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.