The Sacred Sites Tarot is a themed tarot which showcase places of divine inspiration; in a way a mini illustrated encyclopedia of sacred places. You still can visit some of these places today, others were lost in time, or even straight from mythology. Not meant for intuitive reading out of the box, this deck will certainly require hours of detailed study before use. Yet, tarot enthusiasts will find a beautifully deck for their tarot collection.
At first, this deck was not in my list of must-buys. I thought it was going to be one of those gimmicky Tarot decks where you just slap pictures on the Major Arcana. Then I found out it was going to be paintings of places, 78 of those, so it pick my interest a bit. But finally I found a preview in YouTube from LoScarabeo. So I thought I could risk to buy this deck. And I feel I was rewarded.
Once I opened the box, I realized that the creators of this deck, Massimiliano Filadoro (designer), and Federico Penco (illustrator), wanted a total immersion into the imagery of each card. To help us achieve this, the deck is devoid of labels. Instead, there is some icons, and of course, the numbering still remain.
The front of the cards is bordered light blue. The back is light blue with an image of the world from space. There is a hue darker water mark both in from and back, which is not obtrusive. It reminds me of some shamanic iconography, but non in particular.
The Major Arcana have no labels, but a small image of the world top-right and bottom-left. These are numbered with roman numeral top-left and bottom-right stating at 0 with The Fool. In this deck, Justice is VIII and Strength is XI. I found the labels for these cards in the Little White Book (LWB), which is indispensable for this deck. It follows the standard nomenclature. This is a list of all the Major Arcana and their corresponding places:
0. The Fool - Mount Graham, Arizona, America.
I. The Magician - Stonehenge, England.
II. The High Priestess - Sybil's Cave, Italy.
III. The Empress - The Sanctuary of Demetra, Elusi, Ancient Greece.
IV. The Emperor - The Temple of Solomon, Jerusalem.
V. The Hierophant - The Potala Palace, Lhasa, in Tibet.
VI. The Lovers - The Sacred Forest of Nemi.
VII. The Chariot - Santiago di Compostela.
VIII. Justice - Angkor Vat, Cambodia.
IX. The Hermit - Petra, Jordan.
X. Wheel of Fortune - Chichen Itza, Yucatan.
XI. Strength - The Summer Palace in China, Beijing.
XII. The Hanged Man - Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
XIII. Death - Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague, Czech Republic.
XIV. Temperance - The River Ganges, India.
XV. The Devil - Rennes-Le-Chateau, France.
XVI. The Tower - Krakatoa, Indonesia.
XVII. The Star - The Ziggurat of Ur.
XVIII. The Moon - Alhambra, Granada, Spain.
XIX. The Sun - Teotihuacan, Mexico.
XX. Judgment - Jericho, The West Bank.
XXI. The World - Shambhala.
I thought this was going to be an empty collection of places. But what are places without people? There is a lot of good imagery in the Major Arcana alone. For Example: The Fool shows a Shaman followed by a dog at the edge of a precipice in the area of Mount Graham where shamans would go to seek a vision of wisdom. The Magician shows a druid in front of an altar made of stone within Stonehenge. The Hierophant shows, which I assume to be, the Dalai Lama sitting at The Potala Palace. The Wheel of Fortune show a Maya Calendar. The Hanged Man shows Christ the Redeemer itself, from above. The Tower shows Krakaoa during its last eruption and a native trying to escape in a canoe. Judgement shows the torso of a huge angel blowing a horn that it is literally blowing the walls of Jericho.
The Minor Arcana have no labels either, but a small image instead at the top representing the suite. The Pips are numbered at the bottom, while the Court shows a small image at the bottom, akin to a chess piece, representing Knave, Knight, Queen and King. There is a lot of good imagery here as well. The Ace of Coup if Mount Fuji. The Ace of Pentacles is Machu Picchu. The Ace of Wands is Mount Sinai. The Ace of Swords is Sagarmatha. Beside these, there were a few other places I recognized on a glance like: Knight of Wands - Pyramid of Cheops; Seven of Wands - The Great Wall of China; Five of Cups - Taj Mahal; and Four of Cups - Easter Island.
In the LWB I found brief descriptions of these places. What didn't I find in the LWB? Well everything else I wanted to know. For one, there are no interpretation of the cards. However, I found myself agreeing with the imagery for many of the cards according to Riders-Waite-Smith Tradition once I knew what the place represented. In such a limited space as a LWB provides, this is understandable.
Without reservations, I recommend this deck for tarot collectors. And if your are mystified by sacred places around the world, this deck would be for you as well.
This deck comes in a fitting box, with a LWB written in five languages: English, Italian, Spanish, French and German.