Le Tarot de Yumi by Yumi
Review by Diane Wilkes

This 45 card, highly unusual deck, published by Grimaud, is Tarot...kinda, sorta. There are 24 Major Arcana, and a four suited Minor Arcana of Sky, Ocean, Fire, and Earth. Each suit only contains five cards, including one Court Card, which is titled the "Glory" of the suit.

Normally, I am not all that interested in decks that aren't "true tarots," but the colorful, whimsical qualities of this deck remind me of the Erté Tarot. The Yumi captivated me before I knew what was happening and I was sucked into the Sara Steele-esque vortex of the artwork. I hate when that happens.

The Majors are as follows:

French Title and Number English Title
I.       Les Magiciennes The Magicians
II.      Le Pouvoir Strength
III.     L'Ordre Order
IV.     L'Oiseau Merveilleux The Marvellous Bird
V.      La Porte Sacrée The Sacred Portal (or Door)
VI.     La Fiancée The Fiancée (or Engaged One)
VII.    Les Jumelles The Twins
VIII.   La Peseuse d'Ames The Weigher of Souls
IX.     La Destinée Fate
X.      La Loi The Law
XI.     La Sacrifiée The Sacrificed One
XII.    L'Éléphant Blanc The White Elephant
XIII.   L'Éléphant Noir The Black Elephant
XIV.   La Fécondité Creativity, Fecundity
XV.    La Diablesse The Female Devil
XVI.   Le Feu Fire
XVII.  Le Pic de Glace The Ice Cube
XVIII. La Perfection Perfection
XIX.   La Reine du Ciel Queen of the Sky
XX.    L'Étoile The Star
XXI.   La Foudre The Lightning
XXII.  L'Acrobate The Acrobat
XXIII. La Grande Prêtresse The High Priestess
XXIV. La Muse The Muse

Over half of these directly correspond to traditional Majors, and the others can be attributed (sometimes widely) to the missing Majors. I also did this with Le Jeu Divinatoire with a reasonable degree of success--and for the same reason--because it was so darn jolie! While I don't characterize Yumi as being quite in the same range of exquisiteness, it seems worthy of such tarot contortions.

And some of the cards don't require acrobatics. The Magicians emphasizes the showmanship side of Trump I. With a title like "Order," the Emperor feels comfortable within the structure, so to speak. Who wouldn't recognize this Hanged One? Or the Devil (above)? And while the Tower doesn't usually resemble a fashion model, if you look carefully at the Lightning card, you can see a dragon made of fire nibbling at her ear, portending destruction of the flaming world she stands upon.

The Minor Arcana are completely non-traditional, except for their elemental suits. The suit of Fire includes titles like The Sun, Two Moons, Four Stars; Two Scallops and Three Turtles (and Four Crabs!) swim in the Ocean Suit, One Butterfly and Two Toucans fly in the Sky suit, and One Dahlia and Three Mushrooms grow in the suit of Earth.

The Glories of their suit are as spectacular as the rest of the deck. The one for Earth doesn't look like any Queen of Pentacles I've ever seen, despite the fact that she's standing (posing, more like!) amidst sheaves of wheat.

This is not an esoteric deck, by any stretch of the imagination. Even so, I can imagine reading with it, assuming I was dealing with something light and airy, something having to do with fun with a capital "F." Anyone who doesn't smile at the Three Mushrooms card, showing a woman blending into an earthy background despite her red fauna earrings, has a serious problem...or a problem with seriousness.

The cards themselves are slightly thinner than standard and are printed on very slippery cardboard. The card backs are not reversible and border on kitsch, something I think the majority of the Yumi Tarot cards avoid. The physical quality of the deck, as one would expect from a Grimaud product, is superb. The little white booklet is 40 healthy pages, but as it is all in French, I can't say too much about it. What I did translate, I found  interesting.

This is an essentially frivolous deck, but that's okay. Sometimes a little frivolity is necessary to brighten one's day and this deck is definitely a day-brightener for me. I recommend it to collectors and fans of Erté (and especially the Folchi version of the Erté Tarot). If you're looking for a traditionally-structured tarot, this is not the deck for you. Published by a major publisher in 2002, you should be able to track down a copy for a relatively reasonable sum (as opposed to the Folchi deck!). A little searching on my part yielded a price of $22 (without shipping, of course!).*

Le Tarot de Yumi by Yumi
Publisher: Grimaud

  Yes No
78 cards   X
Reversible Backs   X
Strength VIII, Justice XI                            N/A  
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana   X
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks)   N/A
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions   N/A
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                     X
Smaller than standard
 (4 3/4" x 2 1/2")                                           
Larger than standard                                                X

* Since I have not purchased from this vendor, I feel uncomfortable linking to this site.

Images © 2002 Grimaud
Review and page © 2003 Diane Wilkes
On loan from the Brigit Horner Collection