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|Summary: A great deck for people who read the cards through memorization of their meanings. If you’re interested in dragons from around the world, this deck is more than worth the time put into studying the symbols (some of which are subtly hidden) to have such a wonderful Tarot. It’s also good for Tarot art collectors.
Name of deck: Dragons Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Creator’s name: Manfredi Toraldo
Artist’s name: Severino Baraldi
Name of accompanying booklet: Dragons Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 64 (14 in English), landscape orientation
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes. The set includes the deck and an oversized (it can hold two standard Tarot decks) lined velvet drawstring bag. The lining is red satin and the exterior is black velvet. The bag is embroidered in red with the outline of a medieval heraldic dragon.
Reading Uses: General readings
Ethnic Focus: multicultural
Artistic Style: Modern graphic
Theme: Multicultural dragons
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: In name and structure, yes. The symbols are quite different from those on the RWS deck.
Does it have extra cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: No.
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana?: Cups are called Chalices. The court cards are called Infanta, Knight, Queen and King.
Why was deck created?: According to the box, this is "A multiethnic perspective [that] explores the symbol in the form of the dragon in the myths of four continents and presents a fascinating and coherent image in complete harmony with the traditional iconography of the Tarot."."
I guess the easiest way to describe this deck is in three short sentences: Do you like dragons? Do you like the Tarot? You’re going to like this deck.
Over the past couple of decades there has been a movement to use the Tarot not as a model of spirituality and divination, but as an inspiration for a set of related or serial artworks. Although I have loved the artwork of Salvador Dali, I have always felt his deck was more for collectors of his art than for Tarot work.
So I have to admit that I approached this deck with more than a little trepidation. I feared this was just going to be an excuse to pump out illustrations based on Smith’s artwork with dragons stuck into them. Happily, I was quite wrong.
It is very clear that creator Manfredi Toraldo and artist Severino Baraldi put a great deal of thought into the creation of this deck and the meaning of each card. The LWB (Little White Book), which has an unusual landscape presentation, exemplifies this thought by spending more space describing the cards than giving their meanings. After all, the meanings are available anywhere, but the specific images here are unique.
The Major Arcana cards, for example, tend to show some famous dragons or dragons that are appropriate to the card’s meaning. For example, The Empress shows Tiamat, "representing primordial chaos, the female force and energy of creation." Death shows St. George who slew the dragon. The Devil is Apep or Apophis, "the dragon that, for the ancient Egyptians, blocked the way to Ra, the sun god, and guarded the regions of death. The Fool, however, is simply "The Hunter of Dragons, representing "mankind’s insane thousand-year-old search for the dragon." The images on the cards are not those of RWS, but the intent and meanings are there.
The Chalices (Cups) have images from China. There are people of Asian appearance and dress, combined with pagodas and the designs of the ornate dragon. The Swords have images from western and northern Europe, with scenes of knights and Vikings. The nine of Swords, meaning "cruelty," has an image that is somewhat grisly, showing a dragon fascinated by nine bodies hanging from a tree. The Wands have scenes from Africa, showing images from the pomp of Egypt to people of remote tribes. Finally, the Pentacles have images of the people and winged serpent of Central and South America. There is some female nudity and images of licentiousness.
The LWB, besides having brief descriptions of the cards, also explains a simple, three-card reading called the "Quest" reading.
So how is it as a Tarot deck? There are several ways to read Tarot cards. Some people simply memorize the meanings. Theoretically, a person who does this could write the numbers 1??"78 (or 0??"77) on pieces of paper and give an excellent reading using just those numbers. Some people completely intuit meanings from the images on the cards. For those people, the LWB and actually, any book on the Tarot can be ignored. My way is to begin with the meanings and expand upon them based on the card symbolism, person I’m reading for, intent of the reading, etc.. That was where I had difficulty.
The images on the cards are more focused toward the RWS meanings rather than the RWS symbols, and is therefore a fine deck for general readings. Unfortunately, this same benefit makes my pattern for using a Tarot difficult. I am used to the Golden Dawn, Crowley, and RWS symbols and use to them for expanding upon the basic card meanings. Without them I found myself constantly referring to the LWB to get ideas about the imagery, and not actually being able to go further than the meaning of the card.
So this is a great deck for people who read the cards through memorization of their meanings. If you’re interested in dragons from around the world, this deck is more than worth the time put into studying the symbols (some of which is subtly hidden) to have such a wonderful Tarot. It’s also good for Tarot art collectors. For me, however, it doesn’t fit for magickal work or as a spiritually-oriented deck. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great deck. I know some people who love this deck, and for good reason. For me, however, it doesn’t quite "click." It will be in my collection of decks to keep for art appreciation.