Monday, October 3, 2016

Tarot del Fuego Review (in which I finally bare my chest on the blog)

As usual at turning points in ones life a number of things are coming into relationship with each other. For a start, I have been offered another job a mere nine days after resigning from my last one and in fact have at least got as far as interview in every job I have applied for. The Conservative party are meeting in the city with the result that the streets are full of posh totty. I woke this morning from a horrible nightmare in which I was still working in my old workplace, completely confirmed in the knowledge that I have done the right thing. And my magical inner world is going into overdrive.
In one of those throwaway comments which can tend to take on more significance for the hearer than intended by the speaker, Inexplicable Device commented on a previous post on tarot that he had never got on very well with tarot cards, because they looked as if they were shifty and up to no good. I managed to bite back the obvious arch comment, that you only really see yourself in the tarot, but have been reflecting on this comment ever since, and my reflections have merged with the arrival of a new tarot deck, Ricardo Cavolo's Tarot del Fuego (Fournier, 2014). I bought mine from and it has English titles on the cards, although I have seen plenty of illustrations on the internet of cards titled in Spanish.
One of the more confusing things about tarot is that while it is obvious that there is no one approach to understanding the cards, the different approaches tend to be associated with nationalities. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck and its associated interpretative traditions tend to dominate the English-speaking world, for example. Get a French cartomancer to read for you, and you are likely to get a majors-only reading or an Etteilla-style reading. The Spanish tend to change the elemental associations of the suits...and so on. Naturally these approaches are not as simple or nationalistic as my summary here would suggest. And of course the adherents of the various appoaches tend to be absolutely fanatical about them: just as there are adherents of only one edition of the bible, so there are the adherents of only one version of the tarot, and even of one edition of one version of the tarot.
You have it on the authority of the Hound that all of these people are both completely right and completely wrong at the same time. It's one of those strange magical things, and the point is that the right tool will emerge for the magician when necessary. The other point is that magic is one of the big tricks the universe likes to play on people, and so the magician has always to be open to progression onto the next tool, and also that the point of divination is to open up the inner vision which obviates the need for any tools. It is alright if you don't take to the tarot at all, if that is not where you are at the time. It is alright if your inner eye is opened up by the systematic study of one divination system, which may take a lifetime. Just be prepared for the universe to have a few surprises up its sleeve, which it will produce as your inner eye opens.
This tarot has only recently come to my attention, at what is obviously a turning point in my life. I saw a random illustration of a card online and was fascinated. Fascinated and bizarrely repelled at the same time: I showed the illustration I found online to a friend who happened to have a migraine at the time and she couldn't even look at it. My impression of the reviews online is that this deck is one which polarises people and my impression of the reason for some of the dis-ease about this deck is that it is designed by an 'artist' rather than a 'tarotist'. The professionals of the tarot world don't like the idea that not only can anyone read the cards, but anyone can design the cards, and this is a deck which breaks out of most of the categories.
'Based on the Marseille tarot' is one of the things you read about this deck. Personally I can't see it, except for the fact that Justice is number 8. Apart from that one attribution my own feeling is that it draws much more on the RWS tradition, since most of the minor arcana are very clever reinterpretations of the minors of the RWS deck. I have found myself thinking 'Of course!' over and over as I have been looking through the cards.
First impressions for me are completely favourable. The cards are exactly the size I like. Perfect for shuffling, that is, slightly smaller than the 'original' Rider Waite cards you see everywhere in the UK, slightly longer than actualy playing cards. They feel as if they were literally made for my hands. It may seem strange, but the smell of the cards is perfect as well. Even after several years of being read and handled, my Aquarian tarot still smells of plastic, feels plastic, and feels unforgiving, despite having numinous pictures. The Tarot del Fuego feels like cards. They have a subtle sheen but not at all plasticky. Of course only time will tell how they wear.
What I have to say at this point will be a deal-breaker for many potential purchasers of this deck, and I genuinely think that it will always be either loved or loathed. The cards are completely covered in the trademark illustrations of the artist. If you look at his other artwork you can see the likeness. The characters either have six eyes or none at all, for example. Some of them have two heads. Some of them are about as gender non-binary as you can get. This is ultimately a modern deck. I have a feeling that it will become a classic, but also may appear to be rather stuck in a particular era. One thing which may be seen as a criticism is that while this is obviously the tarot of fire, the sheer amount of fire on all the cards may be seen as biasing it towards a particular element. That said, the four suits are clearly differentiated by colour, and as I said many of the interpretations are so clever that I can't think why I have never seen some of those things in the cards before.
The illustration of the cards is intended to highlight a few of these eureka cards. Making the five pentacles of the five of pentacles into actual tears is such a good idea that I can't think why nobody has thought of it before. The Page of Pentacles is such an off the wall interpretation that I simply have to post it here with the comment that it makes me think that the woman with a moustache looks as if she has blown the coins out of her vagina, in true sex show style. If this whole deck wasn't so off the wall I would think that it was just my own filthy mind making me think of that, but I suspect that that would be an appropriate interpretation here. The Cups are the suit where this deck really comes into its own, and the cup filling with milk out of the constellation-tattooed breast and the page of cups actually being in the cup are again perfect examples of how this deck takes the interpretation of the cards into a whole new world. The swords of course perfectly indicate the cutting nature of the swords themselves and I do love the way the 6 of swords picks up more on that card's sorrowful aspects than on Waite's idea of a pleasant journey. Again, there really isn't a particular reason why the Chariot should be drawn by horses. Why not a tiger and fox? I personally don't have a problem with that, and I love the way the charioteer is looking out of the curtains of his caravan, picking up on the growing up and moving on elements of this card. The Lovers very cleverly manages to include both the RWS tradition of blessedness in the garden of Eden and the Marseille tradition of the dscision between mother and lover, here with an added twist of giving the female character two heads and two different homes with different paths. There is a very real sense that whichever path you choose here, it will largely end up in the same place, and surely the whole sex thing is the universe playing a huge trick on us.
You will see that the 'busyness' of the cards extends to the characters themselves who are heavily tattooe. Cavolo himself is heavily tattooed but I do like that the tattoos on the characters in the tarot have simple, even old-school tattoos. Judging by his website Cavolo has a certain fascination with Russian criminal tattoos, as do I. In fact this deck has made me even more desirous of getting another tattoo. My next will probably be the Tower from the BOTA tarot on my left calf, but I will use reviewing this deck as the excuse to get my top off on the blog. I have drawn a design based on the Page of Pentacles on my chest, which I probably wouldn't really have. That said, as I have written here before, it has taken me a long time to get over the shyness given to me by my mother, and to take off my shirt despite my man boobs. If you can't cope with a real bare chest you probably couldn't cope with this deck. Incidentally, if you're the sort of person who is into tattoos I would recommend this deck way over another tattoo tarot deck, which merely shows people with tattoos of the Marseille deck on them. Incidentally, Ricardo, if you should read this and be so pleased at my review that you would send me a custom design for a chest tattoo in blackwork (all of mine are black linework and there are certain standards to maintain) I hereby commit to get it tattooed on my chest and post it on the blog.
I don't think I would recommend this deck to a beginner, unless it was someone who I thought had extensive divination experience in previous incarnations. The way most people learn tarot to start off with would not be best served by this deck, I feel. What it does lend itself to perfectly is the 'voice in the card' technique of the Tarot School of New York, where you let your eye just wander over a card until it settles on a particular detail, which is what you interpret. For example, in the Page of Pentacles, you may focus on the pointed tail of the Page! This technique is ironically not far divorced from the 'eye rhymes' technique associated with Enqrique Enriquez and other Marseille readers. Once again, this pop-art deck has synthesised two major traditions of interpretation.
So for my first reading with this deck, I will interview it in the way I previously have on this blog with Morgan's tarot.
1. Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic? Knight of Pentacles. This card features a skeleton horse pursuing a coin held by its rider in front of it from a stick, right on the edge of a cliff. I feel this deck's most important characteristic is to show when the pursuitis hopeless, worn out, or dangerous.
2. What are your strengths as a tarot deck? King of Wands. The King has limbs made of wands, wings, and a beard full of eyes. This deck's strength is to enable the pursuit of Will and to help the querent to see everything.
3. What are your limits as a tarot deck? Seven of Cups. This card shows the seven cups in a tree, each with an apple inside it. I just knew it, the weakness of this deck is that it can encourage dreaming and seeing things that aren't there. Well, pass the Largactil.
4. What do you bring to the table? Nine of Pentacles, which in this deck shows a person's chest cut open, and flaming coins inside the cavity. This deck brings a view of the inside of things and cuts to the heart. I can see that readings with this deck could actually be quite painful. And just one thing: while it is physically easy to shuffle, I'm finding that cards don't just leap out. I think this deck is not all on the surface and has hidden secrets. It is one which would repay greater respect and would easily turn against the reader, I feel.
5. How can we best learn from and collaborate with you? Queen of Swords. In this deck the eyes of all the swords characters are struck out. Here she is standing on a green hill with a sword in one hand a knife in the other, with fire on both sides and multi-eyed dragons coming down at her. The way to collaborate with this deck is to feel the fire, the passion, the pain and go through it. There is no escaping it. The fact that this is a swords card to me indicates that this deck could be quite ruthless in telling the truth.
6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship? XIII Temperance. Here she doesn't have a face, which is replaced by the starry sky. She has four arms, holding two horns of plenty with the usual water and fire motif. But what springs to my eye is a flower at the woman's feet. Despite the busyness of this card and the tension of Temperance, the outcome will be flowering. This is telling for me personally since this is my Temperance year, and my friend who has Temperance as a birth card warned me that it would be a living nightmare of putting out fires and trying to balance things, so again this deck has come at a significant moment for me personally.
7. What do you have to teach me? Nine of Pentacles again. Never an easy question to ask a tarot deck, and one which never gets as easy answer! My conclusion is that this decck will obviously cut to the heart and be a stern but productive companion through this time of flux in my life.


  1. Well, I'm happy that my stunningly ill-conceived comment in some small way helped you in interpreting your new deck (which looks rather more inviting than the more traditional artwork, but still not my cup-of-tea).
    I do also have a hearty respect for you and anyone, really, who has the inclination and takes the time to interpret and divine from the tarot. As you may know, I'm a lazy, lazy witch and as such, have never made the effort to get to grips with tarot (apart from as a parlour game), preferring instead to stick to leaves, sticks, stones (although they're more difficult and time consuming) and, on occasion, tea leaves.

    P.S. I'm delighted to see that this post's title is not metaphorical!

    1. Nothing you haven't seen before ;o)
      Actually your comments reinforce for me that divination isn't really about the tools as such, although I always think bones or entrails should command a certain respect.

    2. I seem to recall a lot more tin foil in the last viewing ;)

      As for bones and entrails commanding respect - they also command a pair of Marigolds and a strong stomach!

    3. Don't say that, people will think we met at a Toby Carvery!

  2. Ok so I got this deck because I LOVE the artwork, but I was a bit puzzled about how to read them. Im a very novice reader in the first place so this deck might be a bit uhm, ambitious. But I just couldn't let it go. I researched it and found your blog and decided to ask it the same questions.
    The cards I got: 1) Strenght 2) Ace of cups 3) queen of pentacles 4) The Moon 5) The Lovers 6) Ace of Pentacles and finally 7) The tower.
    I mean wow. Important details: I had just pulled and studied strength as a day card and realized the little girl is drawn exactly like I draw my inner child. And it has always been my favorite card of the tarot. As a taurus I kind of relate to the queen of pentacles, so I guess this deck's limit is where my rigidity begins. The Moon and the Tower: I have an anxiety disorder and I do NOT like change. I guess this deck isn't going to have any of that haha. I love this deck. Sorry I had to share this with someone! Thank you for this post it helped me a great deal!

    1. Salomonella, thank you for commenting. I love your intuitive way of reading - there is no better way than seeing what something in the card looks like to you. I think the Tarot School of New York calls that twchnique the Voice in the Card.


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