This is an interesting deck that uses the traditional titles printed on the cards in 5 languages (English, Italian, French, German and Spanish). The fully illustrated Minor Arcana uses the Chalices, Pentacles, Wands, and Swords as the four Suits. 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.
I am not a fan of comic book art, but many of the cards do seem to have that "look", but this is not a detraction for me at all. 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 1930's or 1940's 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 don't 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 stir up 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 1940's 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 untraditional images add a whole new layer to my understanding of this card through their different styles of costume, and expressions, over and above the standard Rider-Waite Man and Woman with "Eros" or blind Cupid between them. (To read a rather untraditional interpretation of this card, visit the CosmicCards.com website
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 doesn't 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 don't put much stock in the LWB's. I don't read them, and I don't keep them, so I can't 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 Certified Professional Tarot Reader (CPTR), 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 don't see any (obvious) references to astrology, or specific magickal schools of thought or systems, and yet I wouldn't 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.
copyright 2002 by Jo-Anne Penn-Kast