Tarot of Reflections by Francesco Ciampi, graphics by Pietro Alligo
Review by Arielle Smith

"Am I a figment of your imagination or are you one of mine?" ~ Kris Kristofferson in "A Star is Born"

Do we act differently if we are being watched? What if the one who is watching is us? If we could stand outside ourselves and look at our lives, would we respond to life in a different way? The Aborigines believed that Dreamtime was real and what we consider real is actually dream time....what if they are right? What if none of it is real? What if all we believe is only an illusion?

The Tarot of Reflections is a very strange deck that evokes very strange feelings. The artwork on the deck is by Francesco Ciampi, a well-known cartoonist in Italy, and the cards do have a slight comic book look to them. What is disconcerting, however, is that most of the cards also have a mirror image of some part of the card - not an exact mirror image, however, but a slightly off-kilter image. This image is sometimes very obvious, as on the Fool card where the Fool's likeness is right there in his face, even larger than his own face. Sometimes the image is at the bottom of the card, as if representing the root of the figure. On the Hanged Man, the image is reversed so that the Hanged Man's face is upright even though he is upside down. Sometimes the image is more obscure, as on the Devil card.

To add to the complexity of the deck, many of the figures are a mixture of male/female characteristics - the Knave of Chalices, for example, wears a long skirt and long hair, but sports a goatee. To me, the Queens all look strong and healthy while the Kings seem older and more fragile. Many of the cards have a network of fine lines on them, much like the crazing on old, antique pottery and this enforces the illusion of illusion.

It might not seem as if these small additions to the cards would make that much difference but they add an unusual perspective to the deck. Much like seeing yourself unexpectedly on television, you are taken aback. Nothing is quite as you expect it to be.

Little white booklets (LWB) that come with tarot decks are notoriously ordinary, but the Tarot of Reflections is full of surprises. The LWB with it is no exception. Card meanings here have a decidedly no-nonsense, "let's be real" approach. For the Ace of Chalices: "Life is a chalice full of sweet and savory liquids, poisons, and medicines. All are necessary but must be used appropriately at the right time." For Judgement: "There are beds that are so comfortable they become tombs. You can rest but don't let your conscience fall asleep. Get up and listen to the voice of virtue." For the King of Swords: "A man that knows the weak points of things or people. If he is your friend, he can solve a problem. If he is your enemy, you can expect a tough battle."

New tarot readers might have some trouble with this deck - experienced readers might find it stimulating and refreshingly different. Those interested in shadow work or self-exploration will probably find it intriguing. It's not a deck for everyone, but it is distinctive.

It is only appropriate, of course, that the backs of these cards show an image from the Moon card. "Reality is often illusory: pure reflection of desires, dreams, old memories. Don't be deceived. Remove every mask of others and yourself."

If you dare.

Tarot of Reflections
Artwork by Francesco Ciampi, graphics by Pietro Alligo
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN#: 0738707910

Arielle, well on her way to becoming a weird eccentric, is a Certified Tarot Grand Master living in Florida with one husband and way too many cats. Both tree-hugger and animal lover, she is also a part-time teacher and full-time student of the Tarot.

Images 2005 Lo Scarabeo
Review 2005 Arielle Smith
Page 2005 Diane Wilkes