Tarocchi dei Celti (Tarot of the Celts) – Majors Only Deck

Tarocchi dei Celti, or Tarot of the Celts, is a Majors only deck published in Italian. The artwork is done by Italian illustrator Antonio Lupatelli (1930 – 2018), “evoking the ancient people of the Celts, with illustrations that are full of humor and sweetness” (thank you, Google Translate).

Laughs nervously. Okay, I’m wholly unqualified to be reviewing this deck. I have no idea what any of the key titles say, and when I tried typing the words into Google Translate, for instance with “Fintan mac Bochra,” the application tells me this phrase doesn’t exist in Italian, and in Arabic, allegedly it means “Venta is not good.” Not only is there the language barrier, there’s also the cultural barrier– I’m not all that familiar with Celtic mythology.

Ah, wait a minute– now if I type in a whole paragraph, the translation result is better. For Key 0 (il Matto), it’s Fintan mac Bóchra, and that’s a name. He was a Druid known as “The Wise.” I like that play of Fintan the Wise on the tarot Fool card. The salmon pictured on the card is a reference to Fintan being able to shape-shift into a salmon, and a reference to the Salmon of Knowledge in Irish lore.

As for the artwork, there’s certainly a whimsy to these illustrations. Of what I can read, note Morrigan for Key III (The Empress card). You may need to click on the above image file for a zoomed-in close-up view. Oh, and I’m guessing Key II (The High Priestess) is Brig or Brigid.

Due to a severe lacking in my knowledge of Celtic mythology, I’m not going to comment on any of the associations, so whether The Morrigan as the tarot Empress card makes any sense… I have neither the information nor knowledge to offer intelligent commentary. =)

The folded pamphlet that comes with the deck is in Italian. No English. Let’s continue relying on Google Translate…. okay so for Key 1: The Magician card, I can read what’s in the parens (Il Mago) on that title without help, thanks to Latin roots.

Now let’s see if I can get a coherent translation for that first sentence: “Although Roman commentators compared him to Mercury for his polytechnic qualities (military, craft and priestly), Lug was the greatest god of the Celts.”

Ah, okay. So that depiction on The Magician card is of Lugh, namesake for the harvest festival Lughnasadh. (The second paragraph of the entry mentions this.)

Instead of attempting to review this deck, I’m just going to show you the pretty pictures. The card dimensions are around 3″ x 7″, so taller than your standard mass market tarot cards. It’s printed on this papery canvas-like linen cardstock that’s just so exquisite. It’s totally matte, with an Old World vibe.

The illustrations are tongue-in-cheek, reminiscent of fairytale books for children that when you read aloud, you need to affect funny voices for the different characters. There’s a comedic element to the art style, playful, without taking itself too seriously.

From the few sentences I typed in to Google Translate, the pamphlet gives quite a lot of substantive insight into Celtic mythology, why particular figures are chosen to appear on the Majors that they’re on, and the tarot card meaning. But then I wouldn’t have expected any less from Giordano Berti, who is just an absolutely phenomenal writer and thinker. Basically, if Giordano Berti’s name is on something, I know I’m going to love whatever it is. And Berti’s the one who wrote the guide to Lupatelli’s art.

Let’s see how we fare with an auto-translation of that first paragraph from the above photo:

“Knowledge of Celtic culture and religion, as regards the most ancient phases, is limited to archaeological data only. Due to the ritual prohibition of writing imposed in the Druidic schools, we do not have any text written by a Celtic author, while the descriptions of the Greek and Latin writers are mostly referable to late eras and are affected by the effort to assimilate the culture of the Celts to that of the Mediterranean peoples.”

The quality of this deck is just unbelievable. I love the sleeve packaging designing, all of it in luxe paper that feels more like a sturdy parchment than it does plastic-y cardstock. It’s velvety and soft to the touch, almost as if it’s linen.

This art deck was published in 1991 by Lo Scarabeo as part of a “Tarocchi d’Arte” series. Although this ultra-luxe canvas-linen Majors Only deck is probably hard to find now, you can still get the 78-card Tarot of the Druids, which is the full deck based on these first 22 illustrations. (You’ll see that the Majors in the Tarot of the Druids are the same works of art you see here.)

Again, this isn’t a deck review. I haven’t done any readings with these cards and in fact, haven’t even taken them out of their original order yet. This is more of a quick show-and-tell.

ARCHIVE OF ALL DECK REVIEWS

11 thoughts on “Tarocchi dei Celti (Tarot of the Celts) – Majors Only Deck

  1. Shadowrose

    Hi Bell,

    the artwork of this deck reminded me of the fairy tarot (also published by Lo Scarabeo) – and is indeed done by the same artist. I’m not an expert of Celtic mythology, either, but here is what I could identify:
    You are correct in your assumption that the card titles are names of Celtic gods/goddesses rather than the usual card titles.
    0. I believe you are right: Fintan mac Bóchra (had to look it up, not familiar with this one)
    1. Lugh (and that makes a lot of sense, since he is a master of crafts)
    2. Brigid (relates to wisdom, fire/light)
    3. Morrigan (actually a dark warrior goddess, worshiped by many pagans – as III she might represent the more harsh, commanding and independent aspects of this key)
    4. Dagda (father figure, quite important Celtic god)
    5. Dian Cecht (had to look this up: seems to be related to healing)
    6. Étain and Midir (had to look this up: they married, but Midir’s first wife was jealous; so there is this choice aspect and marriage)
    7. not sure with this one: Nodens/Nuada (might be related to Norse god Tyr)
    8. seems to be Ogmios and thus strength (he has the ability to bind/tame people and is also compared to Herakles)
    9. not sure: Goibniu?
    10. honestly – idk
    11. not sure: there are several ancient kings called Conchobar – but since Ogimos (VIII) is most likely strength, this one has to be justice
    12. Cú Chulainn (maybe it relates to him, killing his son or when he is tricked to loose his supernatural powers?)
    13. Art mac Cuinn? (well, at least his story seems to be related to a lot of loss and tragedy)
    14. Achtland? (a mortal queen who was never satisfied, but finally found satisfaction marrying a fay)
    15. Cernunnos? Looks like him – can’t identify the name, though
    16. Aillen (her burns a sacred place down and belongs to the underworld)
    17. Gráinne (see Oisin)
    18. Oisin (another tragic love story)
    19. the title seems to suggest “Bran mac Febail” (translates to Bran’s journey) and might relate to Bran (the Blessed?)’s journey to Otherworld
    20. Manannán mac Lir (guardian of Otherworld XX -> to arrive in (Other)world you have to pass him first?)
    21. Eire/Ireland (ok, I would have expected Otherworld now, but since this is all about Celtic/Irish mythology, this makes also sense)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh! First, impressive! Crazy impressive. Second, thank you so much for doing this. It’s a great preservation of info. If anyone stumbles across this blog post and is interested, I really hope they see your comment. What a treasure trove of information! Thank you!

      Like

      1. Shadowrose

        You’re welcome! 🙂
        This is just the result of a 20min google-session and some rough basic knowledge on the most famous Celtic gods/goddesses (like Morrigan, Brigid, Dagda etc.). I’m pretty sure an Irish or British reader might give you far more information, for many grew up with the lokal fairy tales or – if pagan or neo druid – might even worship one of the gods.

        Like

  2. Shadowrose

    Update: Just found out that this deck is widely known as the Tarot of the Druids (Dei Celti/Celtic Gods seems to be the Italian name of it)
    You can find the full (and probably correct) list of gods/goddesses at aeclectic:
    aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/druids
    While it’s certainly not safe to rely on those information only- wikipedia and mythopedia and the like can give you a good start to find out more about those ancient Celtic Gods.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s