"This Tarot is a tool for questioning our surrounding world, for seeing the future and most of all ourselves beyond appearances. Using this Tarot, we try to see with `children's eyes' again, which are none other than they eyes of magic." - From the Little White Book
Painted by Antonella Castelli, The Sorcerers Tarot is a place where shamans beseech animal helpers, youth indulge in magical mischief, babies transform into half-snails and apprentices experiment with abandon. Wizards study ancient books and stir up potent brews, while a reckless maiden rides a wolf. A young girl rubs her sleepy eyes, unaware of the goblin beneath her bed (4 of Swords), while a willful magician sends forth speeding sticks in the 8 of Wands.
Illustrated with vivid watercolors, this deck presents a balanced mix of males and females, but the females are either children or nubile youths. White-haired wizards (think Christopher Lee as Saruman in the LOTR movies) represent the aged in this deck. As a result, this deck feels a bit sexist, especially since all the women are youthful (and often naked) while the men are fully clothed.
The wild-eyed Fool bears an uncanny resemblance to actor Alan Cumming, and an adorable boy wearing a pointed wizard's cap in the 5 of Chalices--propped atop a pile of books--perfectly conveys both weariness and boredom.
The mishaps portrayed in the Sorcerers Tarot are arguably the most delightful: the young man in the 9 of Wands holds a smoking flask filled with red liquid, but seems to have spilled it on his legs...which have now turned into tree trunks!
The little boy in the 6 of Chalices looks quite guilty as the baby in the foreground crawls out of a snail shell...sporting a pair of antennae! (A Dumbledore-esque wizard gazes at the boy--but we can't tell if he disapproves...or is stifling amusement!) And the poor girl in the 3 of Wands? Her hair sprouts branches and leaves, which she attempts to uproot.
Many of the cards in the Sorcerers Tarot could certainly be read based on image alone, however more in the spirit of oracle decks rather than Tarot. While the Majors resemble Rider-Waite imagery, the Minors--represented by Chalices, Wands, Swords and Pentacles--lack connection to common Tarot imagery.
Most disturbing, for me, is the 2 of Pentacles, which shows a woman with what appears to be blood dripping from the corner of her mouth--apparently from imbibing from the emptied goblet held upside down in her hand. Empty eyes underscored by dark circles stare out from the card--and the imagery lacks any correlation with the LWB interpretation provided (which is no surprise given it's a Lo Scarabeo booklet--notorious for their incongruence and absence of background information).
One of the cleverest cards in this deck is the Knave of Pentacles, who holds two Runes: Man, which can mean seeking out an expert (or a male authority figure), and Peorth, which often means mystical knowledge or psychic connections.
Cards measure approximately 4-3/4 x 2-5/8 inches with a colorful reversible backing (a repeat of the Ace of Coins motif, which shows a mirror image of a white-clad Saruman-like figure conjuring a levitating Ouroboros). The Court cards follow Knave, Knight Queen and King ordering.
If you're enchanted by wizards and fantastical creatures, you may enjoy the Sorcerers Tarot. For me, the deck seems more like a "magical child" deck more than a sorcerers deck, and the lack of older females (not to mention the frequently naked adolescent girls) may be a turn-off for female pagans and Wiccans.
I think that the images could impart some insight based on the illustrations alone, but as with most Lo Scarabeo decks, a full-length book explaining the artist or deck creator's vision or backstory would make this deck more practical and valuable for Tarot readers, in my opinion. For me, the Sorcerers Tarot misses much more than it hits, unfortunately.
(To see 12 images from this deck, visit the Reviews--Decks section at [...])
Janet Boyer, author of The Back in Time Tarot Book: Picture the Past, Experience the Cards, Understand the Present (coming Fall 2008 from Hampton Roads Publishing)