Da Vinci Tarot - Mark McElroy, Iassen Ghuiselev, Atanas Atanassov
”Did Leonardo Da Vinci encounter the Tarot while working for the Sforza family? No one knows. It is intriguing, though, to imagine his reactions to the cards…and to envision the sort of deck Da Vinci, a Renaissance Master, might have produced.” – From the companion booklet to the Da Vinci Tarot

Books by Margaret Starbird and Elaine Pagels, coupled with the popular novel and movie The Da Vinci Code, has re-awakened an interest in the Mary Magdalene mythos as well as the Renaissance Master himself. Was Da Vinci connected to forbidden sects and secret societies that preserved and protected the history and lineage of Mary Magdalene and Jesus? No one knows for sure, but there is little evidence to support these theories.

Nevertheless, the enigmatic smiles of Da Vinci’s subjects as well as his futuristic inventions intrigue us to this day. Renowned for both The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Da Vinci created drawings of fantastic flying machines, detailed anatomical sketches, and a myriad of inventions—including advanced weaponry.

Commissioned in 1992 to create a series of 22 paintings for a Majors only deck, Iassen Ghuiselev culled images from Da Vinci’s notebooks, diagrams, and artwork. Art historian Marco Bussagli hailed the artistic works, which featured Da Vinci’s mirror-script for the card titles and tiny glyphs adapted from the Master’s designs. Over a decade later, a new artist was recruited to replicate the subtle shading techniques of Ghiuselev for the Minor Arcana. Atanas Atanassov completed the Minors in 2002, but Lo Scarabeo decided to expand the Da Vinci Tarot with a new kit, which includes a 63-companion guide written by Mark McElroy.

The card images in the Da Vinci Tarot depict androgynous characters, fantastical beasts, and enigmatic expressions depicted in muted shades of brown, gray, and green. Six languages announce each card title and the construction is consistent with traditional decks. The suits are Chalices, Pentacles, Swords and Wands and the Court attributions are Knave, Knight, Queen, and King. Wands are associated with element Fire and Swords with element Air. The card backings are fully reversible, depicting doubled images of the Queen of Wands. Measuring approximately 4 ¾ inches by 2 ½ inches, the sturdy but flexible card stock has a slick, matte finish and shuffles easily.

In the companion booklet, McElroy admits that some card meaning stray from traditional meanings, making the Da Vinci Tarot an unwise choice as a beginner’s deck. For example, the provided meanings for the Two of Pentacles are “clarity, untainted love, honest friendship, unconditional love and acceptance, engaging in love for the simple pleasure of doing so.” Traditionally, relationships, love, and emotions are the realm of the Cups/Chalices/Water suit, not Pentacles. The meaning for the Ace of Chalices is “growth, eating well, fostering a sense of well-being, tending to the healthy advancement of body and spirit, taking advantage of opportunities to be nurtured.” Apart from the latter meaning, this description sounds much more like the traditional realm of the Pentacles/Earth suit, which governs health and the physical body.

For each card in the Da Vinci Tarot, McElroy gives a brief commentary and three exploration questions, as well as what they encourage and caution against. For some cards, the author offers illustration notes, highlighting the source of card images. It’s my understanding that the artist didn’t keep track of which sketch or painting went with each card image, but McElroy’s curiosity and tenacity spurred him to resolve the derivations.

There are some omissions and mistakes in the booklet, including duplicating the card meaning of the Empress for the Emperor and a typo for The World, which says “The figure on The Sun…” To be honest, I’m not sure if there are other mistakes because I couldn’t get past the Majors with a mere cursory reading of the booklet. Surprisingly, the companion booklet is a dry read. Surprising, because McElroy is usually an engaging author. Granted, hints of his cleverness and inventiveness peek through, but the booklet bored me to tears. I was going to push through the entire 63 pages, but I figured “why bother?”

While the mirror-script and icons in the background of the Majors add a hint of mystery and additional intuitive information, I found most of the card images uninspiring. The artists are very talented, especially with shading techniques, but most of the image selections aren’t conducive to symbolic interpretation and intuitive association for those who don’t memorize meanings to apply to every deck. I performed a reading and found the Da Vinci Tarot wanting. It just doesn’t “speak” to me and, for the first time as a reader, I actually found myself thinking of the Rider-Waite correlations in the attempt to glean some information from the spread.

This deck would be great for rabid fans of Da Vinci and art deck collectors. However, I found the deck and companion booklet quite bland, despite the care taken with its execution.

Below are 9 images from the Da Vinci Tarot:

Related Articles
The Back in Time Tarot Book - Janet Boyer
The Fairy Tale Tarot - Lisa Hunt
Legacy of the Divine Tarot - Ciro Marchetti
Silver Era Tarot - Aunia Kahn
Shadowscapes Tarot - Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
ShadowFox Tarot - Richard and Jennifer ShadowFox
Twilight Realm A Tarot of Faery - Beth Wilder
Otherworld Tarot - Alison Williams and Sarah Nowell
Morgan's Tarot - Morgan Robbins and Darshan Chorpash
Shining Angels Tarot – Giuditta Dembech and Federico Penco
Heart Tarot - Maria Distefano
Imperial Dragon Oracle (Majors Only) - Andy Baggott and Peter Pracownik
Hallmark Tarot - Darla Hallmark
Hezicos Tarot - Mary Griffin
The Vampires Tarot of the Eternal Night - Davide Corsi
Tarot of the Animal Lords - Angelo Giannini
Tarot of the Sweet Twilight - Cristina Benintende
The Transparent Tarot - Emily Carding
Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set (Smith Waite Centennial Tarot)
Paulina Tarot - Paulina Cassidy
Mythical Goddess Tarot - Sage Holloway and Katherine Skaggs
Affirmations for the Everyday Goddess Deck (Majors Only) - Pamela Wells
Quantum Tarot - Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler
Tell-Me Tarot - Arik Eyal and Nir Cassuto
Trump L’oeil: Tarot of Portmeirion - Craig Conley
Pirate Tarot - Lucas and Carrie Amodio; Liz "Galindorf" Harper
Dark Grimoire Tarot - Michele Panco
Deviant Moon Tarot - Patrick Valenza
The Alchemical Tarot Renewed - Robert M. Place
Faerie Tarot - Nathalie Hertz
The Truth-Seeker's Tarot - David Fontana
Dark Grimoire Tarot - Michele Panco
Undersea Tarot - Frank Fradella
Lo Scarabeo Tarot - Mark McElroy and Anna Lazzarini
Fantastical Creatures Tarot - Lisa Hunt and D.J. Conway
Sharman-Caselli Tarot - Juliet Sharman-Burke and Giovanni Caselli
Absolute Beginner's Guide to Tarot - Mark McElroy
Pearls of Wisdom Tarot - Roxi Sim and Caeli Fullbrite
Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot - Graham Cameron
Tarot of the Angels - Arturo Picca & Giordano Berti
Circle of Life Tarot - Maria Distefano
Pictorial Key Tarot - Davide Corsi
Tarot of the Pirates - Bepi Vigna, Michele Benevento, & Arturro Picca
Lo Scarabeo Tarot - Mark McElroy and Anna Lazzarini
Fantastical Creatures Tarot - Lisa Hunt and D.J. Conway
Sorcerers Tarot - Antonella Castelli
Jean Noblet Tarot - Jean-Claude Flornoy
Tarot of the III Millenium - Iassen Ghiuselev
21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card - Mary K. Greer
Learning Tarot Spreads - Joan Bunning
Universal Fantasy Tarot - Paolo Martinello
Vanessa Tarot - Lynyrd Narciso
Mystic Faerie Tarot - Linda Ravenscroft and Barbara Moore
UFO Tarot - Arturo Picca
The Arthurian Tarot (2007 Version) - Caitlín and John Matthews
Forest Folklore Tarot - Kessia Beverley-Smith
Napo Tarot - Betty Lopez and Napo
Easy Tarot Kit (Gilded Tarot) - Josephine Ellershaw
Crystal Tarot - Elisabetta Trevisan
Universal Fantasy Tarot - Paolo Martinello
Fantastical Tarot - Nathalie Hertz
Fenestra Tarot - Chatriya Hemharnvibul
The Halloween Tarot - Kipling West
The Instant Tarot Reader (Zerner/Farber Deck) - Monte Farber and Amy Zerner
Tarot Discovery Kit (Zerner/Farber Deck) - Monte Farber and Amy Zerner
Medieval Enchantment - The NIgel Jackson Tarot
The Victorian Romantic Tarot – Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov
Llewellyn's 2007 Tarot Reader
Tarot of Prague - Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov
The World Spirit Tarot - Lauren O'Leary and Jessica Godino
Baroque Bohemian Cats' Tarot - Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov
Animals Divine Tarot - Lisa Hunt
The Tarot of Oz - David Sexton
Tarot of the Dead - Monica Knighton
WorldTree Tarot - Ann Cass
Tarot of Reflections – Francesco Ciampi and Pietro Alligo
Tarot of Metamorphosis – M. Filadoro and L. Di Giammarino
Fairytale Tarot - Karen Mahony, Alex Ukolov, and Irena Triskova
Transformational Tarot - Arnell Ando
Rohrig Tarot - Carl-W. Rohrig
True Love Tarot - Amy Zerner and Monte Farber
Babylonian Tarot - Sandra Tabatha Cicero
Pagan Tarot - Gina Pace
Golden Tarot of Klimt - A.A. Atanassov
Archeon Tarot - Timothy Lantz
Housewives Tarot - Paul Kepple and Jude Buffum
Epicurean Tarot Recipe Cards - Corrine Kenner
Tarot of Dreams - Ciro Marchetti and Lee Bursten
Revelations Tarot - Zach Wong
Tarot of the Four Elements - Isha Lerner and Amy Ericksen
DruidCraft Tarot - Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm
Gilded Tarot - Ciro Marchetti
Oracle Tarot - Lucy Cavendish
Golden Tarot - Kat Black
Tarot de Paris - J. Philip Thomas
The Quest Tarot - Joseph Ernest Martin
Tarot Tells the Tale - James Ricklef
Tarot Journaling - Corrine Kenner
Everyday Tarot: A Choice Centered Approach - Gail Fairfield
The Encyclopedia of Tarot Volume IV - Stuart Kaplan and Jean Huets
The 2-Hour Tarot Tutor - Wilma Carroll
Seeker: The Tarot Unveiled - Rachel Pollack
Llewellyn's 2006 Tarot Reader
Tarot Workbook - Juliet Sharman-Burke
Tarot for Life - Prospero
Tarot Tips - Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone
What's in the Cards For You? - Mark McElroy
Power Tarot: More Than 100 Spreads - Trish Magregor and Phyllis Vega
What Tarot Can Do For You: Your Future in the Cards - Barbara Moore
Tarot: More Than a Deck of Cards
Tarot Collages
The Four Suits of the Minor Arcana
How to Clear a Tarot or Oracle Deck
Cartomancy - How to Read Cards

Content copyright © by Janet Boyer. All rights reserved. This review was written by Janet Boyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission.