Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot
Author: Paul Huson
Artist: Paul Huson
2007 Paul Huson
2008 Lo Scarabeo
I have long been an admirer of Paul Huson’s work (including “Mystical Origins of the Tarot” and “The Devil’s Picturebook”). I am late to this deck, which is certainly a nudge to me to pay better attention to what is out there! I love everything about this deck, including the intriguingly done Significator card (and I do not read with Significators!).
This is a traditional 78 card deck, using the traditional meanings for the Minor Arcana that were developed by Etteilla and his School. The imagery for the Major Arcana was inspired by designs from the Marseilles and Estense decks. There is a LWB (Little White Book) that comes with the deck, with a more detailed text on the Lo Scarabeo site explaining both the sources of the images and a more comprehensive listing of Etteilla’s interpretations (www.loscarabeo.com/files/New_DFWT_online_LWB_rtf )
The Major Arcana titles are traditional, with the following exceptions: the Magician becomes the Juggler, the High Priestess becomes the Female Pope, the Lovers becomes Love, and Strength becomes Fortitude. The suits are Batons, Cups, Swords, and Coins.
The LWB begins with a short history of the Tarot, commenting on the allegorical quality of the imagery and the part that Parisian cartomancer Jean-Baptiste Alliette (also known as Etteilla) played in the development of the Tarot as a divinatory tool. (Atteilla and his students developed what would become the European “canonical” interpretation of the suit cards.)
Huson notes that the images in this deck represent matters of spiritual significance, archetypal forces that are at work in the world as well as in the personality of the Seeker. The Pips (numbered cards) evoke the interpretations of Etteilla with imagery to match that of the trumps, drawn from medieval and Renaissance sources. The Court cards blend traditional Tarot court designs with the French playing card pattern known as the standard pattern of Paris.
There is a section on reading the cards, with the option of choosing a significator from the Major Arcana (in his expanded notes on Lo Scarabeo, Huson also includes the Court cards as possible significators), looking for a quality similar to that of the subject of the inquiry. Interpreting the cards is something that Huson indicates is largely up to the intuition of the reader. From the LWB:
“The cards are basically pegs on which to hang your intuitions regarding the consultant or the matter being inquired about…. if you are new to Tarot, then simply look up the traditional meanings of each card that appears in your reading. These printed interpretations will act as scaffolding on which to build your intuitions as and when they develop…. Every word illustrates an aspect of the card; sometimes it’s simply a synonym or even a verb.”
Keywords are listed in the LWB for each of the cards. It is worth going to the Lo Scarabeo site for the download of extended interpretations.
Pro forma for Lo Scarabeo, the LWB has sections in English, Spanish, French, Italian and German.
While I may never use the significator, I love the card! Against a dark blue background we see a nude figure standing, arms held out from their sides, palms to the sky and outward. Yellow flowers surround this figure, with astrological symbols placed on the parts of the body that they rule.
The cards themselves are approximately 2 5/8” by 4 ¾”, on good quality card stock. The backs have a ¼” white border, followed by a 1/8” black border, followed by another thin white border. The background is dark blue, with eight pointed yellow stars and light blue imagery on it. The backs are reversible.
The card fronts show a ¼” white border. The Major Arcana show the Roman Numeral at the top of the card, with the name, in English, at the bottom. The Pips (numbered cards) show the number and suit, in text, at the bottom of the card. The Court cards show the title and suit across the bottom of the card, with the name of a historical figure somewhere along on edge.
The colors are very intense and basic – yellow, green, blue, orange, red and white. The art style is very reminiscent of the older decks, with a minimalist approach to the Minor Arcana. The cards are color coated by the color of the background: the Major Arcana background is a yellowish-green, the background for the Batons is light blue, the background for Cups is purple, the background for Swords is orange, and the background for Coins is green.
The Fool is unnumbered, the Magician has become the Juggler, while
Love is depicted as male and female figures, with a priest standing between them, and a winged cherub with bow draw above them. Fortitude (Strength) is depicted taking the top off of a pillar, rather than the traditional taming of a lion.
The Hanged Man hangs by one foot only, without the traditional crossed legs and with his hands wrapped in bags. As Christine Payne-Towler noted in her commentary on this deck, all four cardinal virtues (Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, and the World (Prudence) ) are depicted with multi-pointed halos.
Death, as in older decks, is numbered by not named. The Devil is also based on older imagery, showing bird feet, wings, and . The Star is shown as a male, rather than the traditional female figure. The Sun shows the Gemini twins (male), with the Sun above them almost appearing to be rolling his eyes!
The Court cards are fairly traditional – the Knaves are all standing, the Knights are all on horseback, the Kings and Queens all seated on thrones. One anomaly unique to this deck is that each Court card (except for the Knights) is named for a historical figure – i.e. the Knave of Batons is Hector, the Queen of Swords is Pallas, and the King of Coins is Alexander.
In his expanded text on Lo Scarabeo, Huson has also included a section on spreads: a three card spread, the traditional Celtic Cross spread, a horoscope spread, and a complex forty-two card layout.
Huson’s interpretations of the cards in the expanded section are well worth reading. He discusses the imagery on the cards, as well as its evolution. For example, he talks about the Fool appearing in Renaissance woodcuts as the child of, and ruled by, the Moon. He also talks about the Fool in medieval German drama, where he was known as the “Narr”, an idiot who frequently used his own obtuseness to his own advantage.
I see this deck as a gateway into the past, a peek at how Tarot got to where it is today, and a revised look at the work of Etteilla. I see it as a must have for all Tarot libraries, and feel that it could be used by Tarotists of all levels.
Note: The link to the Lo Scarabeo expanded interpretations is www.loscarabeo.com/files/NEW_DFWT_onlne_LWB.rtf.
© January 2010 Bonnie Cehovet