During a London visit some months ago, I happened upon the Mucha Tarot, published by Lo Scarabeo and illustrated by Giula F. Massaglia (line artist) and Barbara Nosenzo (colourist). I’d not heard of the set before. At the time, with little samples to check out, I didn’t fancy taking a chance on the unknown, so I passed it up for The Spiral Tarot.
Months later, I began to see interest around this deck growing online. The results were mainly favourable, so when I received an Amazon voucher for Christmas, I tagged it to my order. The delivery took far longer than I’d expected and I waited with great anticipation.
Alfonse Mucha stands out as one of the most important figures within the Art Nouveau movement. It is his decorative posters and advertisements which most people connect him with and which the spirit of this deck centres around. His characters, which were initially used to sell cigarettes and beer, have become goddesses and sirens within this tarot pack.
I usually leave the physical attributes of a deck and its packaging to other reviewers but there are a few things with this particular one worth noting. The most obvious departure from standard Lo Scarabeo decks is the box. Rather than the usual flimsy packet, the Tarot Mucha comes in a strong container with a lift-off lid. Standing upright, it holds the deck and accompanying book inside, keeping them safe from harm. The book is not a pamphlet, but a rich well-produced manual. It’s an attractive set from the get-go.
For those who have bought regularly from Lo Scarabeo, they’ll also notice a difference between the cardstock and that which they have become accustomed to. In the Tarot Mucha, the stock is thicker and has been treated to a stronger lamination. This will please those who continually described this publishers previous stock as ‘flimsy’, but for me, it left some disappointment. Personally, I found the old stock great to handle and the lamination was just right for my purposes. I hated it when U. S. Games replaced a similar stock with plastic-looking overly shiny cards. I really hope that Lo Scarabeo are not heading in the same direction and that this is a feature of just the Mucha set.
Despite this, I will note that these cards are immediately attractive. However, with such attention to detail in packaging, I was quite surprised that the shade of colouring on the backs vary in my copy. Some are recognisably darker. This kind of thing can leave me a little irked before I have laid a single card down. Most readers will want their backs to look uniform, right? In a handful of my cards, the image is not central either.
This set follows the Rider Waite Pattern closely. Despite representations which are individual to the style and inspiration of Mucha, the meanings are per Waite, so for a RWS reader, there will be no uncomfortable surprises. I am such a reader, but as striking as this set is, Mucha’s style of art can appear emotionless and blank in places. Have you ever met with someone who is beautiful to look at but has little to say? My experience with this deck so far has been a bit like that. There is a great joy in laying these out on the table, but the characters convey less depth than I’d hoped for. As an example, The Hermit does her job. Hers is a beautifully dark and reflective image. However, I get next to nothing from the illustrations for the 8 of Cups or the 9 of Pentacles.
So, how does this deck read? Because the characters can be difficult to connect with I suspect that this deck would be more suited to someone who already knows the Rider Waite Smith ‘story’, its joys, and it’s pitfalls, because the meanings might not be so easy to deduce out of the box for a beginner, regardless of how intuitive they are. Many of the images are alike in composition and colour, so in a large spread like the Celtic Cross, they can blur into one and might become confusing; I’d say this could be the case for a reader of any ability. I would like to give a shout-out for the accompanying book though. The descriptions by Lunaea Weatherstone do try their best to connect the reader with the images. The definitions are punchy and thought out.
Regardless of any difficulties I have with this deck, there is something very charming about the Tarot Mucha. I imagine that the images speak better individually than in large groups, so it might be more suited to small and concentrated spreads than large throws, where the cards might get lost in a sea of golden brown. To inspire momentum, I purchased a couple of Mucha journals, which I intend to use in conjunction with the deck. For many, this set will likely be a five-minute-wonder. They’ll buy it because it is talked about a lot at the moment, but will soon pass it aside (like many did with the vacant faces of Lo Scarabeo’s Art Nouveau tarot). For those who want to show a little more commitment, I dare say it could open up with persistence. However, the faces will not seduce you like those in the Hidden Realm or the Mary El. If you are looking for a deck with new layers to strip away and delve beneath within each and every reading, you might be disappointed with this set. But if you love Art Nouveau or are looking for a neutral pack and a system which you are already familiar with, then this offering might be right up your street! Art is subjective, after all.
Images from Tarot Mucha by Giulia F. Massaglia and Barbara Nosenzo and published by Lo Scarabeo.
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2015