ace of Cups Root of the Power of Water Root of the Power of Water
Two of Cups Love Love
Three of Cups Abundance Abundance
Four of Cups Blended Pleasure Passive Lust
Five of Cups Loss in Pleasure Dissatisfaction
Six of Cups Pleasure Realized Pleasure
Seven of Cups Illusionary Success Corruption
Eight of Cups Abandoned Success Inertia
Nine of Cups Material Happiness Joy
Ten of Cups Perfected Success Satiety
Ace of Swords Root of the Power of Air Root of the Power of Air
Two of Swords Peace Restored Restored Peace
Three of Swords Sorrow Disruption
Four of Swords Rest From Strife Truce
Five of Swords Defeat Fear of Defeat
Six of Swords Earned Success Wish for Knowledge
Seven of Swords Unstable Effort Weakness
Eight of Swords Shortened Force Influencing
Nine of Swords Despair and Cruelty Violence
Ten of Swords Ruin Revolution
Ace of Disks/Spheres Root of the Power of Earth Root of the Power of Earth
Two of Disks/Spheres Harmonious Change Change
Three of Disks/Spheres Material Works Construction
Four of Disks/Spheres Earthly Power Power
Five of Disks/Spheres Material Trouble Effort
Six of Disks/Spheres Material Success Balanced Success
Seven of Disks/Spheres Success Unfulfilled Restriction
Eight of Disks/Spheres Prudence Concealment
Nine of Disks/Spheres Material Gain Collection
Ten of Disks/Spheres Wealth Overabundance

The Court Cards are, for me, particularly disappointing when compared with Harris' magnificent originals. While the red/orange colors explode into flame on the bottom of the Prince of Scepters, the night sky filled with astrological glyphs seems wrong for this overt, yang character whose firepower would light up the sky, not be in contrast to it. The wise face seized by the Thoth Queen of Sword becomes a really weird dishrag in the Liber T version--at first glance, I thought it was a fish!

As one would expect from Lo Scarabeo, the quality of cardstock and production is excellent. The card backs are not reversible, but depict the Justice card in gradients of dark blue. The LWB offers some background on the deck and the author's influences, as well as "Names and Mantic Meanings of the 78 Lames of the Liber T." These 22 philosophical maxims can be profound (The Fool: "All roads permit innocence. Do not be man or woman but rather both in One.") or cryptic (The High Priestess: "Penetrate through or be reflected by the Veil of the Virgin. Celebrate the Union of Pan with Artemis!"). "The 16 Court Honor Cards" are next, with keywords as well as their elemental makeup (the Queen of Swords is "Aqueous Air"). The Four Aces are next, and then very brief keywords are provided for "The 36 Decans of Thoth" (better known to some as the Minor Arcana). Decans is an astrological term, and in this case, are the planet/sign attributions as well as the cards themselves. Lastly, the author includes "The Oracle of the 8 Obelisks of Thoth"--a ritual/spread that involves candle lighting and whispering. Parchment or vellum is also suggested, but  my spread cloth worked just fine.

The Majors include the title of the card, in addition to the planet or element assigned to the card, as well as the associated Hebrew letter, like the Thoth. Because of the astrological information contained on this deck, it is ideal to use in conjunction with Liz Hazel's Tarot Decoded.

I remember a discussion on Tarot-l that explored the fact that, though Thoth is a seminal deck in the same tier as the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS), there are far fewer clones/variants of the Thoth. Some that were discussed (but not universally agreed upon) include the Deva, the Magickal, and the Love is in the Earth Crystal Tarot (shudder, shudder). I think no one would dispute that Liber T belongs on this list.

I recommend this deck to Crowley/Thoth enthusiasts, as well as those who appreciate surrealistic art.

  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/Coins) X  
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions X  
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/8" X 2 3/8")                     X
Smaller than standard                                    X
Slightly Larger than standard (4 3/4" x 2 1/2")                  X  

Liber T - Tarot of Stars Eternal by Roberto Negrini
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN#: 0738705659

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

You can read other reviews of this deck here and here.

Click here to see a sample reading with this deck.


Images 2004 Lo Scarabeo
Review and page 2004 Diane Wilkes