Author: Valerie Sim
Publisher: Llewellyn (Lo Scarabeo)
Publication date: December 2002
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The Comparative Tarot is four Tarot decks in one. Each card in this deck shows four quarter-card-sized images of the same card in four very different decks. The Universal Tarot card image is in the upper left. Next to it is the card from the Tarot of the Sphinx. Below these two images are the card from the Tarot of Origins and from the Tarot of Marseilles. If you like to read from a Tarot deck with a large symbol set, you will probably love this deck. Provided, of course, that your eyes are fairly good. Each image is only 1 inch wide and 1.75 inches high.
The decks selected for this comparative deck are all very different from each other. The Universial Tarot is a modern variation of the the Rider-Waite deck. I know a number of Rider-Waite deck fans who really like this version. While it is not my personal favorite, it is very nicely done. The Tarot of the Sphinx is a deck designed by Silvana Alasia based on an Egyptian motif. This is my first exposure to this deck and I like it. The Tarot of Origins is a strange deck featuring primitive people in a somewhat dreamlike manner. You either love it, hate it, or just find it weird. I'm in the "just find it weird" category, but it does add a unique set of symbols to the mix. The Tarot of Marseilles is a modern deck done after the style of the Marseilles decks of the 17th century. My usual complaint about Marseilles decks, the Minor Arcana are just pips, doesn't have much force in a deck like this.
Unlike many Lo Scarabeo decks I've seen, this deck does not come with a small foldout flyer. This deck comes with a tiny 64 page booklet. Of course, only one-fifth of the booklet is in English (the other languages are French, German, Italian, and Spanish), so there's not really that much more information than in the small flyers. This booklet provides background information on the decks on the cards and five keyword meanings for card: a general meaning and one for each of the decks depicted on the card. Unfortunately, there is not much room for instructions on how to take advantage of this deck, although a brief one card reading example is provided. The author does have a web site and book upcoming from Llewellyn on her comparative reading method, however.
The Comparative Tarot is a wonderful idea for those who like Tarot cards with lots of symbolism -- or for someone who wants to get four Tarot decks for the price of one. However, this is not really a deck for a beginner and the booklet included even admits this. It is designed for experienced Tarot readers who want to try a new method of reading the cards: multiple decks at once. I like this deck simply for the huge set of symbols it brings to a reading, but I suspect that I will have to read Sims' upcoming book to really make full use of the comparative reading method she touches upon in the booklet.
Reviewed by Randall