The Universal Tarotuniv.jpg (13952 bytes)                                                                                Review by Michele Jackson

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I'm not sure whether I should call this deck a "Tarot" deck. It does have 4 suits, and 22 Major Arcana cards, but the deck has only 74 cards, due to the removal of the Pages. Maxwell states "There has been much debate and difference of opinion among scholars of the tarot about the Court Cards. There is argument about their names, their meanings and even their number." I must have missed the arguments about their number. Maxwell gives the following reasons for his change: "This reflects the tradition which has prevailed in playing cards, and also allows each one to clearly represent one zodiac sign." He further buttresses this argument by saying: "It is worth remembering that some early Tarot decks numbered 62 cards and the Florentine Tarot contained ninety-seven." It also allows him to make his numerological system fit. Numerically speaking, the key numbers for Maxwell's system are 3 and 7. 52 Minor Arcana reduce to 7, whereas 56 reduce to a messy 11 or 2. Maxwell was wise enough to recognize that some would find this change "unacceptable". I leave this for you to decide on your own, just be aware that there are no Pages in this deck. The remaining court cards are King, Queen and Knave.

There have also been some changes to the Major Arcana:

The art is good, though I have a suspicion that the art lost something in the translation to printed media. The colors are bright and each scene is framed in a dark marble-like border. The cards are thinner than most, but seem well coated and sturdy. The deck is very multi-cultural, with symbols from several different cultures being represented on the same card. Although I usually like multicultural decks, I find the mixing of several diverse cultural symbols on one card disconcerting. The Hierophant for example has a Cross (Christian) and, a Star of David (Jewish). He carries a Shaman's Drum, his staff is the serpent Kundalini passing through the Chakras. He stands under an archway with Arabic script which tells the story of Mevlana, an Islamic mystic; the I-Ching hexagram Pi, and 10 glyphs from the Mayan culture. Maxwell says of this card: "If the sheer diversity and number of symbols on this card becomes almost overwhelming, it should be borne in mind that it is precisely the unique position of the Hierophant which balances and holds together all these different concepts, these different descriptions of one reality." While this card has more symbols than most, each of the major Arcana cards combines symbols from several diverse cultures.

The Minors are basically pips with extra symbolism. One notices a distinct resemblance to Thoth in interpretation (though not in rendering) and the author admits being heavily influenced by Crowley's "Book of Thoth". He also mentions Barbara Walkers "Secrets of the Tarot" and Wang's "Qabalistic Tarot" as having been influential in his work. The suits are Cups Wands Swords and Disks.

This deck comes with a small book, which explains the authors views, and the underlying structure of this deck. The interpretations provided are more detailed than most, though a good portion of each explanation is spent trying to pull the symbolism together into a coherent whole. There are no reversed interpretations given. There is a short section on divination provided, which describes the Celtic Cross spread. Finally there is a table of correspondences. The deck also has a set of 9 appendix cards, with brief interpretations.

I would recommend this deck for those looking for something different and for collectors.

See more cards from the Universal Tarot Deck

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

Universal Tarot
ISBN: 0-87728-840-2
Publisher: Samuel Weiser, Price $25.00
Images Copyright (c) 1995 Maxwell Miller

This page is Copyright 1997 by Michele Jackson