Success Cards by Giuseppe Ricci, artwork by Alessandro Beltramo

Review by Lee A. Bursten


Success Cards is a 64-card divination deck.  Although the outer box only refers to “Chinese divination,” the booklet clearly states that the cards are based on the I-Ching, that is, each card is meant to represent one of the traditional 64 I-Ching hexagrams.


I compared some of the cards with a few different translations of the I-Ching, and found only very tenuous connections between each card and the correspondingly-numbered I-Ching hexagram.  After carefully comparing them, I do think that the cards are very loosely suggestive of the hexagrams; but if you are looking for a card deck which is faithful to the traditional I-Ching texts, then this deck will not be for you.  Because of this, and also because the hexagrams are not actually pictured on the cards, I will leave aside the I-Ching and simply approach this deck on its own terms.


Each card consists of an illustration, a phrase or title (for example, “Start Living” or “The Art of Relaxing”), and a large Arabic numeral, all set against a pleasant orange background.  The recommended method is to shuffle the cards and choose one. You then look up the card by its number in the Little White Book (LWB) and contemplate the commentary, applying it to your situation.


Each card’s commentary in the LWB consists of the card number; the same title that’s on the card; a “sentence,” i.e. a quote from one of several sources, including several from the Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Nietzsche, and Osho (Rajneesh), among others; and finally, “the comment,” a one- to three-paragraph-long commentary by the authors.


The pictures are this deck’s most delightful aspect.  They are done in a style which is refreshingly different from many of Lo Scarabeo’s tarot decks.  Allesandro Beltramo has created colorful, playful images which seem light, dream-like and evanescent.  Sometimes, as in card Seven (“Live Dangerously”), the meaning is clear; but at other times, as in card Four (“Travelling”), the picture seems quite obscure until you read the LWB’s commentary.  The commentaries do not discuss the specific imagery on the cards, but after you read them, you can usually come to an understanding of the general point of the picture.


Card Nine (“Accepting Oneself”) shows Beltramo in his playful mode as a woman cheerfully communes with her darker side.  A more profound note is struck in card 13 (“The World Is A Stage”), which shows a crucifixion, but instead of Jesus’ tortured face, we see the smiling face of the Buddha.  Card 59 (“Renew Yourself”), an x-ray view of an angel, is meant to suggest that despite the evanescence of life, something permanent remains.  This card is a good example of the authors’ ability to find striking and thought-provoking images for the card concepts.


The LWB contains an introduction, instructions for the one-card reading by shuffling, instructions for obtaining the one card through the traditional I-Ching coin method, and the aforementioned card texts.  The instructions tell you how to obtain your hexagram using coins, but, since the hexagrams are pictured neither in the LWB nor on the cards, these instructions are useless without some other I-Ching reference, because one would be unable to find the card which corresponds to one’s hexagram.


The introduction and the card commentaries are excellently written, and I enjoyed reading them, despite a few clumsy examples of English construction.  Giuseppe Ricci takes a very modern, self-empowering approach to Eastern mysticism.  Interestingly, although the authors are identified on the box and at the front of the LWB as Giuseppe Ricci and Alessandro Beltramo, the introduction is signed by Swami Anand Videha and Swami Prabhu Sudas, which I assume refers to the same two authors.  At the end there is a short bio for the illustrator (but not for the author) and a paragraph-long statement by him about his experiences while working on the deck.  The bio states that he studied with Osho, and indeed the texts and pictures do seem to reflect Osho’s approach (for an excellent article about Osho and his influence on Tarot and oracle decks, see the Tarot Garden website.


I found certain passages in the introduction to be quite appealing, such as the following: 


The Tao, or Way of Virtue, is a journey through the reality of things, where everything exists in a permanent state of flux, a dance of light and shade where obstacles are nothing but reflections, means capable of contributing to a transformation and an understanding of one’s self, through a game of opposites, excellently illustrated by the symbols of yin and yang.”


I did find myself a little irritated by several references in the introduction to other forms of divination, which are labeled as “destiny, fate, a past that brands you, or a future to suffer in that it is an inexorable concatenation of events.”  Ricci seems unaware that many people nowadays use traditional forms of divination such as the tarot in the flexible and self-empowering way that he recommends for his own deck.


I found Success Cards to be an excellent tool when used as instructed, i.e. with a one-card spread.  I also found it to be an interesting exercise to lay out several cards in a tarot-like spread, although I would then find myself intuitively interpreting the images rather than looking up each card in the LWB.  This is a fun deck to play with, and I believe it could indeed lead to the powerful insights claimed in the text.


Success Cards by Giuseppe Ricci, artwork by Alessandro Beltramo

Published by Lo Scarabeo

ISBN No. 888395292-8


Lee A. Bursten has been studying Tarot off and on for about 20 years. He enjoys reading about Tarot and searching for the "Perfect Deck," which is always just around the corner but out of reach. He is very grateful to Michele and Diane for posting his reviews, and especially to his significant other, Larry Katz, for his superhuman patience.


Images © 2003 Lo Scarabeo

Review © 2003 Lee Bursten

Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes