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The Tarot of the White Cats

See pictures of this deck.

Lo Scarabeo brings us the Tarot of White Cats, by artist Severino Baraldi, whose impressive portfolio includes the Dragon’s Tarot, Journey to the Orient, and the Tarot of Druids. My first reaction to this deck was lukewarm (I keep saying that don’t I?) I thought “Hmmm…Rider Waite with white cats. OK. Sweet.” But on closer examination I noticed the extraordinary attention to detail in the creation of flowers, trees and the skies in many of the images.

Also, whilst the deck stays fairly close to the Colman Smith designs, there are some really amusing and imaginative deviations from the theme. For example the Hanged Man cat has a positively delighted look on his face and appears for all the world to be river-dancing!

I’d also be fascinated to know why the Knight of Wands background veers away from the pastel fairytale scenes depicted on all the other cards….here, instead of spired castles and misted mountains we see the three main pyramids at Giza beneath the horse’s flailing hooves.

The 10 of Swords is interesting as well – 9 swords piece a white tousled blanket which lays on the ground. The 10 th sword lays on top of the blanket…and the cat (who presumably had been face down under the blanket) scampers away with a defiant wave of one upraised paw.

The golden borders which surround each of the images on these cards feature what looks to be an infinite number of kittens chasing golden balls, and the backs, which are reversible, show kittens in chalices, snatching unseen things from the air – these could be taken from the Ace of Cups where a white cat emerges from the chalice to swipe at a fleeing white dove. The cat detail is astonishing, coming up in the most unexpected places. Pentacles all have the heads of cats on them, as do thrones, buildings, stained glass windows etc. I do suspect the King of Cups was distracted though, or he would surely have seen that fish blithely leaping toward his feet.

I was quite taken by the Death card, in which a hooded figure gazes out across a stormy sea, beneath a lightning rent sky, as a chest full of golden artefacts spills at his feet. The booklet definition reads “Everything ends sooner or later and is transformed into something else. It’s best therefore to be ready for all kinds of change”.

Strength is another striking card, with the cat inside the mouth of the lion, holding his jaws apart. Whilst the lion looks none too pleased about this behaviour, the white cat seems perfectly comfortable in his Atlas-like crouch. This card more than most others indicates a hint of whimsical amusement from the designer of the deck, Baraldi. Take a look at the expression in the eyes of that lion!!

This could be a beginner’s deck for cat-lovers. The symbolism is evocative enough to start the process of integrating and interpreting the various meanings of the cards.

The booklet that goes with the deck suffers, as do most Lo Scarabeo booklets, from lack of space to develop definitions and descriptions adequately. But the keyphrases offered are likely to be easily remembered and produce a slightly different slant in some cases. From a beginner’s perspective they are quite provocative phrases. In fact from my perspective one that particularly stands out is that for the Ace of Swords “A war is often won by someone who has lost all battles except for the last one.” Blend this with the more established interpretations of this card – the clarity and determination to make decisions and then stand by them, the willingness to take charge of one’s life….and a new dimension emerges.

I tried the unique spread given with the deck – called the Cat’s Eye and found it interesting and quite revealing. This is probably a spread that could be mastered quite quickly.

All in all a rather delightful offering here, and a useful addition to the feline tarot collection.

Review by Jan

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