I received the Zodiac Tarot deck for Christmas and I’ve been playing with it recently. It is a Lo Scarabeo deck by Lee Bursten and artist Luca Raimondo. The box the deck come in claims it contains “the first true astrological Tarot cards.” I was looking forward to this deck because the booklet Lee Bursten wrote for the Lo Scarabeo Universal Tarot of Marseille is one of the best essays I have read about the tarot in many years.
At first I was a bit put off by the artwork. The cards are not beautiful by any means. The scenes look like they are taken from the mid-twentieth century. The characters are rather homely and the women tend to have very masculine features. At times I had a hard time telling if the card depicted the grandmother or the grandfather. On one of the cards the little girl looks like a male midget with a mustache who has tried to disguise himself by putting on a blond wig.
The underlying concept of the cards is very clever. They attempt to be purely astrological in their symbolism and more or less follow the correlations of the Golden Dawn. The seven planets on the Major Arcana are signified by people in a family: grandparents, parents, young man, little girl, and infant. The zodiac signs are represented by scenes that bear an analogy to the astrological meaning of the signs. The pip cards use the images from the Major Arcana to depict various permutations of people and scenes (planets and signs) as outlined by the Golden Dawn.
Unlike the Golden Dawn, this deck uses the modern planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (which was not even discovered when the Golden Dawn invented its system). Also unlike the Golden Dawn, this deck relies solely on the astrological attributions to delineate the cards, whereas the Golden Dawn used a combination of astrology, the Kabbalah, and Picatrix for most of its interpretations.
Because I am conversant with astrology, this deck was easy to learn and use. It felt quite liberating to use only the astrological symbolism of the cards and to be free of the other esoteric mumbo-jumbo introduced by the Golden Dawn on the basis on their fraudulent cipher manuscripts. With repeated use, I have become quite fond of this deck. It forces the tarot reader to rely on his or her intuition and only secondarily on the astrological system behind the cards. Intuitive readers will have no difficulty in doing meaningful readings with the deck.
I have a couple of minor gripes. Saturn on the cards is pictured as fairly youthful and Jupiter as quite ancient. To me this is a bit jarring because Saturn was Jupiter’s father and is also known as Father Time. I wish the author and the artist had stuck with the symbols of the elements for the Fool, the Hanged Man, and the Last Judgement instead of the modern planets which I find restrict their meaning. I also wish they had used the Golden Dawn & Crowely names for the court cards: Princess, Prince, Queen, and Knight.
These objections aside, I am really enjoying the deck and it has produced some insightful readings and a sense of liberation as I’ve been using it.