Tarot of the III Millennium by Iassen Ghiuselev Review by Diane Wilkes
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
The concept behind the Tarot of the Third Millennium is quite dynamic--it is "the conflict between spirit and technology, between oneself and the madness which surrounds it," according to the card box.
Iassen Ghiuselev is certainly an able artist, but his execution of this concept is oddly inconsistent. The Majors are beautiful line drawings, elegant in their intricate, grey-on-sand detail. Nothing about them hints of the alleged theme of the deck--Classical Tarot would be a far more accurate title. The Magician (colorized only on the box, not in the deck) is a paragon of graceful cunning. The Chariot and The Moon share a hint of Egyptian influence; Temperance delicately depicts a Japanese tea ritual. Only the card backs, which depict the Fool against a blueprint of something electrical, hint of anything modern--and the actual Fool card doesn't contain the blueprint.
The Hierophant is also drawn with classical lines, but his back is to us--face front is a symmetrical cathedral that serves as his pictorial backbone. I suppose it's a statement of modernity to show such a man of the cloth's strong identity with the structure of the church. However, the building and Hierophant's clothing hew to the most traditional versions of this card--there'll be no folk masses played here, thank you very much.
Another perfect image of symmetry is the Justice card, which is numbered VIII in this deck (Strength, a man embracing a fanged animal, is XI). Since Justice is a card of precision and balance, it is an extremely powerful card, despite its pervasive aura of stillness and stability.
Most of the imagery in the Major Arcana is beautifully done drawings that aren't very dissimilar to what you're used to, but there are some interesting exceptions. The Tower shows a building similar to the Tower of Pisa--only it's not slanted in any direction. Next to the many-tiered edifice is an imperious Hermit-like image who holds a staff strongly against the breeze, which ruffles his long hair. His face is bearded and wise, and his eyes have seen much. There's no sense of movement to this card; the man and structure stand tall and immobile against the wind. There's certainly no sense of chaos--the dramatic force is the figure, nothing external. Yet if you look closely at the Tower card, you'll see the various tiers of the building are architecturally diverse, spanning the centuries, blending the old with the new.
Another image that catches the imagination is the Sun card--a naked, perfectly-built man stands with his back to us, one arm raised, a large orb the only backdrop. The circle, symbolizing the sun, is not far above the man, evoking the Browning poem Andrea Del Sarto: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" This is a truly wonderful card.
The Minors are quite quirky, though the art is equally adroit. The main art in each of the cards is also drawn in a classical, detailed style, but the pen-and-ink drawings are darker, done with a thicker brush and are more robust. There is an insert of the Bologna Tarot version of each card. There is also a symbol of the "Third Millennium" attached almost haphazardly to each card, as well.
Note the Three of Cups, in which is portrayed a scene of great revelry. At the right hand bottom of the card is a green bar code. Other than the concept that we have to pay for our pleasures, there is no other symbolism except that it adheres to the stated theme of the deck.
The Three of Cups is one of the rare Minor Arcana cards that can in any way be equated with traditional tarot meanings. A more typical Minor Arcana representation of this deck is the Ace of Swords, which shows a man falling back in anguish at some indeterminable, unseen horror...unless the distress emanates from the odd mathematical code stamped in the middle of the card. The keyword given for this card is "lucidity;" if this is lucidity, give me the fumbling darkness.
If you lay out all four aces from this deck, you will see that the art is all connected and of one piece--though they don't neatly come together. Even here there is a sense of entropy and chaos. This four-card connection is unique to the Aces in the Tarot of the III Millennium.
The court cards are unique, in that they are colorized, the only cards in the deck that are. Each has its own website address printed in five different languages: Italian, English, Spanish, French, and German. Sometimes the Court Card is human, other times it is an animal of some kind, but all are drawn as horrible, Bosch-like denizens of Hell here on earth.
It is inconceivable to me that I would ever use this deck for this reason alone. A querent would run in horror if asked to choose a significator, and even I would quibble with identifying with any of these court cards. My other issue with using this deck comes from the many cards that use imagery completely inconsistent with my understanding of the Minor Arcana.
Accompanying the deck is a 14 page fold-out that explains the concept behind the deck (much more lucidly than the deck itself expresses it) and a short, poetic statement for each of the Major Arcana, along with a keyword. These are quite affecting and insightful. The Minors are also given a keyword, but sometimes they don't quite match the art on the card, as I pointed out in my discussion of the Ace of Swords above. There is a short section on the meanings of the numbers and suits in general. There is a separate section on the meanings of the Court Cards by rank.
Lastly, there is a four card spread called "The Two-Headed Serpent." Directions for the spread ask that after it is read in one direction, the reader should read them in the opposite one. This is in keeping with the contradictory theme of the deck.
While I think the addition of the "technological symbols," such as the website URLS and the bar codes add nothing to the deck, they don't detract much from the beauty of the cards. I recommend this deck highly for its incredibly beautiful art to collectors and those interested in something completely different.
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
Tarot of the III Millennium by Iassen Ghiuselev
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo (US Distributor: Llewellyn Publishing)
Imagery © 2000 Lo Scarabeo
Review and page © 2001 Diane Wilkes