Review and Reading: LoScarabeo Universal Deck, and Seven-Card “Beat The Devil” Spread

Until I started this blog, I had never been much of a Tarot collector, contenting myself with four of the most familiar decks—the Waite, Marseille, Thoth and Sforza versions. Lately, however, my curiosity has gotten the better of me, and I’ve recently started working with other decks, such as the Manly Hall and New Vision decks I’ve written about previously. Last week I started working with yet another deck, the 2001 LoScarabeo “Universal” deck illustrated by Roberto DeAngelis. Anyone who has ever worked with the Waite-Rider deck will be immediately familiar with the images on these cards, with the possible exception of the court cards, where “Knaves” or “Valets” take the place of Princesses and are depicted as full-grown adult males rather than as androgynous young females. DeAngelis takes a few liberties with the Pamela Colman drawings—his Ten of Swords, for instance, features an impaled figure lying on his back, facing upward, not the opposite—but by and large, the representations are faithful to their original inspirations; the quality of the artwork is masterful, the colors are sublimely applied, and the reproductions are clear and precise. Definitely recommended, especially for those who are at all “put off” by the sometimes crude execution of the Waite images.

When working with a new deck, as a rule I “start small” by confining myself to a series of simple one-card readings, allowing myself to become gradually more accustomed to working with the deck before attempting any multi-card readings. The Universal deck posed the exception to the rule, however, when the very first card I turned up after giving the cards a thorough shuffling was this:UdevilWell now, that’s a fine way to get acquainted! (This is not the first time a deck has ever given me a tweak when introduced to a new locale, as I’ll be explaining in greater detail in the next few days. And you can see the artistry of the Universal deck in this card—this Devil really means business, as opposed to the Devil of the Waite deck, who appears almost buffoonish by comparison) Nevertheless, whenever this card appears in a reading, it asks us to ponder some active elements of our psyche that we’d generally rather avoid, or even pretend that don’t exist altogether. This may simplify our conscious lives to some degree, but it also ensures that we end up repeating a lot of the same mistakes in our relationships with others and in the way we treat ourselves: Sabotage and self-deception are the devil’s weapons of choice, and none of us is totally immune from their stings.

Perhaps, then, my newest “house guest” is telling me that it’s time to engage in a little self-examination, using The Devil as a springboard for diving into the mind; so I laid out a simple spread—my first with this deck—using the card as a Significator. I dealt the cards in this order:


4                      3

The Devil

5                      2


The questions for the cards are, roughly:

1. What is my ultimate wish or desire for The Devil?
2. How is The Devil influencing my thinking?
3. How is The Devil influencing my emotions?
4. How can I change my way of Devil-thinking?
5. How can I change my way of Devil-feeling?
6. Given current circumstances, what is the likely outcome?

The cards that appeared today were these:Screen shot 2015-08-03 at 12.12.42 PMFirst, The Empress notwithstanding, we notice that The Devil is “fenced in” entirely here with  Wands and Cups, indicating that he is best confronted through the functions of thinking and feeling as opposed to the functions of will (ego) and materiality—which are, of course, his preferred playgrounds. Also, there are no court cards in the spread, which suggests that whatever “devilish” attributes we may possess should not be ascribed to the malign influence of others; we conjure our own demons without requiring outside assistance, and it is through our Selves that we will learn to live with, and eventually master, them. No scapegoating, in other words: “The Devil made me do it” is rendered heretofore obsolete.

1. What is my desire for The Devil? The Empress. Perhaps it’s a bit altruistic, but what could be a more exalted desire than the garden of Eden restored? It is the point of origin and the terminus of our collective spirit-journey, though perhaps we’d be best advised considering how to save our own soul before assuming the task of saving the collective soul of humankind. But either way, perhaps this deck and I are going to get along after all!

On that note, let’s proceed . . .

2. How does The Devil influence my thought? Six of Wands. This card is titled “Victory,” and while its significance is generally favorable in a reading, it here serves as an obvious caution against haughtiness and arrogance, the cultivation of a “superior” attitude or the tendency to “look down” on others. I have certainly been guilty on that count (too many times to count!) and while I’m a bit better at “catching myself” when I wax critical these days, there are still times when I find myself engaging in cheap “judgmentalism”, which provides a momentary ego-high of sorts but otherwise does nothing to enhance my understanding of others, with whom I should be engaging in earnest inquiry and not condemning out of hand.

3. How does The Devil influence my emotions? Seven of Wands. Another generally favorable card with an obvious downside—specifically, a “siege mentality” characterized by an argumentative nature that can lead to poor lapses in judgment while needlessly alienating others. This is one of the most pronounced “cards of separation” in the entire Tarot deck. The warrior in the card is so separated from his fellows, he can’t even see them! To him, they are as inanimate objects, clubs to disarm and threats to be subjugated. This is a terrible way to go through life, but this is how many nominally “successful” people experience their world. I don’t like to admit that I have ever felt the same way, but for many years, I was one of those people who absolutely had to “have the last word” on everything—and I probably still am!—and this quality was a leading cause of many poor outcomes in my relationships with others; when you suck all the oxygen out of the room, nobody else in your company can breathe. I’m a better listener now, perhaps, but still well advised to exercise patience and compassion in all my relationships. I’ve driven enough good people away from me as things stand now!

4. How to change my Devil-thinking? Three of Wands. This is the point in life when soul-searching and introspection give way to contemplating new vistas and exploring new frontiers. This doesn’t mean we have to travel halfway around the world, for the “vistas” we explore are sometimes inside our homes and inside ourselves. I suppose the past month that I have spent “in residence” at my mother’s house—a period which should be coming to a close in the next few days—has opened my eyes to a new world: New daily routines, and new obligations and responsibilities, as well as a “new” neighborhood that is at the same time strangely surreal and utterly familiar to me—a place where my past can perhaps be reconciled with my present. This takes us to the next card . . .

5. How to change my Devil-feelings? Six of Cups. This card speaks directly to the days of childhood, to the regenerative powers of nostalgia and memory, of innocence lost and, perhaps, reclaimed. The downside, of course, is that if we spend too much time “living in the past,” we may find ourselves incapable of coping with the changes we experience as we progress through the varied stages of life. Here, however, I think the card is speaking directly to the past month of my existence, spent in the home in which I lived as a child.. The longer I have been in my “new-old” neighborhood, and the more time I have spent walking and driving around in it, the more my mind has been flooded with long-lost memories of childhood and adolescence. Most of these memories have been positive, thankfully, but the process has reminded me of how easy it is in adulthood to forget some of the deeds and words of the many people who exert a positive influence on our lives when we are young, and how we should all strive to emulate our former peers and teachers when we reach our maturity. This can be accomplished by mentoring or teaching others, or, as in my case, by tending to a sick family member or close friend. As the figures in the card suggest, selflessness is a key to regaining the innocence of youth.

6. The likely outcome? Three of Cups. As things have turned out, my mother has returned to health to the point where she can live independently again, and I can return to my own home in a few days. At the same time I’ve received—finally—a firm job offer (discussed the other day on this blog). Things have definitely been looking up for me! The Three here represents love in its perfected state, an endless celebration of the wedding of man and the Divine, reflected most obviously here by the “top” card in this spread: The Empress. I don’t know if this means whether I should throw a party (like I needed an excuse), but it does remind us that when we express compassion and love for others through actions as well as words, and do it selflessly and unconditionally, we “beat the devil” that would keep us confined by the chains of selfishness and greed. No matter how fervently we ego-mad mortals may convince ourselves otherwise, love is a stronger impulse than fear.

Dante DiMatteo

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