Artist: Severino Baraldi
Publisher: Llewellyn (Lo Scarabeo)
Publication date: January 2003
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The Tarot of the Journey to the Orient (also known as the Marco Polo Tarot) is inspired by the wonders of the orient as described by Marco Polo is his book Il Milione. Severino Baraldi's illustrations combine the images and symbolism of eastern and western culture in an often brightly colored mixture. Baraldi did an excellent job of illustration.
Despite the mixture of western and eastern symbolism, this is a standard Tarot deck in all ways. This makes it easy to read for anyone familiar with the Tarot. The mixture of symbols is most noticeable in the major arcana, where many of the cards show a scene from the orient in the foreground and a similar scene from the west in the background. This works far better that it reads. Perhaps the most striking major arcana illustration is The Hierophant, which depicts a monk offering incense before a statue of the Buddha with Christ on the cross outside the window. Each suit of the minor arcana depicts scenes one might encounter on a journey from west to east in the time of Marco Polo. The court cards are oriental.
This deck comes with a small 64 page booklet filled with tiny text. Only one-fifth of the booklet is in English (the other languages are Italian, Spanish, French, and German). This booklet provides background information on the deck as well as a brief meaning for each of the cards. The minor arcana receive only brief two line divinatory descriptions while the major arcana are described in some detail, complete with a "quote" that sums up the card. Very brief descriptions for three layouts for divination are also included: a general situation spread, a (30 card) lifetime spread, and a love spread. It would be hard for the average beginner to use this deck with just the information given in this booklet.
The Tarot of the Journey to the Orient is a well-thought-out and well-executed deck. I personally find the symbolism interesting, although a bit confusing at times. Those more knowledgeable in oriental philosophy than I will find the deck's symbolism less confusing, I'm sure. In spite of some unfamiliar symbolism, an experienced reader will probably have little trouble using this deck. A total novice, on the other hand, will need a introductory Tarot book. If you are interested the orient (or a collector of unusual Tarot decks), you will definitely want to look at this deck. Others may like it as well. I suspect it may be one of those decks that many people will either love or hate on sight.
Reviewed by Randall