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Monday, December 3, 2007

Golden Botticelli Tarot

by Atanas Alexandrov Atanassov

(Lo Scarabeo, 2007; ISBN: 10-0738712310)

by Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Have you seen Lo Scarabeo's Golden Botticelli Tarot? This little treasure that samples the work of the Italian Renaissance master painter known as Botticelli and decorates those images in accents of gold--should satisfy your desire for artistry and opulence. And need I remind you that it's the holiday gift-giving season? You do want to impress that special Tarot-loving someone, don't you?

The deck features a conventional array of 78 cards (2-1/2" x 4-3/4"), each with its black border that identifies it in six languages. The framed imagery generally includes close-up or mid-range figures set against a landscape and surrounded by an atmosphere of decorative gold. Visually, this is one of Lo Scarabeo's most successful issues, comparable to the publisher's sumptuous, although certainly less graceful, Mantegna Tarot (aka Silver Mantegna) and easily more appealing than Atanassov's Golden Tarot of Klimt. In the popularity polls, Botticelli's probably got it all over Klimt anyway, although--beauty being in the eye of the beholder--the Klimt's intensely radiant cards surely have their fervent fans. In any case, Atanassov's creative eye and mind are superb.

I'm especially impressed by Atanassov's original conceptions which give us new stories to tell about cards such as the Queen of Swords with her dreamy, somewhat melancholy gaze and her lowered, restrained sword; the 3 of Pentacles with its musician-angel skimming over three golden stepping stones as she flies downstream; the big, icy-blue apparitional angel of the 7 of Cups. In accord with Renaissance traditions, Atanassov's Ace of Cup portrays Mary with baby Jesus, and Death is a piet.  The World is Botticelli's Venus on the half-shell.

The Emperor looks skeptical and remote but more human than usual; you can tell that his sword is, for him, a sign of conquest and possession. The dramatic 8 of Swords positions the prisoner in the midst of a stand of trees, each one guarded by a sword. I'm disappointed by the Strength card--in which the lady seems to be threatening the lion--but there are more than enough images in this deck to love and to find fascinating.

I have to say it again: Lo Scarabeo, what's up with your LWBs? Aside from a one-paragraph introduction to the Golden Botticelli and a suggested layout (the Star of Solomon spread), you'll find very little of use. If you already know your Tarot, take this deck and dive in; the water's fine. If you're new to Tarot, look elsewhere for help or exercise your own imagination and creativity.

Both veterans and novices might find themselves puzzling over an enigmatic image here and there. While I don't usually rely upon prescribed meanings for the cards, I found myself stymied when I drew the 3 of Swords and could not, for the life of me, figure out how to reconcile Atanassov's intriguing image with the traditional way that the 3 of Swords is usually depicted and understood. In the painting, a nearly nude ascetic, his hands folded in prayer, is being pulled by the hair by a barefooted, redheaded woman in a white gown and aqua-blue cloak. The LWB, of course, was of no help. Where did Atanassov get that particular Botticelli image, and why did he select it for his 3 of Swords? I spent some time thinking about the image and, eventually, it revealed a rather multifaceted relevance to my original question. I believe that, given time and trust, the Golden Botticelli will surprise other readers with similarly fresh revelations. Enjoy!

See images of Golden Botticelli Tarot at, click here.

(c)2007, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

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