“The inspiration for the Napo Tarot is based in Argentinean myth, culture, and history. Just as the man from the pampas knows what direction to take in the night by reading the stars, so too does the woman from the pueblo know how to read the archetypal images of the cards with speed and intuition.” – From the Napo Tarot
In a land of colorful ponchos and adobe pueblos, South American gauchos traverse vast grassy pampas while urban “show offs” wield sword and emotions with equal swiftness. The Napo Tarot is a tribute to this lively land where both the Tarot creator, Betty Lopez, and prolific artist Napo originate.
Encased in bright watercolors and intriguing geometic patterns, universal archetypes find expression in the unusual artistic interpretations of the Napo Tarot. A puffy spiral replaces The Fool’s face, representing the whirlwind of ideas that may put him in danger from a typical resident of Argentinean rivers, the alligator, which stands poised with mouth agape below the fearless traveler. A semi-transparent female situated between embracing lovers symbolizes the nature of doubt, duality, and indecision that often faced by The Lovers.
But while the Napo Tarot utilizes quirky imagery on some of the Majors, the cards stay true to the Rider-Waite-Smith system—making it an accessible, engaging deck. The eccentricities lend themselves to fresh intuitive insights for journaling and Tarot reading, yet those learning the Tarot according to RWS-based books and teachings will likely find the Napo Tarot comfortable and familiar.
The Minor Arcana are Wands, Cups, Swords and Disks, depicting both the number and a keyword rendered in English and Spanish. For example, the 8 of Wands says Swiftness, the 6 of Cups says Memories and the 8 of Disks says Diligence (suit names are left off the cards).
Court cards are Page (Earth), Knight (Air), Queen (Water) and King (Fire), and the art depicts these elemental combinations. The reversible card backing shows a simple motif of four gold stars with the background a lovely shade of blue.
The 47-page booklet provides card descriptions and upright meanings, but there is little mention of the Argentinean mythos and that informs the Napo Tarot. Like many decks from U.S. Games and other deck publishers, a full-blown book would have better served this deck, in my opinion—although the accessible imagery certainly doesn’t demand it.
Unfortunately, there are two significant errors in the actual cards. The creators chose to include the astrological associations on each of the Major Arcana cards but two of them are incorrect: The glyph for Sagittarius, normally associated with Temperance, is found on the Star while the glyph for Aquarius, normally associated with The Star, is on the Temperance card.
If you can get past these glaring errors on the Napo Tarot, this would be a fine deck for the comparative method, especially with some of the unusual symbolic touches (possibly unintentional). Although I don’t usually like keywords printed on the Minor Arcana, they’re forgivable in this case—especially since I receive a strong flow of intuitive information from the Napo Tarot.
This deck would likely appeal to those fascinated by South American history, culture and lore. In addition, the Napo Tarot is a suitable choice for children and youth, since the gentle images are absent of frightening elements or rampant nudity.
I’m pleased with my purchase of this deck and plan on keeping it in my collection!