Tarot of the Master by Giovanni Vacchetta, colored by Michela Gaudenzi
Review by Lee A. Bursten

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

I was very intrigued by this deck when I first saw it. It was created in 1893 by Giovanni Vacchetta along decorative lines, not unlike the Classical Tarots deck also published by Lo Scarabeo. Itís an attractive deck, with expressive faces and interesting touches, such as the leopard on the Fool card, or the orthodontic Devil. But whatís really interesting about this deck are the tantalizing suggestions of esoteric content, such as the bat, lizard, star and snake decorating the Magicianís table.

Since this deck was created some 17 years before the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, and in an environment presumably unconnected with Golden Dawn influences, one is left to wonder to what extent Vacchetta had anything more in mind than simply creating a decorative deck. This is especially apparent in the Minors, which are the most illustrated pip cards Iíve ever seen. In fact, they are so fully illustrated that I would categorize them as scenes. Some look as if they almost could have been included in the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck, such as the Nine of Cups. And many, although not all, seem to suggest fortune-telling meanings, such as the Nine of Swords, which, amazingly, shows a heart impaled by swords. And can it be entirely a coincidence that the Four of Wands shows a tree laden with fruit, which is certainly suggestive of the common R-W-S meanings of a happy home, celebration after labors, or harvest?

Lo Scarabeo has done an excellent job producing this deck. The coloring by Michela Gaudenzi is vivid yet sensitive. The cards are bordered by dark green, which richly complements the colors. And each card contains a keyword, discreetly placed running up the left border. Unlike past Lo Scarabeo decks, these keywords have been thoughtfully done and could be quite helpful in deciding what the Minor cards might signify.

Dealing with any creative work from a different culture can be very educational regarding the attitudes held by those who lived in that time and place. Unfortunately, this can have a negative side to it, when those attitudes are unacceptable from todayís standards. The King of Coins for this deck is pictured as, to quote the Little White Booklet, "a Jew intent on coining money." I decided long ago that while one must understand that anti-Semitic novels, such as those of Dostoyevski or Edith Wharton, were products of their social milieu; that doesnít mean I have to read them. Likewise, Iím certainly not going to put up with such things in a Tarot deck. Of course, many people will think Iím overreacting, so rather than make a recommendation, Iíll just invite my readers to look at the picture and decide for themselves. I donít fault Lo Scarabeo for this, of course. In fact, theyíre to be commended for making such an attractive and interesting deck available to the modern reader.

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

Tarot of the Master by Giovanni Vacchetta, colored by Michela Gaudenzi
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo (distributed by Llewellyn Worldwide)
ISBN #: 8883951727

Lee A. Bursten has been studying Tarot off and on for about 20 years. He enjoys reading about Tarot and searching for the "Perfect Deck," which is always just around the corner but out of reach. He is very grateful to Michele and Diane for posting his reviews, and especially to his significant other, Larry Katz, for his superhuman patience.

Images © 2002 Lo Scarabeo
Review © 2002 Lee Bursten
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes