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Japaridze Tarot

by Nino Japardize

Published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Review by Christiana Gaudet

From Franco-Georgian surrealist artist Nino Japaridze, art dealer Steve Lucas, and U.S. Games comes what may well be the most interesting and important tarot deck of 2014.

The Japaridze Tarot, by Nino Japaridze, joins the Dali Universal as a serious contribution to the tarot world from a popular surrealist artist.

The first thing you will notice about Japaridze Tarot is its exquisite packaging and presentation. This deck and book set come in an artistic keepsake box. The 175-page accompanying book is no simple little while book.  Art dealer Steve Lucas, who collaborated on the tarot project from its beginning, wrote the Japaridze Tarot book.  Color images of each of the seventy-eight cards illustrate the book. The book includes two original tarot spreads by Lynn Araujo and Jody Boginski.

The cards themselves are equally impressive. They are oversized, and richly colored. The reversible card backs have a Celtic-feeling design and deeply textured coloring.

With the holiday season upon us, it is important to note that the Japaridze Tarot is a thoughtful and affordable gift for the art-lovers on your shopping list, even if they are not tarot aficionados. Japaridze Tarot will be great fun on anyone’s coffee table, and would be a great icebreaker at sophisticated cocktail parties.

The card images are beautiful, colorful, deep and evocative. The images span a wide variety of art styles and media. In some ways, this makes the deck feel a bit inconsistent. Some of the images are clearly recognizable as the cards they are, and slightly reminiscent of Waite images. Other cards are re-interpretations of the archetypes. Some of the images are incredibly clever.  The Three of Fire, for instance, is a hot air balloon.

Although neither Lucas nor Japaridze have a background in tarot, the images and text of Japaridze Tarot are deep, thoughtful and evocative. Steve Lucas’ writing style is personal and readable. Japaridze’s cultural experience may be evident in her interpretation of a few cards, but so is her obvious understanding of the tarot archetypes.

The Minor Arcana of Japaridze Tarot honors the Four Elements.  The names of the four suits reflect their element. Swords, the suit of Air, is Winds.  Cups, the suit of Water, is Tides. Wands, the suit of Fire, is Fire, and Pentacles, the suit of Earth, is Gardens.

The Court ranks are King, Queen, Stranger and Jester. I like the obvious lack of gender identity for the Knight and Page cards. It is interesting to consider the Knight, who travels from place to place, as the Stranger. To me, this may reflect the artist’s journey from the country of her birth to the country that became her home. I had never thought of the Knight as a stranger, but of course, he is.

I’m less happy with the Pages as Jesters, but appreciate the artist’s desire to present the playful side of the Pages.

There are some interesting changes in the Major Arcana, too.  The Emperor is colored primarily in black and white, a stark contrast to the lovely colors and textures in the other cards. The card is renamed “War.” This is Japaridze’s comment on authoritarian masculinity. To me, this highlights only a portion of the Emperor archetype. This seems to be a deliberate choice of the artists rather than a shallow understanding of the card.

The Hanged Man is oddly called “The Drowned,” to reflect the subconscious nature of this card. It’s true that the Hanged Man is associated with the element of Water, and does describe a subconscious process. Time will tell if the renaming of this card changes its impact for me in a reading.

The term “art deck” is often used in the tarot community to describe beautiful, artistic decks that aren’t exactly readable. Art decks are more of interest to collectors than to tarot readers. Japaridze is of the rare breed of art deck that is both collectable and supremely readable. The art of Nino Japaridze lends itself beautifully to the soulful and intuitive process of card divination. The lens through which Japaridze and Lucas see tarot brings a new depth to my own understanding of the Fool’s Journey.

Watch the video to see the deck images.

Video of Christiana Gaudet Reviews Japaridze Tarot