Artist: Robert M. Place
Author: Robert M. Place
Book and Cards Set
Publication date: September 2001
View Sample Cards
Price & More Info: Click Here
As one might expect from the title, Robert Place's Tarot of the Saints is a deck based on Christianity and Christian symbolism. In my imagination, I can hear the complaints from some of Pagans reading this review who cannot understand why a Pagan site would review a deck so obviously based on Christianity. As there are many magicians who work with a Christian symbol set and even some Pagans who work with Saints -- and because I was intrigued by the art on the box -- this deck gets a review.
Robert Place is a fairly well-known artist who has appeared on TV and whose works have been displayed in museums and even at the White House. Place's work on the Tarot of the Saints is spare but beautiful. While each card is not overflowing with symbol upon symbol as cards from many Tarot decks are, almost every card makes a very strong impression on sight, which should make the deck fairly easy for the inexperienced to read. Experts may miss the multiple levels of detailed symbolism that many modern Tarot decks have, however.
The Major Arcana and the court cards feature saints, generally well-known saints, usually in a scene combining the traditional symbolism of the card with something from the historical/legendary actions of the saint depicted. While I'm sure that some will disagree with some of the saints selected for some of the cards, I really did not see any that made me think "Huh? Why did he pick that saint for that card?" The numbered pip cards simply depict the proper number of items of their suit, although most have a scene of some type at the bottom. These bottom scenes save the minor arcana from boredom. They are usually strongly related to both Christianity and the traditional meaning of the card.
A 248-page trade paperback book, entitled A Gnostic Book of Saints comes with this set. Unlike many Tarot books written for a specific set of cards, this book includes quite a bit of material (over 60 pages) on the possible origins and history of Tarot cards and their place in the Western esoteric tradition. Each major arcana and court card is described is some detail with lengthy descriptions of the saint depicted and at least one of the legends associated with him. The non-court card minor arcana, however, generally receive only a few sentences of description and advice as to their meaning. I found this book very interesting, but it is short on material on the meanings of the cards and on how to use them in divination. A complete beginner with no other Tarot books at hand would probably be lost.
My personal feelings about the Tarot of the Saints are mixed. I really like the art on most of the major arcana and the court cards. The pip cards, on the other hand, don't do much for me. I found the book an interesting and enjoyable read, but know that a beginner would not find the book nearly as helpful as it probably should be. This deck would be useful for a Christian magician and would make a fine gift to a Christian friend with esoteric interests. Although, in the latter case, you'd probably want to add a more practical book on divining with the Tarot unless your friend was already familiar with the Tarot.
Reviewed by Randall