As a fan of ancient Tarot decks, I’ve been wanting to get the Golden Tarot version of the Visconti Sforza Tarot deck by Race Point publishing for quite some time. I already bought their Marseille Tarot set a while back and was very happy with the over-sized cards. Again, Mary Packard is the author of the companion book and this time she makes it very clear that she is indeed inspired by the work of Tarotist Robert M. Place, so I guessed right about his influence for the the TdM companion book.
The main bonus for me, when I compare and contrast this set with the Lo Scarabeo Visconti Tarot is that there is a lack of writing on the borders. This gives a more true to the era feel, even with the gloss lamination and lack of gold leaf. To me, there is nothing more distracting than card titles in multiple languages (I’m happy to see that Lo Scarabeo has started moving away from this).
Now, as stated, these cards are BIG, 170×85 mm to be more precise. For some people, especially those who have small hands, shuffling cards this large can be problematic but there are a few ways around this dilemma. You can put all the cards on the table and swish them about until you feel they have been sufficiently shuffled around and then gather them into a neat stack… or you can use the method I like to use (link takes you to 30 sec video) for shuffling large decks. Personally, I feel that bigger is better in this case. The artwork is beautiful and really pulls you in when the cards are this size.
If I were to fault the card stock it would possibly be on being slightly too flimsy but, on the other hand, thicker card stock would make the cards even clunkier to handle when they are as big as these. The cards do shuffle like a dream but they feel a bit like they might not wear well with being so thin. I’ve had decks like this bend and crease when I’m being less than super gentle with them.
None of the cards have numbers or titles written on them, so it may take a while to familiarise oneself with them, especially the court cards. The King of Cups below in my first ever reading, looked so child-like that I mistook him for the Page at a glance but then I realise he was crowned and seated. The pip cards are easy enough to recognise by simply counting the number of Swords, Cups, Wands or Pentacles present.
The World card is quite different to the standard Marseille and Waite Smith and shows the New Jerusalem rather than the traditional World Dancer surrounded by the four evangelists. However, both themes are entirely Christocentric… which brings me to my main point of criticism about this set… the companion book.
The Christian themes that run like a red thread all the way through the deck aren’t mentioned at all. There is no mention of the medieval and renaissance Christian mystery and morality plays from which the Tarot most likely borrowed imagery. What we see here is typical revisionist Tarot History that conveniently ‘forgets’ that the Tarot deck was created in a Christian culture, with a Christian ethos. It’s more convenient (and better for sales) to skim over these origins and jump straight to the French occultists who – let’s face it – had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of the late medieval/renaissance decks but revelled in creating a syncretism that suited their needs.
I don’t need to go deep into apologetics about this; All it takes is a basic knowledge of the times in which the Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck and Marseille Tarot were created, along with eyes to actually see the images.
Sorry, this is turning into a bit of a rant and thus another tangent but I’m just so. damn. tired. of the lack of context… because, isn’t context everything when you read the cards and interpret symbols? And context is what I’m looking for when I buy a pre-occultist reproduction of an ancient deck. Maybe one day, someone who isn’t afraid of the fact that the Tarot was created with a Christian ethos will write a book or the introductory Tarot history chapters in a companion book. I literally can’t wait for this to happen.
Included with the deck and book is a purple satin cloth which is quite small but perfectly suitable for three-card spreads. All in all, this is value for money. The outer box is sturdy and beautifully made with classy spot lamination and you see the same spot lamination on the book cover.
The 144-page companion book is fully illustrated and contains, besides the aforementioned obligatory ‘Tarot history’ bit, card meanings and three Tarot spreads: a 3-card spread, a 5-card spread and the ever-present Celtic Cross spread.
I would recommend this set to almost anyone, from the beginner to the more advanced reader, whether or not you like reading with plain pip cards or not, simply because of the place in history this deck takes. It is the oldest known almost complete deck; Only The Devil, The Tower, 3 of Swords and Knight of Pentacles were missing and have had to be created in the style of the deck. The Visconti-Sforza deck was commissioned in 1451, in celebration of the tenth wedding anniversary of Bianca Maria Visconti and Francesco Sforza. Kudos to Mary Packard on the family history bit; I learned an interesting new fact or two that I didn’t know about the Visconti and Sforza families.
Below you can see a few more cards from this deck from the very first reading I did (in bed last night):
You’ll probably be seeing this deck around quite a lot if you follow me on FB, Twitter or Instagram. Let me know how you like the look of it in the comments below, along with how you feel about the bog standard, same old obligatory ‘history’ bit that we have to wade through with every companion book…
Love and Blessings,