Artist: Giacinto Gaudenzi
Publisher: Llewellyn (Lo Scarabeo)
Publication date: September 2002
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Giacinto Gaudenzi's Decameron Tarot is an erotic art Tarot deck for adults. Inspired by the Decameron, a fourteenth century prose work by Giovanni Boccaccio, Gaudenzi has created a disturbing but beautiful deck for adults with one theme: S-E-X. While I am not a prude and use a couple of erotic decks, this deck was simply too disturbing in many ways for my tastes.
The deck, as a work of art, is beautiful. Gaudenzi is a talented artist. The cards depict medieval scenes and with a few exceptions, focus on raw sex. One point in favor of this deck is the wide range of people depicted in the artwork. They come in all sizes and shapes, not just tall, thin, and beautiful/handsome. Many erotic tarot decks only feature people who would be at home in high fashion magazines.
The major arcana feature full size illustrations. Unfortunately, many of these illustrations seem at odds with the traditional meanings of the cards. For example, The Chariot, traditionally a card of action and movement, shows a country lad with a stalk of wheat in his mouth lifting the skirt of a woman laying in a rustic cart and liking what he sees. The Hanged Man (called the Hanged Woman in this deck) shows a woman on a tree swing receiving the attentions of two men, one on the ground and the other on a tree limb above her.
The minor arcana feature fully illustrated aces and court cards. The two through ten cards feature a scene in a box between an appropriate number of very erotic versions of coins, cups, wands, and swords. Several of the cards look like they are depicting non-consensual sex. Again, many of these illustrations seem at odds with the traditional meanings of the cards. Some even seem at odds with the name of the card. For example, the Knave of Coins depicts a monk having sex with a nun. I'm used to Tarot decks with non-standard or even odd symbolism, but most just use their very different symbolism to show the traditional meanings.
Having symbolism that varies so much from the standard meanings is not a major problem when the deck comes with a book explaining the symbolism and meanings used. Unfortunately, like the most Lo Scarabeo decks, the Decameron Tarot only comes with a small foldout flyer (actually two, one in English and one in Spanish). This flyer provides a short introduction, a small amount of background information on the Decameron and its author, very brief descriptions of the meanings of the cards, and a special divinatory layout called "the Bedroom" for this deck. The descriptions are about three or four lines of type for the major arcana and the court cards and only a line or two for the remainder of the minor arcana. Given the very different symbolism in this deck, this will not be enough even for many skilled readers.
It has been over twenty years since I read the Decameron in college and my memory may be faulty, but I don't see that this deck really has a lot to do with Boccaccio's Decameron. While his book was considered shocking and even profane at the time, I do not recall many of the scenes and themes depicted in this deck in Boccaccio's work. While this deck may have been inspired by a reading of the Decameron, from my memories of the stories in this work I don't believe that the deck is actually based on it.
Erotic decks are usually of limited use as, in my opinion, they really only work well for romance and relationship questions. However, when well done, they can be fun to use for this purpose. Unfortunately, Decameron Tarot disturbs me more than impresses me. If you collect tarot decks for their art, this deck might be a worthwhile addition to your collection. If you buy decks to read, there are more readable erotic decks out there.
Reviewed by Randall