Fey Tarot by Riccardo Minetti, Illustrated by Mara Aghem
Review by Diane Wilkes
If you would like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.
The faery art I am typically attracted to runs to the Pre-Raphaelite visions of the mystical world. But the Fey Tarot is so well-constructed and well-considered that I find myself drawn into its realms, even though the turf is hardly my usual stomping grounds. The very first card beckoned me to enter the journey by making me laugh out loud in delight and amusement. The Fool depicts the Puer Aeternus aspect of this card, but with a twist. While he's seeking his reflection--rather narcissistically--he does so not by searching in a mirror or peering into a body of water, but by gazing into the face of a broadly-grinning pumpkin. Rings of keys adorn his scanty outfit. The key to life? Not to take it too seriously...
The Magician evokes Harry Potter, conjuring at Hogwarts. A friend commented that this Magician seemed like he would never work his magic for evil, only good, unlike most other renditions of this card she had seen. And indeed, the author makes the same point in his companion book: "The Fey that presides over will has abandoned any ambition within himself. He is moved by joy and not by pride." The Blue Faery Empress cradles a winged lamb/unicorn in her arms--this card is utterly endearing and magical simultaneously.
The Wheel is one of my favorite versions ever. Not only is it a particularly lovely rendering, it is unusually proactive. Perhaps it's because the Fey folk control the Wheel, instead of being at its mercy. The Hermit, on the other hand, wears a look of terror on his face as he explores the dungeon of his soul, which is in contrast to my usual view of this in-control archetype. In fact, the feel of this card more typically belongs to the Moon, which in this deck shows a Fey creature casting her circle, completely attuned to and in tune with the full lunar orb. The Devil card is like a Nintendo ogre, laughably grim and fierce. Each archetype has been revisioned through the scrim of the artist's vision of the Fey, offering us a truly unique recasting that never goes too far afield of whatever that ineffable thing is that makes tarot Tarot.
Lo Scarabeo has moved in the direction of not only making art decks, but creating readable ones, and any reader familiar with the Rider-Waite-Smith (R-W-S) template will be able to read with this deck upon purchasing it. In the Minor Arcana, the Aces all have figures that are the essence of the suit. The Ace of Wands literally sprouts. The Ace of Pentacles shows a sprite tattooing a graceful Pentacle on his enlarged hand as his familiar peers in fascination over his shoulder. The Minors are, in fact, utterly charming, and offer a particularly fey slant--when the three sprites dance around the Chalice, they really dance around the chalice. The Four of Cup's Fey's daydreams are an essential part of the magical process--it's not indolence, it's incubation! The Two of Wands displays a nested, winged Fey gripping the rim of his nest like a terrified child seated in a roller coaster. In this case, safety is the present container and not the world beyond the ride.
The Five of Wands wears its most positive face as the Fey tussle joyfully together. Normally a negative card, the Nine of Wands shows an imperiled Elfin creature, but he doesn't stand alone--he has for company a green Tinkerbell-type who you know will be able to protect him in the end.
The Four of Swords shows a Fey warrior daubing herself in warpaint blood. This is an unusually energetic act for a traditionally sedentary card. Yet her wide vacant eyes show that "in her heart, she already feels dead," according to Minetti. The card description reflects a fascination with the vampiric, which is another of Minetti's passions (Lo Scarabeo will be publishing his Vampire Tarot in the near future).
The creature in the Eight of Swords even has her wings bound. The way in which she is tied makes the entrapment seem more playful than punishing. The Nine of Swords shows a winged Fey bent over in the greatest pain, with a sword poised to stab her at the center of her back. This is one of the few cards in this deck that offers a more grisly outlook than the R-W-S--there is no sense that this agony is purely mental and could be healed by clearer, more optimistic thoughts.
Faery folk clearly don't have to worry about money, so the Five of Pentacles shows two of them basking in the warmth of their flame-stamped golden coin. Outside, not so fortunate, a Wookie-like creature stares through the window. He could be a threat or just seeking refuge. The Ten of Pentacles shows quite the diverse family gathering.
In the Fey deck, Strength is VIII, Justice XI (a new numbering for Lo Scarabeo). Most of the Major Arcana are traditionally titled, with the exception of The Seer for the High Priestess, The Hierophant is now The Wisest, and The Star is The Stars. The purple backs are reversible and appropriately misty and mysterious. The main image of the Lovers card is displayed, upright and reversed. The Court Cards are Knave, Knight, Queen and King. While the King and Queen retain their traditional male and female forms, Knights and Knaves are gender diverse, hence the Knave of Chalices is a beautiful woman. This is the Fey Court, remember. Cards measure approximately two and a half by four and three quarter inches.
The book by Riccardo Minetti is both personal and wide-ranging. The introduction focuses on the spiritually creative nature of the tarot. It includes black and white sketches of earlier incarnations of the cards, providing a window onto the creative process that underpins the Fey Tarots. In addition, it describes artist Mara Aghem's focus and intent. Minetti worked with Aghem, providing her with his considerable knowledge and understanding of tarot. This partnership is discussed in some detail.
An "Introduction to the Tarots" follows, which provides historical data, including a description of the three "iconographic" decks: the Marseilles, the Rider-Waite-Smith, and the Thoth. This information is made considerably more delightful by the small sketches of the Fey that have nothing to do with the actual information. The material is presented in an unusually accessible and accurate manner.
The artistic perspective and its function as a "main key for reading and interpreting the cards" is also discussed. The next section is on Divination, particularly within the context of the Fey Tarot, but it also focuses on the differences between the Major and Minor Arcana. The author is particularly poetic on the subject of the suits, excerpted below. However, Minetti devotes more space to the Major Arcana, in both this section and the card definitions, which make up the bulk of the book. The card definitions are deeper and fuller than most companion books offer.
The last section of the book is devoted to divinatory spreads, of which there are four. Not one is the Celtic Cross, and for this alone, Lo Scarabeo and the author are to be congratulated. I'm just kidding (mostly), but am truly impressed with this so-much-more-than-a companion book. I thought the translation was excellent, though it annoyed me that the word "diffused" is used more than once instead of the more apt "disseminated". However, in revisiting the book, I realized that I just became comfortable with the wording because I fall into the voice of the author (I do this with idiomatic books all the time!). The book format, however, took a bit of getting used to, because there are no spaces between some of the paragraphs.
Sadly, I believe the Fey Tarot will not be available from Amazon.com until March, 2003. You can order it from the Llewellyn website, though. I recommend this beautiful and readable set highly to those interested in the realm of Fey, as well as collectors.
To see a sample reading with this deck, click here.
The Chalices represent the emotional and spiritual world. The Fey that run through these cards are dreamers, in love, sweet and sensitive. They receive and offer without fear or any vanity, demonstrating their open hearts without deceit; they are like clear running water.
The Swords represent the intellectual and conflicting world. They are wounded Fey, burdened by pain or responsibility. In the various images they show their strength and their vulnerability. They find a melancholy joy in things and an immense strength with which they confront the world, which can be terrible and dark for them, too. Mara found it very difficult to get close to the Swords due to the disturbing feeling they emanate. There is however a strength and a joy in them much older than time itself that cannot be suffocated. The energies that guide man to do just deeds, to raise up his head in adversity and to deal with pain, are the same that animate their Fey nature. They are like the cold air that blows in autumn.
The Pentacles represent the physical world, the world of objects and earthly securities. The Fey that take shape in these cards are linked to the world that surrounds them, they are part of it and they are often creators and craftsmen. They demonstrate the patience and immutability of real things and shun the castles of dreams, deceit and illusions. Their magic is real, physical and tangible. They are the earth beneath bare feet.
The Wands represent the world of man, what he does, feels, asks...Man, not that big clumsy being that we are, but man the individual, that graceful primordial spirit that resides in each soul. The Fey creatures that appear in the wands have the courage to fly, to choose and to act. They are not pushed by issues, necessity or by others, but place themselves at the center of their world, and project what they are externally. They listen but never lose their identity; they are like the flames of a fireplace in the middle of a room.
If you would like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.
The Fey Tarot Deck/Book Set by Riccardo Minetti and Mara Aghem
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Images and excerpted text © 2002 Lo Scarabeo
Review and page © 2002 Diane Wilkes