“It becomes immediately clear that the Tarot of the Heart is an uncommon deck dedicated to love, to sentiment, to feelings, to friendships, and to the bonds that each person develops with those around him. In reality, when we speak of love, there is the risk of imagining only romantic love; even if this is one of the more common and important forms of love, it is certainly not the only one.” – From the Little White Book to the Heart Tarot An ambitious and innovative venture on behalf of Italian publisher Lo Scarabeo, the Heart Tarot pulses on the scene with what might be the first heart-shaped Tarot on the market.
With bold fire-truck red borders, these large cards measure approximately 4 ½ x 4 ½ inches at their widest with card names transcribed in six languages that surround the central image. The card backing is understandably non-reversible, with two lovers entwined in a yin-yang embrace.
Although difficult to shuffle (even hand-over-hand), the Heart Tarot presents whimsical, intriguing illustrations that have an Alice in Wonderland type feel to them (especially the checkered background of cards like the Knave of Swords) or perhaps a fairytale land peppered with lost humans, satyrs, unicorns, mermaids, gnomes and other fantastical creatures. However, this isn’t just a pretty art deck. In fact, most of the images in the Heart Tarot cover big-picture archetypal themes that affect (or afflict?) humanity, as well as those daily occurrences so often fraught with joy, small favors, bewilderment, play, curiosity, art, friendship, romance, wistfulness, protectiveness, sensuality, decisions, betrayal, dreams, excess, discovery and so on.
Thus, unlike some fantasy decks, the majority of illustrations offer not only clear, accurate guidance for the “human stuff” of life, but also excellent inspiration and insight for creative endeavors.
Case in point: I was experimenting with a five-card character development spread found in Hal Zina Bennett’s outstanding book Write Starts. I’ve been working on a novel for over a year, and decided to take the Heart Tarot out for a spin with Hal’s Developing Characters Spread. Well, let’s just say that I had such illuminating, surprising discoveries about my lead character using this spread that I used the Heart Tarot to perform yet another five-card spread for a second character! I’ve also used the Heart Tarot for personal meditation and general one-card readings and it’s proven to be straightforward and spot-on.
The Minor Suits from this deck are Chalices, Pentacles, Wands and Swords, and the Court cards follow the Knave, Knight, Queen and King demarcation. The Little White Book is worse than useless in this particular case (as are most Lo Scarabeo LWBs). For example, the 7 of Wands card shows a bird’s eye view of a youth painting a red heart onto graph paper, colored pencils strewn about her. The LWB meaning given for this card? “Prosperity, opportunities. Solid ties, a long-desired love conquest. Gratifying emotional situations, intriguing and malicious (!) relationships.” (Exclamation mark mine.)
I guess I’ll never understand Lo Scarabeo’s decision to print original LWBs for decks that don’t match up with the card imagery. Don’t get me wrong, many of their LWBs, if not most, offer fresh, unusual interpretations—it’s just that they rarely correspond to the imagery, often diametrically opposed in both description and connotation.
But as seasoned Tarot enthusiasts know, LWBs are often a waste of trees anyway, so don’t hold this against the Heart Tarot (or any other deck, unless you’re a Tarot beginner needing and wanting consistency). Although heart-shaped, I don’t feel this is a particularly romantic deck lending itself to relationship readings (although you could certainly use the Heart Tarot for that purpose). Rather, it’s a deck imparting whimsy and quiet nudges, perfect for creative inspiration, inner child explorations or uplifting contemplation. Its gentle, inventive illustrations by Maria Distefano offer unexpected revelations, so I think it would be a fine deck for any type of reading. If you happen to get the Heart Tarot, make sure that you check to see if all the cards are there! My deck, which was still sealed in plastic, was missing four Major Arcana cards (Temperance, Devil, Tower and The Stars). After I contacted Llewellyn (American distributor for Lo Scarabeo), the customer service team was very helpful and apologetic, offering to send me the missing cards which they did speedily.
Both eye candy and heart candy, I highly recommend this most unusual deck, especially if you desire to see the world through the eyes of love and innocence.
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