I’ve never been a serious Tarot “collector”—at least, I never used to be. For most of my life up to now, a basic Waite-Ryder deck, complimented by a couple of others (such as the Crowley and/or Marseilles decks) were sufficient for my rudimentary reading needs. Since I started this blog, however, my curiosity has started to get the better of me, and I’ve begun to explore a few other, relatively newer Tarot decks. The latest one I’ve picked up is Tarot of The New Vision by Pietro Alligo, with illustrations by Raul and Gianluca Cestaro and published by Lo Scarabeo in 2003. It’s “the deck no one had ever thought of” (according to a blurb on the box), and to be honest, it’s a deck I’d never thought of, either. What makes this particular deck so clever in design and so attractive to use is that it takes the familiar images of the Waite-Ryder deck and literally “flips” them around, providing the tableau in each card with a novel new dimension that can provide us with an even richer understanding of the cards—and, at times, to challenge and confound us, and to implore us to consider the cards in a radically different light.
See the image above as an example: it’s one of the featured pieces of artwork on the box, and it’s a representation of Trump 0, The Fool. As we can see, he’s completely turned around, which gives us an utterly different perspective of the world he inhabits. Using conventional decks such as the Waite or Marseilles, we often puzzle over The Fool’s fate as he is typically represented. Will he step off the precipice, or will he pull back from the brink? Will he ascend to the heavens, or plunge into the abyss?
In the New Vision version pictured above, however, we can see that he is beholding the eruption of a mighty volcano—the kind of creation and annihilation of worlds that is associated with the character depicted in the card that follows The Fool in the deck—The Magician. Here, then, we see The Fool not simply as a carefree sojourner through the cosmos, who goes wherever the four winds carry him, but as a fully energized herald of a new day, a chronicler of the cosmos who greets the seismic forces of catharsis and upheaval as if they were a radiant sunrise—and to his eyes, they are one and the same. The message for us is simple: Exercise caution ye who enter here. The primal forces that activate the images of Tarot are nothing less than the energies released by the collective psyche of humankind; without an appropriate reckoning of their transcendent and terrible power, one risks being subsumed in fire and smoke, in the most apocalyptic fears of one’s worst imaginings.
The Fool is not the only “reverse image” to challenge our perception of the cards. Let’s have a look at the Three of Wands, known traditionally as “Established strength”. In the Waite deck, a lone voyager contemplates a wide river crossing, implying a solitary, and possibly lonely, journey of discovery—a period in the wilderness such as that experienced by Christ or by the children of Israel. By contrast, compare it to the New Vision image:
Here, our voyager isn’t alone at all—in fact, he’s surveying the road ahead for a wagon train that snakes into the hills behind him. In this rendition, the card suggests the qualities of “leadership” and “sovereignty” implied by the figure that proceeds him in the Tarot: The rich nobleman pictured on the Two of Wands, who contemplates the globe in search of new worlds to conquer. Here, in the Three, he is doing exactly that.
Here is one of the more visceral images in the Waite deck, to which the New Vision deck adds layers of complexity, nuance, and—dare we say?—a measure of sympathy for the devil:
True, the New Vision’s version of Hell is nominally more frightful, with ghastly apparitions surrounding poor Adam and Eve on all sides. But look closely—they are protected from these creatures by a ring of fire that surrounds them but does not consume them. In this manner, the fire that traps them is also the fire that guards them in much the same way that the pillar of fire in Genesis is said to “guard” the gate of Eden until fallen man is redeemed at the Last Judgment—at which time the fire is to be extinguished and the gate to the garden flung open. Even in his domain, as we see here, the Devil retains some abiding respect for God’s Creation. He seeks not to destroy it but only to bend it to his will; the most destructive archangels of Gehinnom will be kept eternally at bay.
We can also see in the New Vision deck a reaffirmation of the innate religious impulse of man:
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus ordains his disciples with the adjuration that they be “wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.” In the Waite deck, the figure of The Hierophant is something of a cipher, for we cannot tell if he is instructing from the Word of God or advancing false teachings for his own self-aggrandizement. Here, in the New Vision deck, the kneeling acolytes of the Waite deck have “gone backstage,” behind the pillars upon which the temple is erected, to the true “power center” of the church. Simultaneously releasing a dove and a serpent, they behold the rock upon which Christ erected his church; it is engraved with the keys of the kingdom Jesus gave to Simon Peter, and an image of the lamb that has symbolized the coming of the Messiah since Ezekiel’s time. This is, then, the house of of the true heart.
Another expression of the Christ archetype can be found in the New Vision deck in this figure:
On the other hand, the New Vision deck cautions us against blind faith in so-called “miracle workers” because one man’s savior can be another man’s trickster:
It also reminds us that in Tarot as in life, that archetypes of dominion and conquest also imply “losers” as well as “winners”, to wit:
Here, we are reminded that The Chariot is a weapon of war as well as a vehicle for deliverance, and that among the prizes of the “spoils of war,” in ancient times, was human chattel, seen here chained to the rear of the chariot and dragged unwillingly behind it. See the figure on the left; he stares at us with a look of utter defiance and contempt. Can we blame him? Perhaps we would be best advised to reexamine our own history of chattel slavery. It is of a much more recent vintage than the slavery depicted in the Tarot!
In any event, this is a deck that the devoted Tarot student—in particular, the dedicated Waite-Ryder student—will want to work with. It can enhance our appreciation of that deck while at the same time encouraging us to view it with a fresh set of eyes. I’ve only been working with this deck for the last few days, and as such I am still “getting acquainted” with it—but I’ll be posting a spread from these cards within the next day or two, to see how its images have enhanced or modified my own perceptions of the Tarot. Stay tuned.