Golden Tarot of the Tsar
Icons of faith, for meditating and finding inspiration
by Atanas A. Atanassov; introduction and booklet by Giordano Berti
Icons traditionally are not considered a mundane art form, nor are they considered the expression of any individual artist. Their intention is religious, or more aptly, spiritual, in that they seek to provide the viewer with access to another world - that of the divine. They are created using specific techniques put in place long ago, and much of their actual design is based on deep symbolism. For example, colors are significant, as they tend to reflect a spiritual nature that is not physically visible. Divine light is an important element in the subjects of icons, and this is reflected through the use of much gold, and sometimes white. The images are devoid of shadow, an intentional choice as it has been considered that the Kingdom of God is simply full of light, or fully radiant. Because icons are far more than mere "pictures," they can effectively create a strong religious or spiritual experience within the individual viewing them.
I believe there is something to this. I have always had among my favorite artists Picasso, Chagall, Rothko, Giacometti, and Van Gogh, all of whom are modern and in some cases, considered somewhat abstract ... yet have also always felt a strong appreciation for icons. They draw me inexplicably, even though I generally do not enjoy looking at art that is flat or too literal. As I feel the presence, truth, or reality, of the divine through icons, I feel these same qualities through the Golden Tarot of the Tsar
. This is a beautiful deck that offers us a dialogue with the divine, through a distinctly Christian and historic language.
The Golden Tarot of the Tsar
is a collection of icons, created as a tarot, and generally based on traditional tarot meanings. Saints, prophets, significant women and wives, and of course Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, are all portrayed in the cards. Often, images seem to have the Rider-Waite-Smith as their basis, but many do not. Giordano Berti, in his introduction to the set, effectively explains, "...Atanassov did not reinterpret the Tarot or modify the icons but rather adapted the Tarot to the icons by associating the traditional meaning of each card to a biblical subject or the portrait of a saint. From this unavoidable choice, which radically transforms the traditional Tarot figures, come new interpretive possibilities." The pip or number cards portray small scenes and are decorated profusely with gold. All of the cards are surrounded by a rich red border, red often symbolizing passion, life, or love, in the creation of icons.
Because many of the images on the cards are of somewhat obscure events in Biblical history, it might not be so easy to pick up this tarot and interpret every card immediately. As I did my first readings with the deck, I kept beside me some books on Christian saints and legends, and with their help was able to understand the cards more completely. I will say this was sort of fun - I love history, and I also enjoy Biblical history specifically. And also, it is quite interesting that many of the cards were strikingly effective in their choice of story or event. In the Four of Chalices, for example, we see the prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb. He leans on his elbow, turned away from a Heavenly hand reaching down into the scene, offering him a chalice. The basic gist of the story is that while on Mount Horeb, Elijah was sustained by an angel, who fed him under a juniper tree. The image on the card clearly reflects this, as it reflects the Four of Cups image most of us are familiar with. In my reading I took this card in the position of the past, to (accurately) reflect that I had been turning away from such spiritual assistance or truth. In the Ten of Wands we see Saint Simon of Cyrene, carrying the cross of Jesus, burdened by its weight (physically and spiritually). The Four of Pentacles shows the Dives, which refers to the hoarding of wealth and resulting spiritual suffering from such greed. Even in these small pip scenes, we can through the understanding of Biblical history, interpret the cards effectively.
The small booklet that comes with the deck includes a concise and insightful introduction, very brief but usually clear interpretations, as well as a short explanation of divining with the cards and an interesting card spread called the "Orthodox Cross." As with most decks that only include these small booklets, an accompanying book on tarot or a familiarity with the cards is helpful; and as I've already mentioned, a general study of Biblical history and the Christian saints makes this deck more comprehensive, and also a true joy to use.
* Photos really do not do these cards justice;
the detail in the gold foil does not adequately come across.
Card artwork by Atanas A. Atanassov
Read user reviews or purchase online at Amazon:
note: the last time I checked this link (2021), many user reviews were quite obviously referring to a different deck
Golden Tarot of the Tsar at Amazon
Illumination Tarot has been publishing articles, reviews, tarot spreads, and personal reflections for tarot enthusiasts and followers of alternative spirituality online since 1999.
All writing, reviews, and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2021