Yesterday I called in at my local tarot suppliers (Esoteric Shop? Magic Shop? New Age Shop? Metaphysical Shop? I never know) idly wondering whether any of the new Lo Scarabeo titles might be in stock or whether there would be any surprises lurking for me, and promptly stumbled across this little gem. On reflection, it may not be everybody’s idea of a little gem but there was something weirdly compelling about it from the moment I laid my eyes on it. In stock they also had (among other things) the new Golden Universal, the Book of Shadows Tarot, Volume II and a very interesting-looking new Lenormand set from Brazil, but once I had picked up the Tarot 3D, by Davide Corsi/Lo Scarabeo, I just couldn’t put it down. It’s gimmicky, it’s kitsch and (I told myself, wrongly as it turned out) it’s a one-gag, disposable Majors only deck which I shall probably never use. Still I couldn’t put it down. The Brazilian Lenormand kit almost won out, but no. It was this deck that had me in its grip, and its grip was tighter. The box had me captivated from the start. It features the Magician on one side, Justice on the other, both with eerily expressionless, waxy faces, a mixture of rigamortis and slight shock, reminiscent of the faces on blow-up dolls. The deck uses a technique which is described as “lenticular print technology…which places a plastic-like lense over the card image”. To you and me that means they look a bit like those 3D images of Christ on the cross and Hindu deities; you know, the ones that sometimes move. Or those souvenir bookmarks and rulers you can buy of the pope where if you tilt the image back and forth he seems to be blessing the viewer. It is of course worth mentioning that you do not need 3D glasses to view them with. I’ve also seen pictures of waterfalls using this technique, hanging in Indian restaurants, sometimes with a wall clock incorporated (because if it isn’t going to be pretty it might as well be useful). Generally though, this technique is a mainstay of religious kitsch. Here it is incorporated into tarot imagery and I surprise myself by how much I like it, by how impossible it is to put down. I cannot wait to read for someone with this deck. I just know they’ll be as seduced by it as I am. It is so utterly strange and yet fascinating to behold.
The images are exactly the same as the Majors from Corsi’s Pictorial Key Tarot (one of the few Lo Scarabeo decks I never bought), but with 3D treatment. The back – see above – is also the same (with no 3D treatment). The cards themselves are thick. Anyone who has ever bought a 3D postcard of Christ or the Virgin Mary or Ghanesh or the Pope blessing will recall that this material is quite thick so the cards are thicker than normal, but not so thick as to make shuffling difficult. I secretly wish it were a full 78-card deck but then I think shuffling might be an issue, as these Majors alone, when stacked, are probably only a little less thick than a standard 52-card deck. The images themselves are impossible to photograph. The 3D-ness must be something optical that the human eye supplements; feed it through a camera lense and the images appear flat and out of focus, as the photographs here demonstrate.
This lenticular technology needs the human eye to make it work. Held in the hand, they come alive – some more successfully than others. When they work, such as in The Hierophant and the Wheel of Fortune, you get the sense of peering into a box, an intriguing, self-contained little world that if you could just crane your neck a bit more, you’d be able to look around, see more detail and actually see behind things, behind the Hierophant’s throne or the Devil’s pedestal. A couple of cards don’t quite work as well as you feel they should. The Fool I suspect is supposed to be handing his rose to the viewer, beyond the confines of the card, but it doesn’t quite work that way, as there is a slight loss of focus and it has to be tilted at a very specific angle in order to bring out the depth of field. I discovered that with very bright, directed light and if you find the right angle, all cards can look good. Even so, some are better than others. The Tower is superb; dizzying perspective and a brooding cloudy sky while the figures tumble out of the bottom of the card. These cards would create quite an impact during a reading; the ghostly Hermit, the bulge in the Hanged Man’s trousers, the bucolic background landscapes, all in 3D. There is an undeniable novelty factor of course, though I don’t see anything wrong with that. Anything that captivates the querent and brings a smile to their face can only be a good thing. For those who use Majors only decks, this one would make for an unforgettable reading. I personally would like to use them simply for contemplation or as something to have on my altar to look at, because they amuse and mesmerize me. This must the longest and hardest I have stared at a new tarot deck in ages. It’s odd, it’s trippy, it’s laughably artificial with its fake perspectives and glazed stares but it’s a deck you cannot take your eyes off, and for that we should applaud it. With so many tarot decks nowadays it’s an effort to look even once. Give your clients a reading they will remember forever, deal out the 3D Tarot and watch how curious they’ll be to peer into the realm of these kitsch vignetted archetypes. For what this deck sets out to do I consider it to be a resounding success and – once more – Lo Scarabeo bring us something new to the reading table.