The Comparative Tarot - Idea by Riccardo Minetti, Graphics by Pietro Alligo
Review by Janet Selman


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


The Comparative Tarot deck is a truly unique deck.  It is actually *4* decks in one--each card contains the same image from four different decks. The decks are: Universal Tarot, Tarot of the Sphinx, Tarot of the  Origins, and Tarot of Marseilles.


This deck introduces readers to the Comparative method, “the method of studying and reading tarot cards using side-by-side comparisons of the same card(s) from multiple decks.”  Pioneered by Valerie Sim, list-owner of the Comparative Tarot Yahoo Group, the Comparative Tarot Website and author of the little white book (LWB) accompanying this deck, the comparative method allows the reader to extract more varieties of perspective and nuances of meaning from each card, lending more depth to the interpretation. As Mark McElroy points out in an essay explaining the Comparative Method on the above site, “there is no one, perfect deck. Behind any Tarot card is a concept ... and no one card can completely capture all the dimensions of that concept.” The four-in-one concept of this deck allows us to at least capture more dimensions of the concept.


The cards themselves measure 4 ¾ x 2 9/16”, a size both easy to shuffle and read.  I was quite concerned about the quality of the images...would I have to get out a magnifying glass? But I was pleasantly surprised...the images are quite sharp. The periwinkle blue background makes the images pop. I have no difficulty feeling as though I can clearly see the cards, although I'm sure some detail must be lost (the Tower of the Universal makes me feel as though I'm missing something). The size of the cards is makes them quite usable, however...any larger, and they'd be hard to handle.


The backs are reversible, and deep blue, with a repeating pattern of the Lovers card from each deck in grey tones. 


The LWB offers an explanation of the benefits of the Comparative Tarot method (using the lovely image of "each deck singing the same song, but each in its own style or key"), and a brief explanation of each deck. Then there are listed keywords for a "core meaning" for each card, and then the variations for each deck. This is repeated in Italian, Spanish, French & German, so the 63 page LWB is actually much shorter...about 12 pages per language.  For such short text, Valerie Sim has done an admirable job. The text is definitely concise, but has lots of punch...the keywords are carefully selected and clear, leaving one no doubt of the concept in question. No flowery, new-age-y spiels here!  I do feel the lack of a more in-depth book to accompany this deck.  Especially in the case of the Sphinx or Origins tarots, I think that still more could be gained with a deeper explanation of the origins of the images on the cards. Why are certain gods depicted in the Sphinx? What is the reasoning for the suit correspondences in Origins? I'm hungry for more information!  The Courts, especially, could benefit from some expansion.

Instead of the usual Celtic Cross hybrid offered at the back of the LWB, we are offered an explanation of how to use this deck for one-card readings, much more suited to the format of these cards. 

In my opinion, the
choices for decks themselves are marvelous. Other choices could be argued ad nauseum, but each of these decks brings something unique to the mix.  There are many other decks which could have been used which absolutely would have lost too many details in this format. Each of these decks is simple in a different way (simple, not simplistic), and suits the format. And such disparate decks...pips vs. images on the minors, different styles of art, different periods in time, different geography.

The LWB points out that this is not a beginner's tarot, but more a tool for study. I would agree with this, and add that I think that this is a deck with enough layers of meaning to keep me, at least, going for a long time. I believe that this will become my new purse deck...something to pull out when I have a minute here and there.

I have one major gripe about this deck.  In the LWB, the keywords are listed for each deck in this order:

1) Core meaning
2) Marseilles
3) Universal
4) Tarot of the Sphinx
5) Tarot of the Origins

But on the cards themselves, the decks are in this order:

Top left: Universal              
Bottom left: Origins
Bottom right: Marseilles

Top right: Sphinx

So, there's no particular relationship between the two...I have to keep checking the "key" in the front of the LWB to see which is which.

But this is a fairly petty gripe, and I'm sure it'll become second nature to me in time.

So, altogether, I agree that this is not a "basic" deck. But as a study tool, it's terrific, and challenging, and I look forward
to spending lots of time with it.  I’ve also found it very useful for one-card readings on the Free Tarot Network, finding that sometimes my attention is drawn by one particular card, and at other times, my interpretation is a synthesis of the four.  But I always find a new depth of meaning in using this deck.


A sample reading using the Comparative Tarot:


In what way can the Comparative Tarot deck help further my tarot studies?


Card chosen: The 8 of Chalices


1) Core meaning: Moving on to a new commitment
2) Marseilles: Maturity; spiritual search and/or fulfillment
3) Universal: Renunciation; moving on or away
4) Tarot of the Sphinx: Farsightedness; shyness
5) Tarot of the Origins: Obsessive search; doubt




This deck will allow me to move to a new level of commitment, and further my search for fulfillment.  It marks a new level of maturity, and a moving-on from prior ways of seeing.  It offers new perspective.  And I am cautioned that the search for fulfillment may become an obsession.

And in my own perusal of this card, I am struck by the very personal sense of this card; the need to turn away from common thought to seek out one’s own individual path; to turn within to seek answers. 


You can see more cards from this deck here.


Comparative Tarot - Idea by Riccardo Minetti, Graphics by Pietro Alligo
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN#: 0738702811


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


Janet Selman is "a middle-aged wife, mother of two, witch, midwife, professional cat spoiler and habitual housework avoider."

Images © 2002-2003 Lo Scarabeo
Review © 2003 Janet Selman
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes