Artist: Atanas Atanassov
Publisher: Llewellyn (Lo Scarabeo)
Publication date: September 2002
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The Golden Tarot of the Tsar is an unusual Tarot. The deck is printed with shining gold foil -- lots of gold foil. This gives the deck an eye-catching appearance. Fortunately, when you look beyond the flash, this is still a beautiful deck. Don't let the sample card scans fool you, the gold foil looks much better in person. In spite of the deck's name, it has nothing to do with the old Russian aristocracy. You will not find any pictures of Czars and Czarinas in this deck.
Atanas Atanassov, the Bulgarian artist who created this deck, was inspired by the iconic art of the Orthodox Churches, particularly the Russian Orthodox Church. While he avoided reproducing any of the images which are believed to have appeared miraculously, there was still a wealth of material to draw upon. Atanassov tried not to modify the icons or the standard interpretations of the cards. Instead he attempted to associate the traditional meaning of each card to a saint or a scene from the Bible, and then find iconic art depicting that which he could use for the card. This makes for a very interesting, as well as very beautiful deck.
Each card in the major arcana has a full size picture. The Magician depicts the resurrection of Lazarus. The Hierophant is the apostle Peter. Strength is shown as Saint George slaying the dragon. The Star depicts the nativity of Christ. Judgement is a scene from the final judgement. The other selections seem just as appropriate. The minor arcana are a cross between pip cards and illustrated cards, with pips on gold surrounding a small iconic picture in the center. The icons are in squares for cups, in hexagons for pentacles, in diamonds for wands, and in circles for swords. The court cards have full size pictures.
Like the majority of the Lo Scarabeo decks I've seen, the Golden Tarot of the Tsar only comes with a small foldout flyer (actually two, one in English and one in Spanish) that describes the reasoning behind of the deck, very brief descriptions of the cards and their meanings, and a single divinatory layout. The descriptions of the cards are very useful for this deck as they identify the saint or biblical scene illustrated on the card. However, there is no way a beginner could learn to use this deck with this flyer. The divinatory layout given is interesting as one shuffles and deals the major arcana and the minor arcana separately with certain positions in the layout reserved for each. I found this layout gives very balanced readings.
The Golden Tarot of the Tsar is published by Lo Scarabeo of Torino in Italy and is distributed in the US by Llewellyn. Many Pagans will probably not like this deck because of its very Christian symbolism. That's a shame because this is a very nice Tarot deck. It has lovely art and a great deal of thought and care seems to have gone into its design. While the card meanings are fairly standard, the symbolism is nothing like the standard Rider-Waite used in many books on the Tarot, which may make it harder for complete beginners to use this deck. This deck would make an excellent gift for an Orthodox friend interested in the Tarot.
Reviewed by Randall