Antic Tarot by Beata Marcinkowska
Review by Diane Wilkes

Like the Sara and Mistic Tarots, the Antic Tarot is one of three decks published by a Polish publisher named Sara. All three have their appeal, but the Antic is my favorite of the three, because of its unique approach to some of the Majors.

Take the Magician, for example. The table in the image is filled with tools representing the four elements, but there are more items--and a blazing fire burning in front of that well-laid table. The white-robed, rather androgynous Magician is working magic outdoors, and animals have gathered on the piazza to observe the show. The white pillars wrapped in grapes, along with the lit candles, adds to the drama of the scene.

The High Priestess is seated indoors, yet her environment is no less magical. While the pillars that surround her are not black and white, but a tan and brown marble, she has her own fire burning and we see the triple moon symbol for the goddess (a repeated image in all the Sara decks) rising in the night sky. A large golden statue stands on a pedestal in the background. It looks vaguely warrior-like, but I am unsure whom it represents.

Interestingly, the Empress is indoors, too, and she reclines on a chaise longue. Fire and water surround her, but the burning censor and the flowing fountain are her pillars of luxury and ease.

The Hierophant looks vaguely Asian, though garbed in Grecian-styled draped white robes as he pours something into the flames. Items of war nestle at the base of his fiery furnace, and the blood that stains the floor below hints of a ritual of soldier protection. Another golden graven image stands on a pedestal behind him.

The Chariot rider is seen driving his pair of horses around the coliseum. The Hermit is one of my favorite cards; it shows a night scene with a bent, bearded man of wisdom walking into a cave, guided by candlelight. A soft full moon glows in the distance, and we can see Greek buildings (a rotunda, white classical buildings with pillars) in the background.

The Wheel of Fortune is also quite unique. Instead of the four elementals at the corners of the image, we have the suit symbols (Cup, Wand, Coin, and Sword). An angel and a demon hold on to a gold-rim circle at the center of the card; at the hub, are four compartments, two showing the sun, two, the moon. The circle itself is attached to a Corinthian pillar, and a golden snake and eagle sit at the top of it. White fluffy skies in the background indicate Jupiter optimism for the future.

Not all of the cards are as idyllic. Strength, numbered 11, shows a warrior woman grappling with a lion, who is standing on his hind legs looking for a take down. Again, a building of classic Greek architecture is seen in the distance. All three of the Sara decks have a Hanged Man with an unusually large, almost misshapen face, and the Antic XII is no exception. Death is a blonde woman holding a scythe in the night, a crescent moon illuminating the bloody heads at her feet. And the Devil is quite a disconcerting card; a chained naked couple is held by a Devil who seems to be inching them (and himself) towards a river of flames. Interestingly, the woman faces the horned creature, but the man is holding a rock. Lest you think he's planning to fight the Devil, I should warn you he simply looks distracted, as if deciding if this particular stone would look nice in his apartment.

The Moon card, though, seems less eerie than it does in many other tarots, if only because of its perfect symmetry. A full moon shines in a midnight blue sky as perfectly matched wolves of black and white howl from their pillar seats. The eerie mood the combination creates is more mystical than unnerving. The Sun could evoke Biblical literature (sacrificing a son to the sun), but I think it's more in the vein of the Icarus myth. (The image is of a man holding his fat baby boy up into the rays of a glowing sun.)

The last two cards are also exquisite. Judgment (titled "The Judgement") shows two angels blowing their horns from clouds as the filmy white spirits rise into the night sky to join them. The city below is burning. The World, on the other hand, shows the triumph of man's survival--in the form of a woman dancing atop a globe nestled in the heart of her land.

I think "Antic" is meant to imply antiquity, specifically Greek antiquity, although the Court Cards, in particular, look rather Norse, with their large bones and blonde hair. The deck colors are nicely balanced--they are vivid and tend toward the darker hues, but the colors are tasteful and not too gloomy, unlike the Mistic, which does tend towards the murky.

Sadly, all three decks have simply-designed pip cards. The Mistic Tarot has the most interesting of the Minor Arcana, but the Antic Tarot's are rather elegant. Wands are royal scepters, and both the Wands and Chalices in this deck are adorned with bright inset jewels. The Swords have jewel-encrusted hilts and Coins are embossed with a classic profile in a gold color. Oddly, the backgrounds are highly untraditional--Wands are surrounded in green, Cups, pink, Swords, blue and Pentacles, bright yellow.

The Court Cards are quite cross-cultural. Pages are youths, and some of the Queens look like child-brides, especially the blonde and lissome Queen of Cups, who seems more of a Princess to me. The Page of Pentacles could be her slightly younger brother, and looks as Nordic as they come. Knights, on the other hand, are depicted as being rather old and grizzled. The pudgy Knight of Pentacles has a blond mustache that makes me think of a walrus every time I look at him. The King of Swords is rather dark, and resembles someone of Arabic descent, a lineage that is reinforced with his pasha-like red tent and Middle-Eastern jug at his side.

There was no accompanying little white booklet in the box and the Antic reversible backs are a simple lattice pattern of turquoise and white (all the Sara Tarots have the same back design, but the Sara Tarot is maroon and white). This deck is, to me, the most attractive and interesting of the three Sara Tarots, and I recommend it to collectors and those looking for a deck with interesting Majors and who don't mind simple pips.

While the box doesn't include an ISBN number, it does offer the following information for ordering:

Firma Sara
43-013 Katowice, ul. Świętego Jana 10
tel. (032) 253 99 03

You can also order this deck from the artist's website, or email her. The decks are very reasonably priced when you order them from her directly.

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

Images Sara
Review and page 2003 Diane Wilkes
On loan from the Brigit Horner Collection