A Review of Renaissance Tarot
by Brian Williams
Published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Review by Christiana Gaudet
How did I miss Brian William’s Renaissance Tarot when it first came out in 1987?
It really doesn’t matter, because it’s back!
That’s right. US Games has republished this amazing deck, along with the full-size guide book, also by Brian Williams.
Brian Williams combined his love for classical and renaissance art and his love for tarot in this project that took more than ten years to complete. Williams is known for a number of interesting tarot projects, including Ship of Fools Tarot and PoMo Tarot. His death in 2003 robbed the tarot world of one of its greatest minds.
Renaissance Tarot is a deck like no other. At first glance it looks like an historical tarot deck, similar to a Marseilles deck. The art is of renaissance style, and quite detailed with interesting and symbolic nuances. The deck comes with a little white book, also by Williams.
If you want to work with this deck I would strongly advise you to buy the big yellow book entitled” A Renaissance Tarot”. This tarot is a complex work above and beyond a standard tarot deck. The large-size format 197-page book gives a great deal of information about each card, as well as the art, history, mythology and philosophy of the renaissance on which this deck is based.
The deck is structured fairly traditionally, The Wheel of fortune is called Chance and Judgment is called The Angel. Strength is card 11 and Justice is 8.
The intricate cardbacks are not reversible, though reversed meanings are given in the little white book.
The deck includes a presentation card and a title card. The presentation card is beautifully illustrated.
The Pip cards have unobtrusive keywords written on ribbons in the corners. The top right hand side is in English. The keywords differ from the Crowley pip keywords, and are very different from standard Waite keywords.
The Minor Arcana suits are Coins, Cups, Staves and Swords. Although the focus of each pip card is the icons, there are some small illustrations on the cards that will help with memory and interpretation.
The associations for the suits go way beyond simple elemental associations. Williams discusses the symbolism of each icon as a way of summing up the flavor of each suit.
The book also includes some heady tarot spreads and a wealth of illustrations. It is easy to believe that ten years was spent researching and creating this deck.
The art is really stunning, especially for a Marseilles-like deck. The colors are muted. The images are drawn with very fine lines that allow for a lot of detail.
Don’t expect to make an easy leap from a Waite deck to Renaissance Tarot. Crowley and Marseilles readers may have an easier time embracing this deck. Tarot beginners who are willing to work with the book will find an intensely rich divinatory tool. Tarotist of all levels of experience will enjoy opening up a new exciting tarot world for themselves with Renaissance Tarot.
There are numerous tarot decks available that work on a system that is somewhat different than the old faithful traditions we know and love. What separates Renaissance Tarot is its scholarly nature. This isn’t a system that someone made up or channeled from some unseen spiritual entity.
Renaissance Tarot is based on history, mythology, philosophy and art that was contemporary to tarot’s actual birth. There is something about that fact that makes Renaissance Tarot special and important.
It took Brian Williams ten years of his all-too-short life to create this tarot. Don’t worry if it takes you a while to master it.
Renaissance Tarot is a worthy legacy, and an important contribution to the body of tarot art, knowledge and understanding. Three cheers for US Games’ decision to allow this deck its own renaissance!
Video of Christiana Gaudet Reviews Renaissance Tarot