Tarot of the Imagination by Ferenc Pinter    Review by Lee A. Bursten

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This is a very impressive deck artistically, which has recently been expanded from a 22-card Majors deck to a full 78-card deck. The art is of an unusually fine quality, and the cards look as if they should be hanging in a gallery.

A dreamlike, surrealistic tone dominates, and itís not always a pleasant one. There are plenty of images of violence, rape, slaughter, and execution, as well as more peaceful subjects.

There are many interesting details in the paintings, such as in the High Priestess, who sits on a throne made of books, while a tiny wraith-like man emerges from the book sheís reading.

The images are not limited in terms of time or space; technology appears in some cards, like the Hermit, who hides in his cave from the airplane flying overhead.

Thereís a wonderfully silent, timeless, stop-motion feeling to the Tower. A mounted soldier holding a banner seems unconcerned as the tower before him collapses.

The Minors are a very mixed bag, zipping all over the place in terms of location, time period, and artistic style. It doesnít seem as if the artist paid a lot of attention to the standard Waite-Smith card attributions. This isnít necessarily a bad thing, but itís sometimes rather difficult to understand what divinatory meaning Pinter might be getting at, especially with the obscure sentences listed for each card in the enclosed fold-out sheet. For example, in the Five of Chalices we have a wonderfully evocative modern scene, in which a woman with her back to us watches a man in white tie and tails mount a staircase towards her. But what does this have to do with the listed meaning, "Abandonment. The beauty and sadness of he who is defenseless"? After all, the man is approaching her, not leaving.

The next Chalice card, the Six, provides quite a change of pace. A man screams in agony as a pair of arms thrusts out from his eyes.

A few of the scenes seem Biblical, such as the Nine of Chalices, in which the angel visits Mary, or the baptism in the Five of Wands.

Some of the cards are quite appealing, such as the Three of Pentacles, showing a young boy following a barefoot old man across a river. This time the stated meaning is quite appropriate: "Curiosity. How many things did I see that night which I did not understand, with the eyes of a child?"

War rears its ugly head in the Four of Swords, as six unarmed civilians face a storm trooper. According to the fold-out: "Massacre. Nobody looked them in the face nor asked their names."

As you can see, this is not a deck for the faint of heart. I think the artist meant for this deck to be used in a highly intuitive manner, with the reader letting the dreamlike images suggest meanings, rather than having set concepts attached to each card. The problem is that, as impressive as the artwork is, Iím not sure many people will want to enter Pinterís dreamscape, since it includes a fair share of nightmares.

I had the same reaction to this deck as I did to the movie "The Matrix," which was quite impressive technically and extremely imaginative, but which left me cold because of its violence. Thatís not to say that unpleasant images or violence have no place in art; their inclusion can be important and even vital. But itís one thing to see a violent image on a gallery wall, where it makes its impact and then you move on, and quite another to have unpleasant images in a Tarot deck which presumably one might work with frequently as a vehicle for self-exploration. As a whole this deck left me with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, and I donít think Iíll be working with it very often.

Incidentally, I did particularly admire the deckís modern design of the borders, suit symbols, and fonts, especially the deck box, both front and back.

Iíd like to take the opportunity to address something which has come up several times in Lo Scarabeo decks, including this one. There are many images of beautiful naked women, which seems slightly odd to the American eye. I think itís probably a cultural thing, whereby in Europe art collectibles like comic books or Tarot decks are expected as a matter of course to include plenty of beautiful naked women, and they donít think anything about it. In the U.S., after seeing a lot of this sort of thing in a deck, readers will start to wonder whether there is some sort of agenda behind the artistís choices. Here, tarot decks are seen as instruments of self-exploration first and as art collectibles second, and itís hard to reconcile the seemingly mutually exclusive goals of sexual titillation and self-exploration.

Of course, many U.S. Tarot decks include nudity, for example, the Robin Wood and Cosmic Tribe decks. But there are two differences. One, the U.S. decks are much more balanced gender-wise, whereas in the European decks itís almost always a nude woman being pictured. Secondly, even though many of the people pictured in U.S. decks are perfect physical specimens (this is especially true of the Robin Wood), they are not drawn in such a way as to titillate or to be sexual objects or objects of desire, as many cards in Lo Scarabeo decks are. In some of these decks the cards start to seem like soft-core porn. (In Lo Scarabeoís Manara Erotic Tarot, itís more like hard-core.) Since the objects of desire are so often women, it also has the effect of making it seem as if the deck is being aimed exclusively at men. If Lo Scarabeo wants to have a larger market in the U.S., they may want to consider what messages they may be unintentionally sending to people who look to the Tarot principally as tools for self-exploration and empowerment.

You can read another review of this deck here.

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

Tarot of the Imagination by Ferenc Pinter
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo, distributed by Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN #: 888613192-5

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 © 2000 Lo Scarabeo
Review © 2001 Lee Bursten
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes










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