Romanian Dream Tarot by Tamara
Review by Kimberly Fordham

The republic of Romania, nestled in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and bordered by Hungary, the Ukraine, Moldavia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and the Black Sea, has been a free nation since 1989. Romania’s most famous province is Transylvania, the home of Vlad the Impaler, better known to most of us as “Count Dracula”.

The Romanian Dream Tarot popped up on Ebay and, always intrigued by decks I haven’t seen before, I bought it on the spot. The deck is rendered in a mixture of collage and original artwork and consists of the traditional 78 cards, with Romanian titles and keywords. Some of these bear a close enough resemblance to English to translate easily; for example the Five of Cups (“5 de cupe”) bears the keyword “Melancolie”). The suits are Wands (“bite”), Swords (“spade”), Cups (“cupe”), and Coins (“monede”); the court cards are the usual Page (“Valet”), Knight (“Cavaler”), Queen (“Regina”), and King (“Rege”). The title card references “Tarotul Visurilor”, which I presume translates to “Vision Tarot” or “Dream Tarot”. The deck creator is identified simply as “Tamara”; she refers to herself as a witch, fortune teller, and interpreter of dreams who teaches tarot in Romania. The deck was published by Polirom in 2000. There is an information card included with the deck, but is hardly enlightening to those of us who happen to be less than fluent in Romanian. The deck can be purchased standalone (without a box) or as a set with an accompanying book (also in Romanian). 

Each of the Majors includes the card title and number (Strength is 11 and Justice is Eight), an arcane or magickal symbol on the upper left border, and a Hebrew letter on the upper right border. The High Priestess and the Hierophant become the Papess and the Pope (Romania’s strong Roman Catholic roots find expression in many of the cards). The card stock is rather thin, but the cards are coated and should hold up well to regular handling. The backs are not reversible.  

The Rider Waite Smith (RWS) influence is apparent in several of the cards and noticeably absent in others. The Fool is depicted as Jesus, whose robe is somewhat unfortunately accessorized with what appear to be badminton birdies.* The requisite little white dog sits adoringly at his feet. Mary Queen of Scots is The Empress (top); Henry VIII makes an appearance as the King of Wands. The Emperor departs radically from the standard RWS imagery. Tamara herself appears on The World card; she holds one of the cards from the Romanian Dream Tarot in her hand (with the back facing front). The Three of Wands, Eight of Wands, and Five of Coins are more examples of some of the unique representations found in this deck.  

I was amused to note that the cigarette logo of “Benson and Hedges” is the only English used anywhere in the deck; see the Queen of Wands. The deck’s creator is also either oblivious to or unconcerned with issues of copyright infringement; the angelic figure in the Page of Cups is easily recognizable from the movie “Heaven Can Wait”.  

I haven’t attempted to read with this deck, I’d like to become better acquainted with it first. It is both familiar and alien. The deck’s similarities to some of the RWS images provide interesting alternatives, while its differences are thought provoking enough to stimulate reading “outside the box”. I recommend this deck to collectors with a predilection for both the ordinary and the sublime; it’s a steal at $15 (plus shipping). You can obtain this deck, or the deck and book together, from Amaril Andras.

Romanian Dream Tarot by Tamara
Publisher: Polirom

Kimberly Gibbs Fordham (also known as Kimber) has been fascinated with the tarot for the past 30 years. She has done readings and taught classes on Tarot, Wicca, and Astrology at Escape into Reality in South Windsor, CT. She also has a lifelong passion for Tudor and Stuart British history and renaissance faires (check out Kimberly now resides in Dallas, TX and is currently working on her second tarot deck.

* Tarot Passages reader, Marjolein Mattaar, wrote in to explain that the image on the Fool is not, in fact, Jesus, but Saint Roche:

"Saint Roche gave his entire heritage to the poor and started a pilgrimage. He stopped to nurse people suffering from the plague, so, of course, in the end he got it too. The people expelled him from the city and he withdrew into the woods, where a dog came each day to bring him food. He is usually depicted with that dog and plague marks shown on his bare leg. I suppose the deck creator chose him because of the dog, maybe also because of his innocence. St. Roche can be called upon to heal from infectious diseases, but he also protects you from mad dogs (rabies).

Images © 2000 Polirom
Review © 2003 Kimberly Fordham
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes