Tarot Deck Review: The Golden Tarot

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The Golden Tarot is a recreation of the Visconti-Sforza Deck, one of the oldest complete Tarot decks still being used today.  This version of the Visconti-Sforza Deck presented by Race Point Publishing comes in a lovely display box made of sturdy cardboard, a perfect repository for the deck when not being used.  Inside the box are a purple satin reading cloth to be used as a base for card spreads, a hardcover, beautifully illustrated companion book (much-evolved from the standard paper LWB) written by Mary Packard, and a separate box holding the cards of the Golden Tarot.


This is a beautiful deck, and if you like history, tradition, art, and the pageantry of royalty and nobility, the Golden Tarot will be immensely satisfying to you.  The artwork on these cards uses styles and elements of composition from Renaissance era art to create images reminiscent of sumptuous Medieval tapestries or religious icons. The Golden Tarot has the rich look of old parchment, gold leaf, and the vibrant reds and blues that you would expect from a 15th century hand-painted deck, each card a masterpiece.


The cards are large, measuring 3 ¼ inches by 6 ½ inches, and thus the images are also large and easy to see, making the Golden Tarot a lovely deck for public readings.  The card stock is medium in thickness, enough to support the large cards without creating difficulties in shuffling or throwing of spreads, although the cards might not hold up well to constant use.  The images are bordered in gold, with an inner blue frame for the Major Arcana and Court Cards, and an inner red frame for the numbered or pip cards.  The image on the back of the cards is an intricate pattern echoing the style and the color palate of the card faces.


The original Visconti-Sforza Tarot was missing four cards, The Tower, The Devil, the Three of Swords, and the Knight of Coins.  In order for a modern version of this deck to be effective, replacement cards must be created.  The Golden Tarot replacement cards are well done, seeming to fit perfectly with the style and composition of Renaissance art as they offer effective symbolism of the individual cards themselves.


The companion book offers a story of the Tarot stretching from the original hand-painted one of a kind decks commissioned by upper class families, through the transformation of the purpose of the cards from games such as tarocchi and trionfi into tools of discovery used in alchemy, divination, counseling and enlightenment.  The book also offers an interesting biography of both the Visconti and Sforza families, and offers connections between specific family members and specific cards in the deck.  After the section on individual card descriptions, spread suggestions and sample readings are offered.


The individual card descriptions of the Major Arcana contain the traditional name of the card, a historic name of the card, the story and symbolism behind the image and the identity of the person in the image, along with upright and reversed meanings and a picture of the card being described.  The Minor Arcana cards use the suits of Cups, Swords, Coins and Batons, corresponding not only to the traditional elements of Water, Air, Earth and Fire, but also to the four classes of Medieval society: clergy, nobility, merchants and peasants.  The descriptions consist of upright and reversed meanings along with a picture of the card.  The descriptions for the Court Cards (Knave, Knight, Queen and King) include the story and symbolism behind the image, upright and reversed meanings, and a picture of the card.

The Golden Tarot might not work well for a beginner.  The cards do not have captions, numbers or identifying titles of any kind, and the pip cards show multiple images of the suit symbol, rather than scenes or illustrations that help with interpretation.  Without previous knowledge of the structure and symbolism of the Tarot, the novice would need to rely heavily on the companion book to identify the individual cards.  However, even a beginner would learn from this deck, as the cards are an accurate representation of early Tarot decks, and the companion book is filled with valuable information and lush, captivating images.