The Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti with Companion Book by Barbara Moore
Reviewed by Joan Cole


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


When I first leafed through this deck, the illustrations took my breath away.  Glowing gem-tones and glittering metallics will appeal to anyone with corvine tendencies.  Marchetti’s digital artwork reminds me of the kind of illustrations that appeared in Omni magazine.  Even more, it reminds me of the Myst computer game (“the surrealistic adventure that will become your world”).  It has that kind of addictive illusionary realism.  You want to spend time in this world. 


Decks have harmonics, whether intentional or unintentional, created by repeated use of symbols, poses or backgrounds that can be followed through a series of cards.  As this deck, like the Hudes deck, is somewhat minimalistic in its overt symbolism, especially compared with a deck as jam-packed as the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS), you might assume that this deck would be weak on this score.  But, in fact, this deck has quite a few interesting and unique harmonics.  For example, the stylized sun of the card’s back can be seen repeated in the Chariot, Hanged Man and Sun, linking these cards together in a set.  Numerically, the Hanged Man (12) is the sum of the differences between the other cards and itself (19-12=7 and 12-7=5 thus 7+5=12).  Was this relationship intended or not?  It’s an interesting harmonic, regardless.   A different style of sunburst is shown on the Wheel and Justice.  Is Justice energizing the mechanism on the Wheel card?  The beams emitted or directed from her hands might lead to that conclusion.

Speaking of mechanisms, one of the unique features of this deck is the inclusion of mechanical devices on some of the images.  These are especially prominent on the High Priestess, Wheel, Star and Moon, and these contributed to my strong impression of a Myst-like world when I looked at these cards (in that game, much of the effort is wandering through the game trying to figure out how various mechanical devices work.)  Marchetti tells us that, “These machines, which straddle the opposing worlds of science and magic, somewhat basic in their construction and clockwork movements of gears and cogs, are of an earlier time.”  This is the creative tension behind Steampunk (e.g. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Wild Wild West), the nineties variant of Victorian/Edwardian Scientific Romances (e.g. Jules Verne), a genre one is also reminded of by the use of these archaic clockwork devices. 


Another harmonic of repeated themes is the use of the zodiac.  Marchetti seems to be using the symbolism of the different signs to describe the set of all possibilities that reality can be built from, a lexicon of all the possibilities of life.  These signs are often paired with representations of the physical planets and solar system, showing the materialization of possibility.  For example, the Fool juggles the abstract glyphs of the zodiac.  The Empress is circled by the abstract glyphs, but also wears a solar system necklace near her heart.  The Emperor is surrounded not by abstract glyphs but the mythological symbols of the signs (the crab, the scorpion, the scales, etc.), and holds a representation of the solar system in his hand.  The difference between these two rulers plays up a difference in focus between internal and external, nurturing and controlling.  The Wheel shows the zodiac as part of the mechanical device, with planets in the background.  “Here we have a fully mechanized wheel that is, as indicated by the astrological symbols on it, controlled by the stars, the rhythms of nature and life.”  Finally, the Sun shows it all in context.  “The sun, the planets, the stars of the zodiac – everything is clear and in good working order.  Not only that, but you can see the order.  You see the scientific charting of the heavenly courses.  You see the astrological symbols and know that the cold, mathematically knowable sky is more than that – that myths and stories abound even there.  You see the universe with its layers of meaning and contradictions and you are at ease with it.”  [To perhaps belabor the Myst analogy, you might say that these zodiacal symbols are Marchetti’s version of garo-hevtee symbols, the “great words” that fuse ideas with physical reality, in the D’ni’s art of linking to other worlds through books, books whose gateway images are activated through touch and which physically transport the person who touched them to the linked world.]

While a starry background is present in the majority of the Major Arcana, many of the Minor Arcana have much more detailed backgrounds.  “I bring attention to the stage of Mother Earth on which this story is being told.  Detailed visual emphasis from trees, blades of grass, and stones, to the inclusion of a number of animals, birds and other living creatures, reconfirm this sharing of the earth.  In some cards their inclusion adds to the story, but in which way is up to the reader.” 

The Minor Arcana are also typified by the inclusion of a particular animal, bird or insect which emphasize the meaning of the card.  These are not present on all cards of the Minor Arcana, but are found on the majority of them.   For example, the Eight of Cups shows a mole, about which the book says, “A sleeping mole indicates blindness… The time for blindness is over and he must acclimate to the light and… move forward with determination.”


Minor Arcana Suits






Woodgrain and gold filagree penlike wand with torc finial



Gold filigree chalice



Silver sword with engraved design



Gold and emerald pentagram


Just as the Major Arcana use titles and ordering (Strength is eight, Justice 11), and the Minor Arcana use RWS suit names,  this deck also names its court cards in RWS fashion: page, knight, queen, king.  They are saturated in the color of the deck, but don’t have as much overt personality as a deck like Thoth or Osho Zen.


“I set myself the following goals: the deck would be based on and pay homage to the Rider-Waite.  Most users would therefore be immediately familiar and comfortable with it.  I would make it visually attractive, both to enrich the actual reading experience and to appeal to collectors.  I would incorporate a number of personal touches to ensure the deck’s character was unique and not merely another Rider-Waite clone.”  On both counts, I believe that Marchetti has succeeded.

As the artist intended, this deck references the RWS, but I find that it is more of an improvisation than a straight variation.  Using the measurement metric I describe on my site, Gilded scores 22 out of 65 in closeness to RWS, which puts it in the category of fusions, art twists, and improvisations.  Recently, decks have been getting more and more creative in playing with the RWS storyline.  Gilded joins the ranks of such 21st century decks as Victoria Regina, Fey and Kat Black’s Golden, as another good example of such creativity.


The Gilded Tarot set was published in September 2004, and comes complete with book, deck and organza storage bag.

Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti with Companion Book by Barbara Moore
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide

ISBN #: 0738705209

You can read other reviews of this deck here, here, and here, and a sample reading with it here.


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


Joan Cole is a stay-at-home mom and former geek.   She has been studying Tarot off and on since the early 1980's.  You can see her deck collection here.

Review © 2005 Joan Cole
Page © 2005 Diane Wilkes