"Thanks to literature and cinema, pirates have become a symbol of courage and audacity, the emblem of freedom and adventure. This romantic and legendary idea, rather than their true history, rich in cruelty and notoriety, was the inspiration for the Pirate Tarot cards." - From the L(ittle) W(hite) B(ook)
Buxom maidens and shirtless buccaneers, overflowing treasure chests and hearty carousing--between the open sea and salty wind sail the rough characters of the Tarot of the Pirates. Envisioned by Bepi Vigna, with Michele Benevento providing the art and Arturro Picca the bright coloring, the Tarot of the Pirates pays homage to the lawless seafarers of the Caribbean (the real ones, not Johnny Depp and company).
According to the LWB, the Minor Arcana suits are the barrel of rum (Chalices), the oars (Wands), doubloons (Pentacles) and the cutlass (Swords). However, the actual designation printed on the cards is the familiar suit names. Measuring approximately 4 ¾ x 2 ½ inches, the cards feature a reversible wave design (reminiscent of paisley) in watery tones with touches of pink and yellow.
Tarot of the Pirates card imagery bristles with menacing stares, sinewy muscles, tattered clothing, and burnished coins while glowing lanterns, glittery stars and a milky moon help light treacherous journeys and guide the pirates to the promise of booty. Liquor flows (most of the Chalice cards), scabbard-bearing women threaten violence (7 and 8 of Swords), a sea monster ensnarls a ship (The Moon) and a determined pirate rides two enormous sea turtles (The Chariot).
An earnest fortuneteller reads the weathered palm of a grizzled man (The High Priestess), and familiar pirate iconography--digging for treasure (8 of Pentacles), eye patches (King of Pentacles et.al.), walking the plank (10 of Swords), a Jolly Roger (Death) and an X marking the sought-after spot on a sepia map (The World). A sky-blue border, an excellent aesthetic choice by the Lo Scarabeo team, frames these shadowy, ominous images.
The rich coloration of Arturro Picca--especially the red, blue and golden hues--deepens the artwork, saving the pen-and-ink drawings Michele Benevento from being too grungy. The LWB doesn't offer much interpretation through a pirate's lens, but offers an interesting way of seeing the court cards: Knaves as friends, Knights as colleagues, Queens as lovers and Kings as parents and relatives.
If stories of swaggering pirates, sunken gold, swilling deck hands, skeletal ghosts, and treacherous high sea escapades hold you captive, you'll want to add Tarot of the Pirates to your collection. Yargggh!
(To see 13 images from the Tarot of the Pirates, visit the Reviews--Decks section at [...])
Janet Boyer, author of The Back in Time Tarot Book: Picture the Past, Experience the Cards, Understand the Present (coming Fall 2008 from Hampton Roads Publishing)