by Robert M Place
If you have ever worked with Robert Place’s Alchemical
Tarot deck, you would immediately recognize his work in this 2012 released Tarot
of the Sevenfold Mystery. Both decks include symbols, characters, objects,
animals and elements which are depicted using vibrantly coloured images, heavily
outlined in black.
A Tarot Passed Down from Your Ancestors
Not intended to be realistic, the images suggest simplicity
(albeit misleading!), reminiscent of a child’s colouring book. The deck has the
feel of an antiquated tarot deck which according to Robert, was a deliberate
contrivance. He is a great lover of the
Renaissance: A time, as he points out,
when the Tarot was mysteriously catapulted onto the Italian, aristocratic scene. This Tarot deck resembles a treasure passed
down from your ancestors. It should be
dog-eared and faded. Secretly I look
forward to a time when mine looks a little beaten up. I am using it daily but
the deck itself is so well varnished and solidly constructed that I despair of
how long it’s likely to take before it looks a little used, never mind antique.
This deck however could mislead in its simple presentation.
There is nothing simple about this tarot deck. The symbolism is rich and
complex; every aspect of each card has been crafted with careful and
intelligent mindfulness. Don’t let that scare you away from this deck however,
because Robert has kindly put some text onto a few of the more complex cards to
help you understand what the symbols mean.
The Sun Card Represented by Apollo
For example, the Sun card which Robert has named Apollo for
obvious reasons, depicts a mermaid from behind, as she regards the God, Apollo
before her. Apollo is face on and the text beside the mermaid reads, “reason”. The text beside Apollo reads “logic”. In his accompanying book, Robert
explains, “She is reason and He is logic.
The divine logic behind human reason, they join in the hero’s gambles (define
marriage). This union can represent spiritual love, a soul mate, marriage, or
Although Robert has assigned an original meaning to the Sun
card, his explanation takes the reader down a whole new and exciting interpretation
of this card. His symbols make sense, and his explanation is thoughtful,
succinct and intelligent.
A Tarot Without Redundancy
But Robert doesn’t handhold the reader by any means. There
are cards in the deck that have absolutely no text. The PIP cards for instance
have no text or numerical values to identify them. I get a sense that Robert is
playing with us! He seems to be saying this is a deck without redundancy. If
you know the tarot, you can count and you don’t need to be told what number of
cups, wands, swords or pentacles you are looking at. Why clog a perfectly
balanced image with redundant and distracting text?
The deck comes with, as is typical of tarot decks, a small,
accompanying booklet. And it is tiny! So tiny in fact, that I put it through a
photocopier to enlarge it for reading comfort. But it was worth the effort. Robert
has offered assurances that he is writing a complete treatise to explain this
deck in greater depth in the future and I am already anticipating its release. The
text to explain his Alchemical Tarot was just released in 2012.
Robert’s introduction to the sevenfold ministry in the
booklet is an article you don’t want to miss. Choosing a passage to quote was
challenging but I did think this piece was a good representation of the riches
you’ll find here. In this passage Robert
explains why the number “7” is central to this deck,
“The seven planets
were thought of as the sole centres of the cosmos and corresponding sole
centres could be found ascending the spine, from the sacrum to the crown of the
head, in the microcosm of the human body. Pythagoras developed the diatonic
music scale with seven notes to capture the sound that each planet made as it
orbited the earth. This was called the “music of the spheres.” He marked each
know with one of the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet and through musical
treatment use this skill to bring the human soul centres into harmony with the
Well written, deliciously historical and an academic bit of
esoterica, this little book is a treasure.
My favourite card is Fortuna. Fortuna (Wheel of Fortune) features a
blind-folded female character circled by a collection of detailed characters,
animals and symbols. When viewed
closely, you are rewarded with a vision of astrological symbols. Colourful, mysterious and priceless. Immediately I was reminded of Cynthia Giles’
description of the Tarot as a collection of “archetypal tinkertoys”.
As a tarotist, I am grateful that Robert puts his rather
impressive intellectual rigour into tarot work.
Your collection of tarot decks will not be complete without this one.
Many who purchased Robert’s Alchemical Tarot in the past were grateful
they bought one when they were available because long after they were sold out,
there continued to an ever escalating demand to own one. Now if you would like
a copy of that deck, you’ll be faced with paying rather impressive “collector”
So while supplies last, I would encourage you to purchase
this latest and no less impressive body of work. It’s Renaissance, mysterious,
complex, artful and so quintessentially Tarot. What more could you ask for from
a tarot work?
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