The Dante Tarot

Designed by Andrea Serio

This is one of Lo Scarabeo’s more stylish contributions. As always, the cards are on good quality stock, and are reproduced carefully. The deck is based on Dante’s trilogy, the Divine Comedy, and his life, and I think the symbolism used is probably much enhanced if you have a reasonable knowledge of the trilogy – which I don’t ;-)

Nevertheless this is a compelling and thought-provoking deck The artwork is stylised and provocative. I was fascinated by the way the artist, Andrea Serio, used curves and subtle shading to create a mesmeric patterning on some cards.

This is an advanced deck. Almost everything has changed here –sometimes not in the most intuitive way possible. Wands become Bricks. The cards in this Suit tell the story of Dante’s own life.

Flames (Swords) tell the first part of Dante’s Trilogy – the Inferno. I found the 9 of Flames a particularly evocative card. The images summoned up darkness and immersion. A strange sinuous bat-winged creature seems to hurl somebody beneath inky water. Another of these creatures sits high up with what looks to be a spear in his hand.

The Suit of Pentacles becomes Clouds (???) and depicts some of the high points of the second part of the trilogy – Purgatory. Several of these cards give one the impression that the figures in the images are simply waiting for time to pass… or alternatively struggling against immense odds.

Finally Lights (Cups) relate to the final part of the trilogy – Paradise. I loved the 9 of Lights, with its use of rainbow colours and constellations. This felt expansive and filled with growth.

The Major Arcana is almost entirely renamed, though it’s possible to see the links between the traditional trumps and these, by and large. Each Major is named for a quality, for the most part:

Number Dante Card Original Card
0 Need Fool
1 Intellect Magician
2 Philosophy Priestess
3 Wisdom Empress
4 Government Emperor
5 Hope Hierophant
6 Love Lovers
7 Direction Chariot
8 Justice Justice/Adjustment
9 Prudence Hermit
10 Luck Fortune
11 Strength Strength/Lust
12 Charity Hanged Man
13 Death Death
14 Moderation Art/Temperance
15 Authority Devil
16 Virtue Tower
17 Thrones Star (Beautiful card)
18 Angels Moon
19 Domination Sun
20 Archangels Aeon/Last Judgement
21 Principalities Universe/World

I doubt personally I would be interested in using this deck for divination. But the artwork is sufficiently evocative to capture my imagination. And even with a most sketchy knowledge of the Divine Comedy, the careful integration of that theme into the concepts behind each tarot card produces new ways of looking at the cards – and that has to be good!!

Review by Jan

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