Olympus Tarot (Tarocchi dellíOlimpo) by Manfredo Toraldo, artist: Luca
Review by Morwenna Morasch
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
This was a deck for which I really waited impatiently since it was announced on the Lo Scarabeo website. Lo Scarabeo as a publisher insures quality decks, the artwork looked tantalizing, and I have a great love for ancient mythology Ė the Mythic Tarot was one of my learning decks. So when I spotted it in the bookstore, I happily jumped at the occasion.
The artist, Luca Raimondo, has presented us with a really beautiful deck, much in the same artistic style as his former work, the Casanova Tarot. But though some of the court cards and some cards from the Pentacles suit contain mild nudity, this is not an erotic deck like that one. His portrait style and the love of detail with which he depicts ancient buildings is exquisite.
The deck itself is composed of 78 cards in the traditional split into 22 Major and 56 Minor Arcana. All the minor cards are fully illustrated. The backs show Hercules engaged in a fight and are reversible. The LWB claims the structure of the deck follows the traditional one and therefore is easy to understand for anyone familiar with the Tarot.
However, this is only partly true due to the ideas behind the Minor Arcana. The suits may have the traditional symbols of Wands, Swords, Pentacles and Chalices emblazoned on their upper border, but the actual concepts are quite different:
Chalices are defined as the spirit and soul of things, the realm of magic, the water element and everything beyond explanation. Therefore, they form the new suit of Places who were the origins of myths, depicting e.g. Atlantis, Athens, the Underworld and the star constellation Orion.
Pentacles signify objects, possessions, wealth, the earth element and everything material. They are transformed into the new suit of Objects, who are essential for heroic or divine deeds and show Athenaís shield, Achilles' weapons or the Trojan horse.
Wands stand for instinct, basic desires, the fire element and animal needs. They correspond to the suit of fantastic Creatures and have centaurs, nymphs or sirens as images.
Finally, Swords represent logic, intelligence, recognition, the element of air and human spirituality. The suit of Heroes is meant to embody this concept. Among the heroes are Hercules, Ulysses and Jason.
I have to confess I donít feel this new order to be very logical or in tune with what the original suits are meant to represent. Why places of all things should correspond to water is beyond me.
Also, the meanings of the cards stray far from their traditional ones. For example, the Ten of Swords shows Theseus fighting the Minotaur. If you know the story, you also know Theseus is victorious in the end. None of the traditional meanings fit for this card.
The Two of Pentacles, on the other hand, shows Icarus in full flight in front of a huge red sun ball. While the original cards indeed deals with balance as well, it is not the sort of balance that distinguishes between life and death. Icarus is rather a symbol for smugness or over-confidence, since his wings are melting in the heat of the sun and he falls to his death.
I might overlook this if the deck was consistent in itself, but it rather makes me feel it suffers from the typical "theme deck disease": You have certain vital elements that are a must-mention if you want to cover the theme properly...so you have to squeeze them into the tarot structure somehow. Decks like the Celtic Wisdom or even the Sci-Fi Cat People tarot have managed this in a much more credible way.
I had some troubles with the Major Arcana as well. Many of them seem to focus on aspects of the chosen deities that donít portray either the deity or the essence of the card satisfyingly. For example, I canít see the God of Wine and Divine Pleasure, Dionysos, representing the qualities of the Hanged Man, gaining knowledge by accepting a period of immobility and different viewpoints...by dangling naked from some vines! Poseidon is the Hermit, symbolizing the reign over a lonesome domain. The ocean, however, is not quiet, nor is Poseidon, who could develop quite a temper if not paid the proper respect. The strangest correspondence, however, is that of Hestia, the peaceful goddess of hearthfire, posing as the TowerĖ the explanation suggested by the LWB is really weird: She taught man how to build shelters and houses. The divinatory meaning assigned to the card is "useful idea, simplicity". On the positive side, I adore Artemis as the Moon and Kronos makes an impressive Hierophant.
The LWB provides a seven card spread called the Pantheon, which is designed to identify guardian deities for a specific problem or area of life. It might prove worthwhile.
I would still recommend this deck to just about everyone because of its magnificent artwork and to complete a serious collection. Also, people who are less obsessed with ancient mythology than I am might not mind the inaccuracies as much as I do and get something more out of this deck.
See more cards from this deck here.
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
Morwenna Nadja Morasch's first encounter with the tarot took place 20 years ago, when she bought Ferguson's Tarot of the Witches in a novelty store out of curiosity. She was immediately hooked and presently owns a collection of about 60 decks. Morwenna has taken classes with two excellent German teachers, Pekny and Banzhaf, and also studies astrology. Spiritually, she follow a Witch's path with a close relationship to the Faerie folk, and is presently contracted to write a book linking faerie magic with the Tarot, to be published in Spring, 2003. View Morwenna's private homepage here.