Sharman-Caselli Tarot (packaged with Beginner's Guide to Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke)
Illustrated by Giovanni Caselli
Review by Mari Hoshizaki

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The Sharman-Caselli Tarot to me was a curious pick: I had a children's copy illustrated by Giovanni Caselli of Bullfinch's Mythology. I thought his illustrations were quite well-done. His quality of illustrations were similar to what I've seen in many Italian tarots by U.S. Games, AGM Mueller and Lo Scarabeo. Curious, I searched the net and came up with the name Sharman-Caselli tarot. It was to be released in the U.S. in 2002 as part of Beginning Tarot deck and book set by Juliet Sharman-Burke.

So when the World Tarot Conference in May 2002 came to the U.S., so did the Sharman-Caselli Tarot. I couldn't go to Chicago, but for twenty dollars I could buy a tarot being showcased at the conference. The Two of Swords 'looked out at me' from an intriguing illustration in the tarot bookcase at my local Borders Bookstore. Actually that's a bit of a joke, as the Two of Swords is blindfolded in the standard Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) decks.

Now people have disliked the wraparound cover around the cards-book packaging in some decks. I immediately took scissors to cut off the wraparound tray-cover. I would get a small zip-up bookbag for the book and deck or standard silk/velvet bag for carrying the cards.

From the beginning I could see the minors were quite well-done. Juliet Sharman Burke did an excellent job describing and suggesting ways to get to know your tarot deck. At first glance, the coloring seems to be quite
subtle and the line illustrations quite simple. If I compare it card by card to tarots such as Robert DeAngelis' Universal Tarot or the Secrets Tarots by Marco Nizzoli from Lo Scarabeo, the deck art seems to be mismatched. When I laid out the softer Giorgio Trevisan's Tarot of the Renaissance, the Sharman-Caselli Tarot seemed to be in better company. The colors and archetypes seemed more dynamic.

One strong impression I got from laying out the Wands suit is the colors of yellow and red of fire in the late afternoon sun becomes quite bright: I changed the backdrop in order not to tire my eyes.

The minor assignments are standard: Wands for Fire, Chalices for Water, Swords for Air and Pentacles for Earth. The paintings of the the minors would be familiar to RWS fans, but perhaps made more significant because the people in the scenes are depicted much closer to the viewer.

For instance, the Five of Cups shows a picture of a hooded figure from the back. The figure is facing a stream with Italian cypresses receding to a landscape and the back of a distant castle. The two cups in the foreground seem significant, but the figure's bowed shoulders do not see this. The figure only faces the three spilled cups that spell a regret that literally splashes within sight of a river.

The Ten of Cups shows a similar castle or or mansion much closer to the viewer. The river or stream curves around a pleasant landscape and ten cups of a similar pattern surround a young family in contentment.

I described these scenes from the cards without first referring to the book. When I did check the "Beginning Tarot" book, I found the meanings were similar to my descriptions. The meanings were enhanced by details and insights written in the pages. For fun, I also checked Juliet Sharman-Burke's Understanding the Tarot and Mastering the Tarot and found additional riches. For the minors, Sharman-Burke's Understanding the Tarot uses various decks to illustrate written notes. I'm a fan of using different decks to compare meanings and aspects of the same card, so this works for me.

The majors of the Sharman Caselli tarot are not numbered: her ordering is done in a teaching walk through "A Fool's Journey". She uses an idea that I find interesting, using the Hermit (Prudence) and three traditional virtues of Justice, Temperance, Strength first, pivoting around the Wheel of Fortune, then walking through Hanged Man, Death, Devil and the Tower. Now if you were brought up tarotwise on the Marseilles or Rider Waite Smith ordering, you'd find this a definite twist. I'm not certain if I'd recommend this as standard learning for a beginner.

For myself, I like the majors ordering done in her book Mastering the Tarot, where Justice is eight and Strength is 11. I found comparing the Sharman-Caselli tarot majors to the illustrated decks shown in Mastering the Tarot to be valuable. The Sharman-Caselli cards show interesting twists and ideas that touch on some of the colors and character choices in the decks shown in the Mastering book. These decks include: Visconti Szforza, Oswald Wirth, Medieval Scapini, Universal Waite, Morgan Greer, A Renaissance Tarot (Brian Williams), Mythic Tarot and Arthurian Tarot (Miranda Gray). 

The Sharman-Caselli deck is an interesting and worthwhile deck to me. I will use it for further study and use in reading for others. It would not be my only choice as a workalike to the Rider-Waite-Smith. I am still playing with the comparisons to the other Sharman-Burke books and Trevisan's deck. The more I play with it, the better I find it. So I do recommend it for those who want to play with comparisons and yet still enjoy familiarity with the RWS decks.

Beginners Guide to the Tarot by Juliet Sharman Burke with cards illustrated by Giovanni Caselli
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN: 0-312-28482-9

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Mari Hoshizaki is a fan of comparing different art tarots and art history. Her interests include Renaissance studies, poetry seminars and portraiture, which seem to relate to tarots. Her paid work is analyzing different numbers, so art tarots are a joy and a pastime.