Secret Tarots by Marco Nizzoli
Review by Jo-Anne Penn-Kast

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

The Secret Tarots, published by Lo Scarabeo in 1997, is an interesting deck that uses the traditional titles printed on the cards in five languages (English, Italian, French, German and Spanish). It is made up of 78 cards, using the Chalices, Pentacles, Wands, and Swords as the four Suits in the fully illustrated Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana numbers Strength as XI (11), and Justice as VIII (8), while the Court Cards are made up of Knaves, who appear androgynous, Knights, Queens, and Kings. The cards are approximately 2.5" x 4.75"; the backs are symmetrical.

Other reviews of this deck have often described it as "dark", and compare the artwork with modern comic book style art. I am not a fan of comic book art, but many of the cards do seem to have that "look". The style of the artwork is not consistent, which is one of the things I enjoy about this deck. The characters are portrayed in 17th, 18th, and 19th century, medieval, renaissance, ancient, modern, and fantastical garb. Some of the female characters are nude or partially nude, but are not exaggerated in the way that comic book art often portrays women. Many of the cards have a distinct 1930ís or 1940ís look to them, and some of the faces are much more detailed and of a totally different "look" than others, so it seems that there was more than one artist at work on this deck. The colors are rich and deep, the expressions and postures are subtle and effective, and often evoke meanings or impressions that donít always follow the "standard" interpretations.

For me, it is the mixing and combining of these various "looks" or styles that draws me to this deck. I love it, because the mixed manner of costume alone can evoke images, ideas, concepts and entire stories. Take the Lover, Trump number VI (6) as an example. Here we have a young man in renaissance costume standing on the ground holding out six fingers. A glamorous 1940ís style woman stands on a set of stairs, sideways, holding out two fingers, and a "can-can" sort of woman holds up her dress on a second staircase. These images say so much more to me through their different styles of costume, and expression, than the traditional man and woman with "Eros" between them do. 

I have devised a rather un-traditional interpretation of this version of the card: The Lover represents a desire for Unity or a synthesis of Duality, or Equilibrium through contradiction. The man and woman represent all of the male and female principles found in Nature. The third woman represents temptation, resistance, or a difficult choice. The Lover can represent any attractive force that draws entities together, it can represent the archetypical "lover's triangle", or the Past(him), Present(woman in green), and Future (blonde). Ultimately, the Lover is about Choice, Discrimination, and Reconciliation, as demonstrated in the universal struggles between right and wrong, good and evil, commitment and dalliance, light and dark, known, unknown, Yin, Yang, inner and outer, and so on. The blonde woman holds out two fingers. Is she mystery, potential calling him to follow, trying to force him to make a decision? The woman in green holds up her dress as if to tempt the young man to follow, or to give into immediate gratification? The young man holds out six fingers. Since the Six of Wands is associated with this card, it could be that he is challenging the women to some domestic or sexual celebration, trying to conquer them, or offering to surrender to them? (Does he want them both)? Which, if any, of the trio will be reconciled? What will be the choice? Must one be cast aside? Or is there a way to integrate them? It may not always be what you think, for it could be that the two women have chosen to go off together, or go their own separate ways, mocking the young man, leaving the past or tradition behind.

The Fool, Trump 0, is another example of finding "twists", or exceptions to the "standard". Generally, The Fool suggests that you may be ready to embark on a new way of life, or take a "leap of faith", and that you may be confident that everything will turn out "ok". The Fool can represent a clean slate or new beginning, where hope, optimism, and wonder can lead to a new sense of freedom. However, The Fool in this deck tells me something more. He seems to have commitment issues as the root cause behind his desire or need to make a "new start". He appears to be resentful of the reminder of the domestic life he is leaving behind, and as such, he is probably not an "innocent", but more of a transient, always on the move, living out of a suitcase, as it were, on his way to the next "big" thing when he tires of his current state. He probably doesnít last long anywhere, and seems to be an angry loner, who may have too much pride, or by contrast, too much self-pity for the apparent unfairness of life. His fist is clenched, and it is not too far of a stretch to imagine him swinging his stick and bundle at the dog, or giving it a good kick. This is probably not his first "journey".

When I was first able to put voice to my instincts on both of the above examples (The Lover and The Fool), I began to accept, without reservation, my own way of interpreting the cards. This was the first deck that, in a sense, gave me "full clearance" and complete confidence to interpret the cards from my own intuition and perceptions, which is what I had been doing anyway, rather than from some little white book, or "standard" meaning according to those who had gone before me. I donít put much stock in the LWBís. I donít read them, and I donít keep them, so I canít share with you what IT has to say, which is probably for the best. (I should mention that my peculiar perception of The Fool in The Secret Tarots was again brought forth when I came upon the Tarot of the Old Path, but that will be for another review).

The Secret Tarots has many cards that challenge the reader to look a little deeper in order to uncover its "secrets", and as a reader, I hunger for this challenge. For all its depth, the images seem willing to give up their stories with just a bit of effort on my part. I donít see any (obvious) references to astrology, or specific magickal schools of thought or systems, and yet I wouldnít classify it as an "art deck". It can reveal much simply by looking at the pictures, even with no previous knowledge of the tarot. I highly recommend it to any teen or adult tarot reading level, including novices and experts, but probably not to young children because many of the references would most likely, but not necessarily, be over their heads. As with all Lo Scarabeo tarot decks, the quality is second to none. I give this deck 4.50 stars out of 5.0

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

Secret Tarots by Marco Nizzoli
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN #:  0738700215

Jo-Anne Penn-Kast, aka GarnetMoon, is Tarot Advice's resident Pagan Witch and a member of both the American Tarot Association and the International Tarot Society.  She is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader, and has studied the occult, psychology, mythology, history, and various "magickal" schools of thought and systems over many years. Jo-Anne holds a B.A in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology, a B.A in Social Science, and is currently working towards her Masters in Humanities/History. She is a self-employed web developer and author of the card interpretations on the Tarot Advice website, as well as being president of the design firm that created the site. She is currently working on a curriculum called Kindergarten TarotTM, which focuses on elementary patterns, color, shapes, symbols, and pictures as a means of developing or telling a story.  You will soon be able to read more about this, along with other articles, on Joanne's website.

Images © 1998 Lo Scarabeo
Review © 2002 Jo-Anne Penn-Kast
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes