The Pythagorean Tarot by John Opsopaus     
Review by Ken Packer-Fletcher

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

Ever since discovering the web site for the original version of this deck way back in 2000, I have been hoping someone would publish it. Now that Llewellyn has actually brought it out, I have mixed feelings about it. I love the book, but I have problems with the actual deck.

The book is huge. It is 470 pages, with a detailed bibliography, and, miracle of miracles, a full-fledged index. It looks like Llewellyn decided to publish everything that is on the original web site. This was an excellent decision. According to the blurb on back of the book, the author, Opsopaus, is "a practicing Neopagan in the Hellenic tradition who has been an active magician and diviner for thirty years. He is also a university professor with more than twenty-five yearsí experience reading ancient Greek and Latin." His expertise in all of these areas shows on every page of the book. This is a deep book, a rich book, filled with oodles of new and unusual ideas that add whole new dimensions to the study of Tarot. There is not enough room to even begin to list the new ways of looking at the cards that Opsopaus puts forward in this book. Let me just say Opsopaus attempts to interpret the cards based on Pythagorean number theory, Jungian alchemical principles, and an intriguing new twist on number-letter associations based on the Greek alphabet rather than the Hebrew. The amazing thing is that it all manages to make a great deal of sense.

Naturally enough, the Pythagorean Tarot applies a very structured numerical interpretation to the cards. This often means a new and stimulating take on the cards, not only the pips, but the courts, and the majors as well. The whole approach is very appealing and provides a whole new perspective on the cards. The book alone is well worth the price of the deck and book set.

I am of two minds about the cards themselves. Apparently, the publisher made the decision to have the artist slavishly copy the original version designed by Opsopaus. The primary contribution of the new artist seems to have been to "clean up" the drawings some, especially those of people. The majors are drawn in a wan form of mannerism. Which is to say, the figures are elongated and flattened, just as in the originals. The color schemes, too, are essentially those of the original, and they work very nicely in the majors. Unfortunately, the colors are a bit muddy in the pips. The majors are rich in symbolic detail, but the minors are simple geometric arrangements of clunky renditions of the suit symbols. The court cards are just as unimaginative as the pips. The backs are reversible.

The majors of this 78-card deck are arranged idiosyncratically in the following order:

0.          Idiot (actually numbered with the zero)
I.           Magician
II.          Empress
III.         Emperor
IIII.        High Priestess
V.          High Priest
VI.         Love
VII.       Temperance
VIII.      Victory
VIIII.     Fortitude
X.          Fortune
XI.        Old Man
XII.       Hanged Traitor
XIII.      Death
XIIII.     Devil
XV.       Tower
XVI.      Star
XVII.     Moon
XVIII.    Sun
XVIIII.  Angel
XX.       Justice
XXI.     Cosmos

Opsopaus provides an interesting and consistent rationale for this arrangement. He also gives some unusual interpretations for the pips. All of his interpretations are based on his Greek alphabet-number association scheme, and they are tightly reasoned. His is an unusual and stimulating new approach to the tarot.

In the end, I have to rate this set based on three different ratings. I would give five stars to the book, maybe four stars to the majors, and two stars to the pips and court cards, for an overall average rating of three and two-thirds stars. Call it four stars. The book is really worth at least six stars out of five, anyway. Donít get me wrong, although the pips and court cards leave me cold, the deck is readable, and the majors are nicely done. Highly recommended, especially for collectors and anyone looking for a fresh perspective on the cards.

You can see more cards from this deck here.

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

Pythagorean Tarot created and written by John Opsopaus; artist: Rho
Publisher:  Llewellyn Publications
ISBN#: 1-56718-449-9

Ken Packer-Fletcher has been reading and studying diverse divination systems, including tarot, for about 30 years.  He has been working on the Teddy Bear Tarot when he has time and has contributed to numerous collaborative decks.  He is  a psychologist with a particular interest in childhood trauma and 
youth violence. 

Review © 2001 Ken Packer-Fletcher
Images © 2001 Llewellyn Publications
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes