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Universal Fantasy Tarot - tarot decks

Playing Cards
Playing Cards -> Tarot decks

Price: US $13.35

ProductID: alt1168

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About this item
  • The Universal Fantasy Tarot is set in the fictional world of fantasy literature. A world of magic, inhabited by dragons,
  • witches, winged horses, heros, gods and demons, it is here illustrated on 78 fantastical cards.

Name Universal Fantasy Tarot
Creators Paolo Martinello
Publisher Lo Scarabeo 2006
Deck Type Tarot Deck
Cards 78
Major Arcana 22
Minor Arcana 56
Deck Tradition Rider-Waite-Smith
Minor Arcana Style Unique Scenes Without Suit Symbols
Suits Chalices, Swords, Wands, Pentacles
Court Cards Knave, Knight, Queen, King
The Fool is 0
Strength is 8
Justice is 11
Card Size 2.60 x 4.72 in. = 6.60cm x 12.00cm
Card Language Spanish, Italian, German, French, English, Dutch
Card Back Reversible
Companion Material 64-page companion booklet in six languages.


The Universal Fantasy Tarot is a deck based on the fantasy novel genre, the imagined literary world fathered by English author William Morris and later popularised by Tolkien, Moorcock and others. This fantasy world is a blend of magic and the Middle Ages, and is inhabited by dragons, witches, unicorns, demons, elves, and heroes.

The deck pictures these and even more mythical creatures: giant mice, centaurs, satyrs, giant lammergeiers, naiads and water sprites in the Six of Pentacles, enormous flying snails in the Six of Chalices. There are fantastical monsters grown of wood and trees: The Ace of Wands has a cloven-hoofed, muscled animal with a giant head like a cluster of sprouting branches, that makes the shape of the club that appears in more standard depictions of this card.

In places, the artistic style of Paolo Martinello reminds me of the Revelations Tarot with its flowing, almost stained glass look, and because it takes a few moments to adjust the eye to the busy-ness of the images. There is also a similarity to the Gilded Tarot in the mechanistic, complicated clock-work touches used on the World and the Ace of Pentacles. Some cards that are closer to the robotic, science-fiction side of the fantasy genre - the Five of Swords is one, with its giant wearing rigid armour that mimics or grows from the town below.

I found a few cards to be confusing in their imagery (the Three of Pentacles in particular) but there were also some cards I very much liked. The Ace of Swords, with its image of a huge, airy hall with arches along each side, and a column in the foreground on which the sword is placed; green leaves twine around both. It has a spacious feeling; very airy. The Two of Pentacles, which depicts a lean, athletic person holding two long poles, with equally long flags attached: she is in constant motion, twirling the poles so that flags are full and intertwined around her. There are also a small number of cards with some female nudity, as in the Three of Chalices and the World.

Chalices, Wands, Swords and Pentacles are the suits in this deck, with Knave, Knight, Queen and King for the court cards. In most respects it sticks to the Rider-Waite basis and Strength and Justice are numbered VIII and XI respectively as well. The faces of the cards have an outer white border, then inner black sections at the top and bottom that hold the titles in six languages. (I liked this placement; all those titles are more unobtrusive than usual.) The backs of the cards have a reversible design of mechanical pieces overlaid over a distant landscape.

The companion booklet, the usual multi-language leaflet from Lo Scarabeo, has meanings that are generally Rider-Waite based. They come across as short and somewhat pompous - I probably wouldn't use it again with the cards, and would rely instead on the images themselves. For example:

1 - The Magician. Knowledge often requires sacrifice, but if we act with determination we can obtain our heart's desire.

Ace of Wands. There are times when we must let ourselves be guided by more intuition than by reason.

The divining method for the Universal Fantasy deck is called 'The Castle with 15 Rooms'. It's not a typical spread where you turn over all the cards, but has a row of six cards that are turned face up, and nine other cards that are turned over in response to a question. The suits are then matched between the turned card and the face-up card to generate the interpretation.

For all the possibilities offered by the fantasy universe, I found the Universal Fantasy Tarot's overall feeling to be rather melancholy. The colours used are predominantly cool blues, greys and greens instead of warmer yellows or reds, and the people in the deck are serious and rarely smiling, even in usually positive cards like the Sun or the Two of Chalices. Still, it's a usable and readable Tarot for those who like the imaginary imagery of the Fantasy genre.

Combine shipping is possible.

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