Elisabetta Trevisan’s Crystal Tarot

I have long thought of this deck as one of the most beautiful tarot decks ever created. Then I ask myself, if that’s the case, why don’t I use it every day? Maybe it’s because too much of a good thing might make me feel sickly, or perhaps truly beautiful decks are not what we always need to read well with. Perhaps beauty distracts us and what we need is something with more of an edge? Whatever the reason, I dig this deck out regularly, and consider it the deck I most love to look at and get lost in.  I dream of a larger version, with no borders (imagine if it was the size of the Lo Scarabeo Universal Tarot Professional; 3.5 x 6.5 inches), a version which would exploit to the full its intoxicating, hallucinatory atmosphere and intricate details. I have quite a few versions of this deck, my standard 78 card version (which I have trimmed and which can be seen in the above scans), I also have the Lo Scarabeo edition published in 2011 together with Fabbri/Orbis for an Italian magazine series on the history of tarot and I also have one of the first German 78-card editions. I also have on the way a copy of the Majors only edition (again German, published as the Glass Tarot) which I located this week. Earlier versions of this deck are not quite as vibrant as later editions, so it is always a gamble when buying and the difference is very marked.

Trimming (one of the vibrant editions) gave it a new lease of life and made it the perfect size for carrying around as I have been doing this week. It fits perfectly into my cupped hand and can be perused in public without arousing unwelcome curiosity. Reviews always say that this deck was inspired by the artwork of Gustav Klimt but I cannot see that, apart from a few background swirl motifs. It reminds me of the paintings of Paul Klee (especially those of his North African sketchbooks) much more than it reminds me of the paintings of Klimt. The palette is similar and, being watercolour, the effect achieved – a kind of dreamy wash with colours merging – is altogether different from the oils and majestic grand scale works of Klimt.

Temple Garden by Paul Klee (1920)

However, I suppose we ought to mention that elements here are switched (Cups = Air, Swords = Water). That and the fact that the Minors are not conventionally scenic perhaps explains why it isn’t such a widely used or cited deck. I know a lot of people love it, I know I’m not the only one, but if a deck doesn’t have scenic Minors, it can often put people off, though these Minors are like those of the Thoth (or rather how I see those of the Thoth when reading) in that they capture a mood, a state of mind, a concept and not something “happening” or something being “done”. I find that a card which conveys atmosphere or “the idea of” something is infinitely easier to interpret than a concrete act which – for me – limits the impact. As regards the elements, although they are switched, the Sword cards still seem to be about thinking, and the Cups suit still seems to be the most emotionally charged one (so many butterflies so much flitting and mood swings!)

This week I have presentations and things coming to a bit of a head at work, so I drew three cards from the Crystal Tarot to inspire me for the forthcoming week. The middle card is what I call the “anchor” and the other cards are the “supporting acts”.  Everything is reflections. The central card, the Two of Pentacles, shows sprouting and seedlings. Things will definitely take off this week, the beginning of the next phase at work will really kick into gear (I knew that!) and what was under the earth will now rise up and start to be clearly seen. This card shows that sensation vividly. In these draws about work matters, I invariably get a King, and here it is the King of Pentacles. Me in my “ruling” role! I take the symbolism of crags and rocks as comfortingly sturdy, and those are the steps I have come up to be where I am now. What most intrigues me is the supporting card on the right. This card is one of the most intriguing cards in the deck, the Seven of Swords. I read it as showing thought filtering. The symbolism is very striking; an underwater sun, expressionless but serene, and rays filtering through the Moon and coming to a point, converging slightly below the Sun. It is as if we have two prisms of thought, first the Moon, then the Sun coming to a sharpened point. I look at this card and know it means something profound, could mean many things in fact. The inner unconscious me (The Moon) and letting that Self filter through the “worldly” working Self (The Sun), letting it govern my decisions in the outer world. I feel as though this is what it is saying; allow the inner you into your decision-making, let yourself be the prism; don’t be the isolated King of Pentacles on his crag, let the inner selves merge; there’s a nice balance between sturdiness (The King of Pentacles) versus the fluidity of thought (Seven of Swords) with sprouting as the central theme. Whenever I read with this deck I always get readings based on a theme of merging and fusion, internal, external, Pentacles hidden in the unconscious earth and Pentacles rising into the outer, “seen” world. This is such a gorgeous deck, and cards drawn always give consoling thoughts.

Latest edition of the box for The Crystal Tarot


About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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15 Responses to Elisabetta Trevisan’s Crystal Tarot

  1. I was in a bookstore once, looking through The Tarot Bible by Sarah Bartlett. At the beginning of the book, images from this deck are used, but they are not as they appear on the LoS deck. They are full, with a white inner border which is not too obtrusive. I searched the book from cover to cover, trying to find out what that mysterious and beautiful deck was, and once found out, I managed to trade for it. The LoS version was disappointing for me. Looking at those prints in the book, I guess that they were too wide for the standard card shape and the sides were cut away, leaving the breaks on the top of bottom that we see. That, with those ******* multi-lingual titles was the disappointment. Like you, I think the art is stunning. I think it is the presentation which has always turned me off of using it. Nice to see it trimmed here though!


    • piscesbel5 says:

      i would like to pick up a crystal Tarot deck, but after reading these posts…well, would like some recommendations on the different productions – whats best, what to avoid etc. if anyone could help me there….

      • Le Fanu says:

        Difficult to tell. The best colours I have seen are on my trimmed version and that was in the dark grey/black box with Temperance on the cover. Yet I recently saw another on in this design of box which was not as nice. Very difficult to know for certain. All I can say is that the more modern it is, the better the chances are of it being rich in colouring. Older editions are the dullest.

  2. Le Fanu says:

    I have learnt – from that other edition of the Botticelli no less – just how different a Lo Scarabeo deck can look with different production. This is one deck that could be infinitely more lovely if produced on bigger cards with minimal borders (if any). Some of the artwork has been badly framed/ cropped. You can tell if you compare different editions. Some trim off the signature (though I, having trimmed, cannot really criticise any trimmed images). The Chariot has been reproduced reversed as the signature is as it would be if seen in a mirror!

  3. It is a shame. I have moaned about the production of some LoS packs for so many years that I guess it will never change (especially, I complained about the keywords). They do make some without as you know, so it is not that they can’t do it. The lovely Dame Fortunes Wheel is an example of a nicely produced deck; as is the Dark Angels. One of my biggest disappointments was The China, because you could see how much nicer it looked as the Der Jen. The same goes for the Magical Forest. It’s like putting an original Picasso in a frame from the Pound Shop. I trimmed one of my copies of the Da Vinci, which looks better, but is incredibly small now. We live in hope, eh? At least their ideas are original, I guess, and the card stock is nice and not plastic-seeming.

  4. Le Fanu says:

    Overall, I applaud their decks. I can live with the titles and borders, overlook the downsides because of the way they push the tarot envelope so to speak. I feel slight tinges of foreboding though about the way the predominant art style is becoming so cartoony. But there are so many decks of theirs that I love that I shalln’t complain!

  5. jema says:

    I got an early version of this and it is no where near as vibrant and pretty as the cards you show here. Mine came with a missing card but I got a replacement from another version so I had to cut it a little bit, now I think since it is already slightly botched up I might as well trim the whole thing.I am so gonna get myself a corner punch this week!

  6. Lifeisabutterfly says:

    Dear Le Fanu
    How I enjoy your writing! After seeing the scans of your trimmed deck on Aeclectic Tarot Forum I immediately went to dig out my deck which had been collecting dust and which I was about to sell in my stall at the flea market 😦 I too had pondered the reason why I never use this deck; I felt I should since it’s really one of the most lovely tarots I have ever seen and the LS cardstock is a satiny smooth pleasure to handle…So I got myself a corner puncher and sharpened my scissors…what a delight to have freed the artwork from it’s tedious borders! Yes, the deck is now tiny and my hands are not–but that is but a minor and passing regret as I oooh and ahhhh over this small and magical world. It is interesting and curious to note that reluctance to too much of a good thing is quite widespread : Just the thought of this deck becoming large and borderless seems a bit scary! It would be glorious though….Thanks for leading the way lol! I have now trimmed many decks to my greatest satisfaction.

  7. woley says:

    Yes, it languishes in my collection too.

    My edition is from 2000 with white borders and strips above and below the main image that were originally part of the image. The title on the box is Tarocchi di Vetro and the box and booklet are in Italian.

    I can see the Klimt-inspired patterns, particularly in the Majors, but now that you mention Klee she does seem to have an influence of him in there. Well, that was such a vital time in art I imagine she was influenced by many of them.

    The Knight of Chalices looks like a fellow in a Siennese painting–I used his face on a playing card deck I revamped–all the Knights had distinctive hats and were from Medieval or Renaissance frescoes. That suggests to me that several artists or periods of art were influencing her during the creation of the deck.

    I LOVE your trimmed deck. I don’t often trim decks but this definitely seems more useable and intuitive without those borders. I wonder if I dare?

  8. woley says:

    Got him!
    I think many tarot artists use various works of art for inspiration.

  9. Le Fanu says:

    Thanks for the nice comments everyone. I’m glad to see there are other fans and those willing to free their Crystal Tarots from the restrictive borders. Woley, I loved that link to the Siennese knight. I shall never look at that card in the same way again. This deck is full of images which have been inspired by other sources. Did you know that The Fool is taken from an old photograph of Nijinsky dancing Scheherazade with the Ballet Russes? Check it out here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nijinsky_in_Scheherazade2.jpg

  10. Prince Le Normand says:

    The source information in these posts are great. Thanks Woley and Le Fanu!

  11. Lifeisabutterfly says:

    Dear Le Fanu
    I have been pondering your interesting question of why I don’t (either) use this deck much. After I trimmed mine and admired it afresh, it went to it’s final resting place in a pretty (tiny) velvet tarot bag. The conclusion dawned upon me today that there is such a uniformity from one card to the next that it seems like one big long card and thus making it easy to forget inspite of it’s beauty. Almost like a too beautiful person with not much personality. Mind you I am not trying to stereotype anyone! The direct opposite of the spectrum would be those collaborative decks where the cards are so wildly different in style that sight of each one side by side is positively jarring…a bit of difference from card to card is important, to give the spirit a little nudge and make you stand up and notice, without you even noticing it all if you know what I mean….perhaps this deck goes too far in the direction of perfect harmony?

  12. I just got this deck for myself this week. I was entranced by the designs and felt the use of color made it very easy to convey emotion and concept, rather than action, like you said. So I guess it’ll be a more introspective deck. But that’s great.

    Thank you for the review!

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