Olympus Tarot by
Manfredi Toraldo; Illustrations by Luca Raimondo
Review by Mari Hoshizaki
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I have had great pleasure looking at the Olympus Tarot, because the illustrations are lovely. The golden-brown borders around each scene are the same sunny colors that some Greek terracotta vases have on their decorations. I find that the Roman typeface in the same color delicately notes the number and title of the card (The Fool, Ten of Batons, etc.) on top. The bottom titles names the character in French, Spanish, German and Italian. Each scene is fully illustrated with smooth pen and watercolor washes of an excellent graphic novel or an expensive magazine. The backs are deep blue with a white etched illustration that is on the top and reversed on the bottom. The 14 panes of the little white book are printed in blue on white.
I also did not mind the assignment of the majors being creative. In terms of Greco-Roman mythology and the tarot, I believe various authors had wonderful reasons for assigning different archetypes. These book and deck sets with devotion to Greco-Roman themes include: Pythagorean Tarot by John Ops; A Renaissance Tarot by Brian Williams; Mythic Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke and Liz Green and the Tarot Mitologico by Amerigo Folchi.
The major assignments of the Olympus tarot is as follows:
0. Fool - Pan
1. Magician - Zeus
2. High Priestess - Hera
3. Empress - Aphrodite
4. Emperor - Ares
5. Heirophant - Chronos
6. Lovers - Eros
7. Chariot - Hermes
8. Justice - Athena
9. Hermit - Posidon
10. Wheel - Moires (Fates)
11. Strength - Hephaestus (Vulcan)
12. The Hanged Man - Dionysus
13. Death - Hades and Persphone
14. Temperance - Demeter
15. Devil - Hecate
16. Tower - Hestia
17. Stars - Hebe
18. Moon - Artemis
19. Sun - Apollo
20. Judgement - Phobos, Delmos and Harmonia (from Ares and Artemis)
21. The World - Uranus (Starry sky)
You do need the LWB to explain the major assignments--the names and a brief paragraph follows, with suggested keywords. The choice of Zeus for the Magician is well-explained, but other assignments need more fleshing out for someone like myself.
Each of the above-mentioned tarots have excellent reference books to explain their assignments. I was scrambling around for several weeks looking at many different Greco-Roman mythology books to see if I could come up with the Olympus Tarot assignments.
Riccardo Minetti of Lo Scarabeo explained the books by Robert Graves were the resource for the Greek-Roman myths used in this tarot. I found that the Illustrated Edition of Greek Myths by Robert Graves was a handsome book. However, the beautiful wording in this Grave's books can make you wonder, "Where in Greek mythology did that come from?" Alas, in this edition, he is not known for his references---it is like reading Jean Valmont's poetic and grandfatherly reciting of Greek tales. The grandchild tastes the beauty, but falls asleep before asking, "Where did you find this?"
I suggest that this is a tarot that is ideal for the start of research and creative thought. It also might serve as a comparative tarot for any of the other Greco-Roman decks that I suggested above. I actually like one of my copies of the Olympus Tarot to be with my Tarot Mitologico by Folchi.
You may find that your favorite tarot also includes some Greco-Roman themes. For instance, the Spiral Tarot by Kay Steventon or the commemorative 1996 Tarots of Maria Matteo Boiardo have some Greco-Roman assignments in the majors or courts. Many of the antique tarots also have Greco-Roman touches: di Gumppenberg 1820 has Hercules for Strength and possibly Iaccus/Dionysis for the Star; Diana for the Moon and Cupid for the Lovers appears in the Vachetta 1893; and other tarot patterns include Juno and Jupiter for Emperor and Empress.
The minors are very different in assignment. Their assignment reminds me of the Avalon Tarots, where each suit has a different twist on its mythical theme. In the Olympus Tarots, the suits represent different aspects. Chalices or Cups are places, suggestive of spirit and soul, the kingdoms and the aspect of water. Pentacles are objects, possessions, potential and everything material, the element of earth. Wands are Creatures, the instinct, animalistic aspects, passions and strengths and the element of fire. Swords are Heroes, with logic, intelligence, knowledge and the human mind and the element of air.
Perhaps I like this tarot because it suggests much and isn't locked into one system. For example, here are the assignments for the Cups or Chalices:
Ace: Primordial Egg - Birth
Two: Door of Hades - Transformation
Three: Delphi - Divining
Four: Sparta - Struggle
Five: Labyrinth on Crete - Device
Six: Mycanae - Victory
Seven: Athens (Acropolis) - Glory
Eight: Troy - Nightmare
Nine: Ithaca - Revenge
Ten: Orion - Guide
All in all, I recommend the Olympus Tarot for a storytelling or creative gaming tool to go along with your summer reading of Greco-Roman mythology. I am not certain that I would use this for others in a standard tarot reading yet---because I'm still researching the myths. At some point, I intended to draw up a table comparing the different assignments of Greco-Roman heroes and different theme tarots. Some of them that I haven't seen include the Minotarot or the various Goddess tarots. It turns out there are so many out there, I could hardly begin this task. This brings me to evaluate the Olympus tarot and the Graves book as you would the various theme tarots out there on Arthurian tales, Celtic myth, Egyptian or RenFaire themes.
For those collectors of mythic themes who fancy the illustrations and enjoy creative stories, here's a lovely deck to add in your collection, or as your Greco-Roman references. For those who are beginners or Rider-Waite-Smith fans of tarot, I would recommend carefully reading reviews before buying this tarot. Lo Scarabeo offers the Universal Tarot by R. DeAngelis and Tarots of the Renaissance (Rebirth) by Giorgio Trevisan that has a beautiful European feel and scenic majors and minors that work with RWS assignments. If you are into learning about Greco-Roman themes, my suggestions in the third paragraph also might assist your desire and enjoyments.
You can read another review of this deck here.
If you would like to purchase this deck, click
Olympus Tarot Artwork by Luca Raimondo
Created and developed by Manfredi Toraldo
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Distributor: Llewellyn Publications
ISBN #: 0738702072
Mari Hoshizaki is a fan of comparing different art tarots and art history. Her interests include Renaissance studies, poetry seminars and portraiture, which seem to relate to tarots. Her paid work is analyzing different numbers, so art tarots are a joy and a pastime.