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The Secret Forest Tarot

Designed by Lucia Mattioli.

See pictures of this deck.

You know it’s rare these days that a tarot deck can take my breath away. I think the last time it happened was the first time I ever saw the Osho Zen deck, which was some years ago. But the Secret Forest deck really has done exactly that.

From the impeccable Lo Scarabeo publishing house, this deck is designed by Lucia Mattioli. She tells us in her introduction to the cards that it was inspired by her observations of the flora and fauna of the forest she lives at the edge of.

It is a dark and compelling deck…perfect for meditation. It pays loose lip service in its design to traditional imagery, but with a remarkable slant that brings a new dimension to Tarot. For example the Fool is an elvin creature flying on butterfly wings above what looks to be a seething mass of insects. The Devil is a delightfully hairy, scary insect rearing on its hind legs. The 10 of Cups shows a group of berries surrounded by buzzing bees.

The use of evocative image is fascinating, and stimulating. I found myself having to gaze long and hard at each card before really beginning to appreciate the complexity of each design. Mattioli appears to have an extensive understanding of Tarot, and uses what must be a tremendous imagination to convey interpretive meaning with the context of the forest.

I doubt this is truly a deck meant for reading with, primarily because each complex colour image is reproduced in black and white on the back of the card. The stark impact of the b/w images somehow forces home the message of the coloured side of the card.

This is definitely not a deck for beginners though. You need a fair understanding of the Tarot in the first place to be able to understand the step forward the designer takes with each individual card. However I found it extending my ideas about the possible interpretation of some cards – bees around a honey pot stood out very strongly for me when considering the images on the 10 of Cups.

Suits are indicated by their symbol at the bottom of the card, and number at the top. Courts are traditional – Knave, Knight, Queen, King. The borders are all black, increasing the stylistic impact of the colour designs.

The booklet which comes with the cards is produced in five languages…bringing the usual criticism of Lo Scarabeo decks into focus again. Interpretations are keywords at best, but carefully thought out for all that, even though some do not impress me overly. The Fool: “Unawareness. Chaotic Emotions. Loss”

Overall a stunning deck. Which impresses me no end.

Review by Jan

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