Olympus Tarot by Manfredi Toraldo, Art by Luca Raimondo
Review by Diane Wilkes
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
Because mythology is such a rich, multi-layered area of interest, numerous themed tarot decks have it as their subject. The Mythic Tarot by famed archetypal astrologers Liz Greene and Juliet Sharman-Burke is based on the Greek myths, as are the Tarot Mitologico and the Derakkusu. There are several decks based on Arthurian legend and Celtic myth in general, and, of course, there are various Egyptian-themed decks. Then there are decks that are multi-cultural in their approach to myth, such as Kris Waldherr's Goddess Tarot.
The Olympus Tarot by Manfredi Toraldo focuses on Greek mythology, yet is quite different from the Greene-Sharman-Burke collaboration. Each of the Majors is linked to a particular deity, based on "what the god represented for the common mind of the Greek world." The little white booklet (LWB) names the God or Goddess for each of the Majors, as well as the nature and qualities of the deity. There are also three keywords provided: a concept or area affiliated with the god or goddess (such as "unbiased thought" for Athena/Justice or "complete thought" for Uranus/World), a behavioral aspect of said divinity ("honesty" for Artemis/Moon, for example), and the "dominating character(istic)" of the deity (such as "virginity" for Artemis/Moon, or "confusion" for Dionysus/Hanged Man). Some of these examples are clear to me, others are significantly less so.
The Minor Arcana, however, is where the confusion becomes distinctly thicker and murkier. In the Olympus Tarot, Wands "are the primordial force present in the human soul which...is always alive and represented by the imaginative creatures which crowd the stories." Some of the creatures are the Minotaur, who, in the Six of Wands, represents "fury" and the many-headed Cerberus, who denotes "boundary" in the Eight of Wands. The court cards are also creatures, including the giant Atlas, the King of Wands. While I can definitely "see" this card as a King of Wands, fury and boundary are keywords I would never think of for the Six or Eight of Wands, respectively. Correlating the suit of Wands to creatures is a conceptual jump that is more interesting than it is productive for me as a reader.
Chalices are correlated to places, such as Sparta for the Four of Cups (Struggle, based on the battle at Thermopylae) and Ulysses' old homestead, Ithaca (Revenge is the given keyword for this card) graces the Nine of Cups.
The Swords are attributed to heroes, who are all male with the exception of the Queen of the suit, who is based on Arachne. We've come a long way, baby. Maybe. Some of these heroes are not particularly heroic; the Four of Swords shows Midas shrinking back from the golden statues he has created and the Five displays Narcissus staring into a pool of water, seeking his selfhood in vain, so to speak.
Pentacles are, appropriately, objects. The Two of Pentacles is a lovely depiction of Icarus in flight (but his wings are the stated objects), and familiar mythic objects such as Hippolyte's belt and the Trojan Horse make an appearance in this suit. The King of Pentacles, though, is Prometheus' Fire, which seems an odd choice for an earth suit. This dichotomy is caused by the categories assigned to each suit, and it occurs enough to cause discordance.
Much like the Greek Myths, the Olympus Major Arcana cards encompass dramatic victories and blatant setbacks. Pan, identified with the Devil in the Herbal Tarot, is here associated with the Fool, which works wonderfully. As in the Derakkusu, The Moirae are assigned to the Wheel. But Dionysus as the Hanged Man (as opposed, let's say, to the Devil) isn't nearly as successful a correlation, as Dionysus is described even in the LWB as the "god of pleasure and joy." The Devil in this deck is ascribed to Hecate, whose hellhounds are the only reason I can see for this ascription. Hermes, often associated with the Mercurial Magician in Golden Dawn-derived decks, is assigned to the Chariot. I know He's the Messenger God, but the Chariot is not, to me, about messenger service in any way. Hera is known primarily in her wifely role, so Hestia, assigned to the Olympus Tower (!), seems a more fitting High Priestess goddess corollary to me. As you can see, the assignments seem quirky at best, and a mixed bag at worst.
The following are the Major Arcana cards and their attributions, so you can hand down Olympian judgments for yourself:
The Magician Zeus
The High Priestess Hera
The Empress Aphrodite
The Emperor Ares
The Hierophant Cronus
The Lovers Eros
The Chariot Hermes
The Hermit Poseidon
The Wheel The Moires
The Hanged Man Dionysus
Death Hades and Persephone
The Devil Hecate
The Tower Hestia
The Stars Hebe
The Moon Artemis
The Sun Apollo
The Judgement Phobos, Deimos and Harmonia
The World Uranus
The cards measure approximately two and a half by five inches, and are printed on the usual (excellent) quality semi-gloss cardstock Lo Scarabeo employs. Each Major card has the title printed in English on the top right, with the Roman numeral of the card placed on the top left in dark mustard-colored ink. On the bottom border, the card title is listed in French, Italian, German, and Spanish. As is traditional in Italian decks, Justice is numbered VIII, Strength, XI. Backs are reversible and depict a two-sided battle scene, elegantly and classically depicted. The artwork by Luca Raimondo is uniformly excellent.
I recommend this deck to those who embrace decks with a mythic theme, art lovers, and, of course, tarot collectors.
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
Images © 2002 Lo Scarabeo
Review and page © 2002 Diane Wilkes