celt2k14.jpg (16885 bytes)I Tarocchi Celtici - Review by Michele Jackson

This new deck from Lo Scarabeo is a much needed entry in the field of Celtic Decks. There are no cute little dragon hatchlings lolling about, raising your blood sugar to dangerous levels while you leaf through the book trying to figure out just what those little critters mean this time. Just good art on a Waite-Smith frame. Hallelujah! 

The cards measure 2 5/8" X 4 3/4". The backs are reversible. The Major Arcana have the traditional names. Each Major card also corresponds to a Celtic Myth. The myths are listed below.

0 - Fool: Fintan Mac Bochra VI - Lover: Elatha Ed Eri XII - Hanged Man: Conla XVII - Star: Miluchradh
I - Magician: Lug Samildanach VII - Chariot: Nuadu Airgetlam XIII - Death: Orlam XVIII - Moon: Sadbh
II - High Priestess: Brigh VIII - Justice: Ogma XIV - Temperance: Emer XIX - Sun: Osgar
III - Empress: Morrigan IX - Hermit: Goibniu XV - Devil: Finn Mac Cumhal XX - Judgment: Miamh
IV - Emperor: Dagda X - Wheel: Conchobor XVI - Tower: Aillen Mac Midhna XXI - World: Oisin
V - Hierophant: Dian Cecht XI - Strength: Cu Chulainn    

The suits are Chalices, Pentacles, Wands and Swords. The suit name is in the upper border in English, German, French and Spanish with the card number in the middle. The card name and number are in the bottom border in Italian. The court consists of Knave, Knight, Queen and King. The art is very good. It is detailed and has deep colors. The backs are reversible. More about the art later...

The images on the Major Arcana are not traditional. They depict the mythological people and creatures listed above. I found it interesting that many of them are the same as the assignments in another Celtic deck I reviewed. Even more interesting were the differences. For example, Oisin is assigned to the World in this deck and to the Moon in the other deck. Since these myths are being retrofitted onto the Major Arcana, aptness of fit is a matter of opinion. As someone not familiar with Celtic myth, I do not feel qualified to comment on the suitability of the choices made. The art is done in a fantasy art style. Although there are fairies and little people in this deck, it is definitely not for children. There is some nudity - tastefully done - and some violence.

The Minor Arcana are clearly derived from the work of Pamela Colman Smith. The artist reworked Smith's images, substituting Celtic people and legends. Wands are the Fomori people. Wands in this deck correspond to air, vice fire. Pentacles are the Tuatha De Danaan. They correspond to earth and to the South. Swords are the Ulaid people. The corresponding element is fire and their direction is West. Chalices are the Fianna people. They represent the element of water and the North.

The Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana were done by two different artists, and it shows. Both artists did a great job. However, their styles are different. The Majors were done by Giacinto Gaudenzi who did the Tarots of the Golden Dawn deck. His work appears to be pen and ink colored with watercolors. His figures tend to be large, taking up most of the viewing space. Saverio Tenuta did the Minor Arcana. He uses smaller figures and provides more background imagery. Some of his cards remind me of the Arcus Arcanum deck, though they are not cartoon-like. His images tend to the dramatic, but they are not as finely detailed as the Major Arcana cards. The two styles are not so disparate as to be distracting, but the difference is noticeable. As always, I like some cards a lot and some not so much. One of the latter category is the Empress (Morrigan). She looks like she got into the mead. I like the Magician. He has a crafty, knowing look that makes him seem just a bit dangerous. I also like the High Priestess, though the grain in her lap and the fact that she is surrounded by fruits make her appear a bit Empress-like. The Devil and Judgment are also nicely done. In the Minors Arcana, I like the swords. The artist uses fiery colors, often depicting a flaming sky in the background, in response to their correspondence with fire. That, coupled with the Waite-like images, makes them quite powerful.

The deck comes with a fold out sheet that briefly explains the legends associated with each Major Arcana card. An excerpt can be read below. The suits are described in the Minors but individual card meanings are limited to one word. This should not be problematic for those familiar with the Waite deck. One spread is provided. It is a 15 card spread called the Celtic Flowers Spread.

I recommend this deck for those looking for a Celtic theme deck. The Celtic myths and legends are there for those who want to delve more deeply, yet the similarities to Pamela Colman Smith's images make it readable out of the box for those who are familiar with the Waite deck. Some will find the elemental correspondences disconcerting, but they may feel right to those who use these correspondences in their spiritual or magickal practices.

I Tarocchi Celtici
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo/Distributor: Llewellyn Publishing

See more cards from I Tarocchi Celtici


XXI Oisin: The last of the Fianna, Oisin, was overcome with nostalgia and returned to Ireland where he suddenly became old, overwhelmed by the emotions of the past. But every memory of his long life remained vivid. Success, the end, completeness, conslusion, closure, reward.

Many of the links in this review are to the Encyclopedia Mythica - an excellent source for information on over 5000 myths.

Images Copyright 2000 Lo Scarabeo

Review Copyright 2000 Michele Jackson
Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes