The Universal Fantasy Tarot
I received this Lo Scarabeo deck as a Yule gift several years ago and couldn’t wait to get home to try it out. As an unrepentant Dungeons and Dragons player—I started playing when I was 10 and still play to this day—I had high expectations for this deck, that it would be something different.
Turns out that I wasn’t disappointed. The artwork on the cards is gorgeous. Even if you bought this deck just for the images and weren’t planning to use it for divination, I found the pictures on each card fascinating and unique. It is unlike any other deck I have seen before. I did find, however, that the images had an edge to them. This deck is darker than many of the decks I normally use, and as such could work well for someone who is exploring that side of themselves.
Many of the cards do look alike at first glance but Lo Scarabeo has made it easier to identify what is what with their numbering system. At the top center of each card, a yellow Roman numeral (for the Major Arcana) or Arabic number (for the pips) is clearly visible. However, there is no designation for the Court cards. In addition, like almost all of Lo Scarabeo’s offerings, the titles of each card is given in many languages; in this case, the titles are in English, Spanish, Italian, French at the top, and German and Dutch at the bottom. I’m a big fan of multi-lingual decks.
The Rider-Waite imagery is present, at least partially, on many of the cards. The 9 of Cups, for example, shows a table set in a forest with eight of the nine Cups suspended in the trees with lit candles in them. The ninth lit candle sits in a Cup on the table itself. A lizard (dinosaur?) dressed in what appears to be Renaissance garb is standing before the table. So the image of pleasure is there with the table, but if you’re expecting the lizard to be smiling with satisfaction…well, let’s put it this way: He MAY be smiling but it’s not obvious. And Smokey the Bear is definitely NOT smiling; doesn’t that lizard know he can start a fire with candles in the trees? :)
The 8 of Pentacles card shows a man at the bottom of a tree spiraling upward into a starry sky. He looks upward, and to his right is a ladder sitting against the tree next to his toolbox. The pride in work image of the cards is clearly here, and evidently he does need to pay attention to the details to get all the way up to the top for that last pentacle. Incidentally, the suit is called Pentacles but in this deck they are more like golden disks with blue centers. The only true pentacle I saw in the deck was that on the Magician, but I may have missed others.
The Devil card is very interesting. In the background looms a large purple winged monster that looks like something like Frodo and company faced under the mountain. In the foreground are not two chained people, but two chained stone cat statues. If the cats are actually alive—and given the nature of this deck, anything is possible—there is no room for them to slip out of the chains. I think this is probably the first devil card that I have seen that has a cat on it. The image was chilling until I got to the cats; no offense to felines intended, but it lost its punch right then and there. The fact that the cats appear to be standing stock still and unconcerned about their situation just took something away for me.
My favorite card on this deck was Justice. This card is truly stunning. Lady Justice has an interesting sword in her right hand; the magenta handle is almost is long as the blade itself. The scales in her left hand are truly original and she holds them almost delicately; they hang down almost the entire length of her torso and truly must be seen to be believed. Like many modern images of Justice, she has her breasts bared (Author’s note: There is some female skin to be seen in this deck but very little male nudity. My apologies, ladies!) but wears a long flowing blue dress. She is not blindfolded but has her head turned dispassionately to the left, looking at the scales.