The Gilded Tarot – A Tarot Deck & Book Review

Design and Artwork by Ciro Marshetti
Companion book by Barbara Moore
ISBN 0-7387-0520-9 Llewellyn Publications

Originally released as a self printed and published special edition of 200 decks, a review copy of the commercial version of this deck and book set was the subject of a very lively auction at the CTN 2004 Tarot Conference in Calgary. It has been on my “want to get” list ever since, I was able to get a copy this summer and was not disappointed.

Artwork: The only word I can think of to describe this deck is ‘STUNNING’. Mr. Marshetti is an accomplished graphic artist and a master of computer generated artwork. He works with a graphics table in Photoshop to create the most beautiful digital images I have ever seen. The images are very magical, like something from a very sophisticated fairy tale. The colours are deep and rich, the images detailed and finely executed. The cards actually give the illusion of being designed three dimensionally on top of a black backdrop, the brilliantly rich colour tones, popping to dazzle the eye. The graphic design of the cards is very attractive, the images are outlined in a double golden border that is decorated with a large oval jewel at the top and a matching round jewel on both the left and right border centers. A gold name plate in the center bottom of the border looks engraved. From the gold border to the edge of the cards is a rich black edge, making these cards really glow if laid on a black spread cloth. On the Major Arcana cards, the jewels are black, on the Wands, they are red, on the Cups orange, on the Swords blue and on the Pentacles they are green. The Minor Arcana are fully illustrated in the Waite/Smith style of Tarot. The Wands look like ones I have seen for magical work, looking like they are leather and gold wire wrapped, topped with a golden horseshoe and they have delightful gold filigree work that looks laid over the leather portions. The Cups are amazing and delicately filigreed golden chalices. The Swords are highly decorative, being gold with blue jewel studded hilts and pommels. The Pentacles are gold and green jewel studded double pentagrams with engraved borders. One smaller pentagram floats inside a larger pentagram with green jewels studding the space between. The smaller, inner pentagram has a golden sun blazing in it’s center. There is no pentacle star on the pentagrams. The human figures are very well drawn in an idealized way. Every person is rendered as handsome or beautiful with perfect bodies and a few are overly sexualized for my taste. I don’t think I would read for my mother with this deck. The clothing is wonderful and looks like it came from the best of stage plays wardrobe room, making all the figures look wealthy and rich, even the Fool. The Pages all have a youthful and naive look. The Knights look very regal in full decorative armour, their horses decked out in full medieval coverings. The Queens all appear young and gorgeous and are all standing. The Kings are seated on thrones and look somewhat older that the Queens, but to me they appear to have rather strange expressions on their faces. The Major Arcana have a somewhat mechanic theme to them. An example is the Wheel of Fortune, the wheel is part of a golden machine, the pedestal being made of a series of springs, gears and cogs. The wheel itself is decorated with a sun in the center and the signs of the zodiac around the edge. It looks like a fancy clockwork. This does not deter from the images themselves, in my opinion, but makes them original and unique. There are a few cards that are not my favorites, the Lovers being one. The card looks to me like a warrior about to ravish a women in the water. It has a ‘rape and pillage’ feel to me that I do not care for. That aside, this is a deck of unsurpassed beauty and artistic vision.

The Text: The book is a thin but well written one, that I really like. It is part a deck companion and part workbook, having some exercises and a space to make notes for each Major Arcana card. It has some basic beginner level information about Tarot deck structure, elemental and directional correspondences, reversals and how to conduct a reading. It also has a short essay on the Fool’s Journey. There is a simple one page treatment for each Major Arcana, with part of the card illustrated and lines on the facing page to make notes. I am disappointed the Minor Arcana were not given this same treatment. The text describes each card and then makes a brief statement about the card meaning. There is a short section on spreads, illustrating various three card readings, the Celtic Cross and a five card daily spread. As I feel this is a great beginners book, I wish it had instructions on how to do a good one card spread.

The Structure: This deck is a true Tarot deck in its structure, having 78 cards and following the Waite/Smith style for Major Arcana names and numerical sequence (Strength is 8 and Justice is 11). The Minor Arcana suits are Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles and the Court/Personality cards are Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings. The Minor Arcana are fully illustrated with scenes and the corresponding number of suit symbols on each numbered card.

Readability: This is an easy deck to read with and I have no hesitation to recommend it for beginners. Some would call this deck a Waite/Smith clone, but I don’t really think that is totally accurate. The structure is the same and the cards are generally similar in content. However, many of the symbols found on a Waite/Smith deck are not found in this one and it has many of its own unique symbols to match the unique vision of the artist.

Comments: I really like this deck a lot, it truly has a “Gilded” feel to it. I have been using it for the last 2 months to the exclusion of any others. There are 3 or 4 cards that I don’t quite like as much as I do in other decks and it definitely is not multicultural in feel. The feel is rich and European and seems like a modern rendition of some of the early decks made for nobility because the people all look rich and beautiful. To me this is it’s only real downside. Therefore, I would not use this deck to read for everyone, I would probably give most clients two or three other choices that offered a more global approach in the images. Mr. Marshetti has another deck completed and released called the the Tarot of Dreams and I expect that one to arrive in my mail box any day. Images and a variety of reviews about the Gilded Tarot can be found at and the artist’s work can be seen at his web site:

© copy right 2011 by Bella Lori Gagnon
all rights reserved

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