Mistic Tarot by Beata Marcinkowska
Review by Diane Wilkes

Like the Antic and Sara Tarots, the Mistic Tarot is one of three decks published by a Polish publisher named Sara. The artwork on this deck seems to me the darkest (color-wise) and, while I usually prefer darkly colored images, this one seems a bit murky even to me (the only other deck I can think of with this quality is the Stone Tarot). I have also noticed an unfortunate propensity of the artist to put everyone on a flying horse in this deck, and it's the kind of thing that loses its visual power when indiscriminately applied. Still, the deck is somewhat fantastical in nature, so why should I find it odd when all the archetypes are airborne in some fashion or another?

The Fool, a sweet-faced blond youth, walks blithely off a precipice into the clouds. The Magician creates gold in the sun as he stands behind his magical tools. Are they, perchance, on a table? It's hard to tell, as they are obscured by clouds. The High Priestess is also amidst the nimbi and cumuli. This card, too, depicts the triple moon symbolizing the goddess, as do the Antic and Sara Tarots.

The Empress and Emperor also rule a sky domain and each has a bird of prey perched on their thrones. The Hierophant in this deck resembles a combination of the Fool and the Hermit--he stands at a precipice overlooking still more clouds and he carries a scepter that serves as a walking stick. His bent head and body position reinforce the Hermit archetype.

The Lovers, like the Chariot, are airborne (though the Lovers are driven by a unicorn, whereas the Chariot is simply led by horses), and "The Strength" shows a woman riding a wingéd lion. You can see how this intersky travel gets old fairly fast.

The Hanged Man's head is literally in the clouds--but what I find arresting about this card is that a bat is holding the hanged one in suspension. Death travels by ship over the clouds and Justice and Temperance fly over them. I know the reason the Tower must fall is that it's built on a false foundation...but clouds seem an awfully literal illustration of that concept.

Even The Star doesn't get to immerse herself in water--like Strength, she rides a wingéd steed and looks, sadly, more like an intergalactic Wonder Woman than a tarot card.

All three Sara Tarot decks have simply-designed pip cards. The Mistic Tarot has the most interesting illustrations of the Minor Arcana, with dorje-like Wands, bejeweled Cups, distorted Swords, and coins stamped with an intricately-drawn beast. Unlike the other two Sara Tarots, the backgrounds are in gradients of color--Wands are green, Cups, red, Swords, blue, and Pentacles, orange-yellow.

The Courts are a bit more mundane, with the exception of the knights, who all ride--you guessed it--winged horses. While this is an effective look for the Knight of Swords, as feathers are an air symbol, it is less so for the romantic and watery Cups Knight, the fiery Wand Knight or the earthbound Knight of Pentacles. Yet even he gets to fly in the Mistic Tarot--and he's dropping coins on the populace, which makes him even less traditionally characteristic of this Knight, who would be ill-inclined to make so free with his money.

There is no accompanying little white booklet in the box and the Mistic reversible backs are a simple lattice pattern of turquoise and white (all the Sara Tarots have the same back design, but the Sara has maroon and white).

This deck is, to me, the darkest of the three Sara Tarots, and, due to all the flying about, my least favorite of the three. I recommend it to collectors and those looking for a deck with dark colors and a fantastic style.

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