Deck Interview: Tarot del Fuego

What a bizarre deck, I find myself thinking and feeling. I am starting to really like it, but its oddness is not something to be ignored; it’s part of it. I remember when I first noticed the deck enough to read its name, noting the power behind the imagery of the Tower. I don’t remember who posted the image I first noticed, but I commented on the intense and slightly frightening “pow” of the Tower, so fitting in this deck, and the person responded by saying they all packed a slightly frightening “pow” in this deck. I hadn’t really noticed other that in the other cards, but I clearly hadn’t looked very hard. The deck is slightly frightening, but so is the power of the Magician, and that doesn’t scare me away from wanting to draw that card sometimes. Still, I’m fairly orthodox in some of the art I like. Give me an Impressionist painting over a modern installation any day of the week. And in some ways I think this deck was a personal challenge from my subconscious. I’d only just a few days before responded to a tarot reader’s complaint about always wanting to return decks. I said something dumb and self-important like, “I do my research” and “I can work with any deck.” If I believed in curses (that’s a whole other post I’ll link to when I write), I would have thought that reader cursed me for my hubris by convincing me I’d done enough research to warrant buying this deck. I was totally overwhelmed and unnerved by my first few readings, including this first interview. I absolutely hated the Pentacles when I saw them in my own reading; and those are a suit of great importance to an earthy guy like me.

Well, the joke’s on her because I think I’m going to eventually love it. For now, I just like it, but I can certainly work with it. As with the other seven interviews, this one uses a tarot interview spread originally posted by Tumblr user @matchatofu, but that account is no longer active, so you’ll have to just Google it if you want to see the original post.

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INTERVIEWING THE TAROT del Fuego

Tell me about yourself. Ace of Pentacles.

What are your strengths? The World. And your limitations? The Emperor.

What are you here to help me learn? Justice (reversed).

How can I work with you most effectively?Eight of Pentacles (reversed).

Where is our partnership headed? Nine of Swords (reversed).

There are some hefty major arcana in this reading, which is not at all surprising given the oomph that I have tied to this deck since I first saw it. If you think of decks as having personalities you can actually imagine it talking back when you do a reading like this, something that’s quite easy to imagine with strongly flavored decks like this or the Tattoo Tarot, or even quieter but determined decks like the Linestrider Tarot and Fountain Tarot if you’re listening. What are my strengths? The World, {sotto voce: you jackass}. Is that not obvious just by my very existence? (There’s nothing quite like a conversation between two proud people who have got some opinions, is there?)

As I mention above, I hated the depiction of the Pentacles in this deck at first (and I still don’t love them). What was with the crying? Sure, money doesn’t buy happiness, but I’ve never seen an Ace with so much negative energy built into its images. Where’s the gift from the universe I’ve learned to appreciate in the Aces? (I used to hate the Aces, but that’s another whole other post that I can link to when it’s written.) I began to wonder if this kind of negative energy was what this deck was all about. What I see now in that card is that it’s all about the possibilities that await. The Aces in this deck are no gift—that much is certain—but they are just the start, and from the start, anything can happen, good or bad. I think that ambiguous energy certainly permeates these cards, and their strong images dissuade those who are not resilient enough for the ambiguities of the messages. I’m not the sort of person who thinks weirdness for the sake of weirdness is a good in itself (see my earlier comment on conservative artistic tastes) or even that exercises in resilience and grit just for the sake of resilience and grit are all that fun a way to pass your time, but I do think there’s value in the combination as it plays out in this deck.

With the strengths and limitations, the deck is reiterating its boldness and distinction from conservative traditions: it draws on the past, but it expands it; it is complete in and of itself, even without its multilingual little white book. As is so often the case with these interviews, I find the decks recommending to me that I get in touch with that pop of insight I think of as intuition. The reversed Eight is telling me not to work so hard or so precisely. No, the World does not have animals associated with each of the four elements in its corners like the zodiac animals of the Smith-Waite. What of it? And that passes along to me: if I can become okay with mistakes I might make with this deck and recognize that no one dies because of an imperfect finished product, then I might be able to harness the full power of this deck. There’s a boldness that demands the releasing of straight-laced tendencies and the anxieties about propriety, as seen in the reversed Nine of Swords.

The most thought-provoking card in this spread, though, is Justice because of its visual ties to Strength via the lion and the two cards’ interchangeable positions. In the Smith-Waite/Rider decks, Strength is number 8 in the major arcana (and Justice is 11), but in the Thoth and Marseille decks, Justice (or its equivalent) is typically number 8 while Strength (or its equivalent) is 11. I won’t go into the astrologically sound reasons for having Strength come after The Chariot, but there’s something useful in having a personified Lady Justice come between the Chariot driver and the Hermit, who are both “mortals,” unlike the cards after the Hermit. (When I write posts about the progression of major arcana in “the Fool’s Journey” and the astrology behind the major arcana, I’ll post links here, but just know for now that there are justifiable reasons for either placement.) On its surface, it’s not clear what I’m supposed to learn from reversed Justice with this deck, but it ties into the final two cards, coming from a place of “subjective” and intuitive reading rather than the cold objectivity that Justice typically represents. Furthermore, I think there’s value even in forcing me to notice the lion and grapple with my own position on the placement of Strength versus Justice since I’ll have to make that decision when I make my own tarot deck, something that isn’t coming to life anytime soon, but which is slowly growing in the dark recesses of my mind, a bit like mold. Hopefully the work will be fresh and not-at-all musty when I actually reveal it (a while from now). If nothing else, decks like the Tarot del Fuego help me solidify my own feelings about what tarot decks can and should be, and that’s a valuable lesson for someone as invested in tarot as I am.

The cards pictured here are from the Tarot del Fuego by Ricardo Cavolo © 2016 Lo Scarabeo srl, via Cigna 110, 10155 Torino, Italy. All rights reserved, used by permission.