The Tarot Garden Library
About the Authors
Riccardo Minetti is an
editor for Lo Scarabeo of Torino, Italy. He has contributed
his expertise to several Lo Scarabeo projects, including the
forthcoming Etruscan Tarot and Tarot of the
Journey to the Orient. He is the author of the book
which will accompany the forthcoming Fey Tarot
Jeannette Roth is the
co-owner of The Tarot Garden. She has been collecting tarot
cards for 20 years, with an eclectic interest in all areas
of its study and use.
Carrying the Torch of Tarot's Italian Legacy:
Garden Interview with Lo Scarabeo's Riccardo
In his Encyclopedia of Tarot,
vol. I, President of U.S. Games Systems and
noted tarot authority Stuart Kaplan writes:
"There exist today several fifteenth-century
Visconti-Sforza tarocchi decks which
comprise the earliest known tarot cards... Italy
holds the honor of having produced several of
the earliest known tarocchi packs that
contain the mystical and allegorical trump
In other words, when it comes to the
documented history of tarot, we see that the
Italians have played an early, and pivotal, role
in the development of these entertaining and
mystical cards. From the original Visconti cards
attributed to artist Bonafacio Bembo; to Dotti,
Mitelli, and the other Italian card
manufacturers of the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries; through such modern card
manufacturers as Dal Negro, Edizione del
Solleone, and il Meneghello -- Italy has always
been home to some of the most influential
contributors to the world of tarot.
One relative newcomer to the world of Italian
tarot publishers is Lo Scarabeo. Founded by
Piero Alligo and Mario Pignatiello in 1987, Lo
Scarabeo has quickly emerged as one of the
world's premier tarot publishing houses. With
its products currently being distributed to
every corner of the globe, the name "Lo
Scarabeo" has become as well-known among tarot
enthusiasts as those of long-time industry
"giants" U.S. Games Systems and AGMüller.
We recently had the honor of corresponding
with Riccardo Minetti -- one of Lo Scarabeo's
editors, and a contributor to several Lo
Scarabeo tarot products. Mr. Minetti graciously
agreed to provide us with the following
interview, which we are pleased to present here
for our website visitors.
Q: What is your role at Lo Scarabeo?
A: If I had to describe it in one phrase, I
would say "Chief Editor." But that title doesn't
mean very much. Lo Scarabeo is a very small
company with very few persons, and everyone does
a little bit of everything. I frequently work as
a graphic designer as well; at other times, I am
responsible for marketing and public relations.
I would say that the skills that I most often
use in my job are my knowledge of Tarot and my
experience with computers.
9 of Flames (Wands) from the Dante
Q: Many of Lo Scarabeo's current
popular 78-card tarots were originally
published as limited-edition 22-card
tarots, as part of various collectors'
series (d'Arte, Fantastico, Antico).
Can you explain how the types of
products produced by Lo Scarabeo have
"evolved" over the years?
A: The answer is "cost." To produce
a 78-card deck, one needs over three
times the money than is required to
produce a 22-card deck. When Lo
Scarabeo started, we didn't have the
resources to commit ourselves to
78-card decks. Besides, the market was
very different then, and it was
commonly acceptable to use and read
with a majors-only deck. Nowadays, I
think that most of the people who have
interest in 22-card decks are
The transition from 22-card decks to
78-card decks may be a sign of a deeper
transition between art -- that is,
Tarot as a collector's item -- and
Tarot "proper," which is of interest to
a wider audience.
Q: Does Lo Scarabeo have any
plans to publish any limited-edition
collectors' decks again in the
A: Every Lo Scarabeo deck will also
be published as a limited edition deck.
But creating decks that are solely
intended as collector's items is not in
our present plans.
Q: Does Lo Scarabeo publish
products other than tarots and
A: Of course -- but most of the Lo
Scarabeo's sideline products are not
sent to the international market. Our
additional product lines consist
primarily of books of comic art,
illustrations, and criticism of art.
The barrier, of course, is language.
Books in Italian are very difficult to
sell in the United States, for
Recently, Lo Scarabeo published
Arcana Mater, a graphic novel
whose meaning and significance is
linked to Tarot. And in November, we
will begin a new label, Alta
Fidelity], under which we will
publish some very interesting art books
for the Italian market.
Q: Which Lo Scarabeo title(s) are
among your personal favorites?
A: I have to draw a line between the
decks I created (or helped to create)
and the ones I just personally like.
The former are part of me. I'm not
objective about them, as they speak
with my voice.
Among the decks I have worked on, I
certainly love the Tarot of
Imagination. It is not a
traditional Tarot, but that just adds
to the importance and beauty of the
deck. I would call it a meditative
deck, and I would suggest that people
employ it for personal use, rather than
using it to perform readings for a
querent. It sort of reminds me of what
I feel when approaching the I-Ching.
The deck I'm almost sure it will
became my favorite, and my day-to-day
reading deck, will be the Fey
Tarot that will be published in
October. That may be, in my opinion,
among the best decks in many years.
Among the Lo Scarabeo decks that I
never personally worked on, I'm fond of
the Tarot of the Origins and the
Dante Tarot. The first has a
primal power that really challenges my
mind and soul when using it. The second
is so beautiful I just feel better
looking at the cards. I have never
really been able to read with the
Dante, as my mind is too drawn inside
Six of Cups from the Tarot of the
Q: What title(s) do you personally
consider to be among the most unusual
decks published by Lo Scarabeo?
A: I should reply by asking what you
mean by "unusual."
I think that some of our decks have
tried to "move forward"... to evolve...
and to say something as yet unsaid in
Tarot. One of them is certainly the
Tarot of the III Millennium. But
the result, while terribly interesting
to an expert or to a scholar, is not
very good for readings. Too
intellectual, too artificial...
Lo Scarabeo produces between six and
ten decks every year. I think it is
very important that at least one of
those decks is "experimental" in
nature. Publishers should also take it
upon themselves to assume part of the
burden of research for any deck they
5 of Wands from the Tarot of the III
Q: Your comments about the III
Millennium Tarot are interesting.
Can you tell us more about this
A: What I mean about the III
Millennium is that it is
Tarot should be able to be easily
accessible and intuitive. The approach
taken by the III Millennium
imagery is very intellectual, and
therefore somewhat difficult. It is a
deck I use to study Tarot, when I have
a pen and paper to take notes. Unless
one is very good with Tarots,
they will find the deck incredibly
difficult to work with in readings.
In that deck, there are three very
1. The puzzle. All of the
minor arcana are fragments of wider
pictures. There are missing parts, just
as there are redundancies. This
approach provides incredible
possibilities for reading, especially
now in the "Third Millenium," where
human psychology is often forced to
deal with fragmentary experiences. But
it is difficult and confusing if one is
used to reading the standard, static
symbology that is typically found in
2. The conflict and the distance
between spirituality and
materialism. This is the key to
many of the difficulties in current
society in my opinion, and often
underlies our everyday problems.
3. Abstraction. The deck
forces an element of abstraction upon
readers, which places an additional
burden upon them. My comment that the
III Millenium was not a "good"
experiment arises from the realization
that we couldn't make that deck all it
is now, and also make it simple and
communicative without a tremendous
effort. My job sometimes makes me see
decks not just as they are, but also as
they may have been.
I really would call the III
Millennium Tarot an "advanced
deck," and I would discourage beginners
from using it. Most customers of Tarot
Garden are not beginners, so they may
be thrilled by the challenge the deck
provides -- but it's better if they
know in advance what they will find.
Q: Are there any special
challenges in preparing a deck to be
distributed to both the European and
North American markets?
A: It is not just the North American
and European market. It's much more
There is a market of collectors, of
people who already knows a lot about
Tarot and who own more than one deck.
They came from a wide variety of
cultures -- from Korea, to the United
States, to Scandinavia, to Italy, to
the Mediterranean countries. Then there
is a market of people who are just
curious about Tarot. And then another
market of "professional readers."
The real challenge is that we don't
have any direct contact with our
customers. Many things change from the
United States to Italy, but the
greatest challenge is not in catering
to two different "worlds," but rather
to have a perception of who is really
buying our Tarots, and why.
Q: The Rider-Waite deck
revolutionized tarot in the 20th
century. Do you see any similar
revolutionary changes occurring for
Tarot in the 21st century?
A: I am actually rather pessimistic.
While the Rider-Waite is probably still
the best single deck one may work with,
it is working like an anchor, slowing
down any evolution of the concept of
Tarot. Every time a deck tries to go in
a different direction, it is labeled as
"wrong." You would be surprised to
learn how many complaints we receive
from North America, from people saying:
"that deck is printed wrong, as Justice
is 8 and Strength is 11. I want a copy
that is printed right."
Once a Tarot expert -- I don't
remember the name -- told me that it is
bound to be a cycle of synthesis and
complexity, and that we are now in the
"complexity" part of the cycle. So it
should be expected that in the future,
the number of decks will not continue
to increase, and the "new Rider-Waite"
I'm not sure of this, because the
Rider-Waite was the first "divination
deck for everyone." It synthesized
tarot concepts in a new way, and did
not have to compete against a sea of
other tarot divination decks for
attention. In contrast, a "new"
Rider-Waite (that is, some future tarot
that would have the same revolutionary
impact as the Rider-Waite) would have
to fight its way among hundreds of
other decks -- like speaking in noisy,
crowded room -- to get noticed.
Additionally, it would have to fight
against the conservatism and
preconceived notions of every society -
Tarot society, too. If-and-when a new
great deck comes, it will be
something that will be able to capture
what has changed in human spirituality
in over a century of deep
The two greatest limitations of the
Rider-Waite-Smith decks are:
1) Unquestioning reliance on Waite's
symbology. Evolution in psychology,
knowledge of oriental philosophies, and
an overall greater level of education
should bring much more to the
experience of Tarot than was possible
in Waite's time. Today's Tarot could
potentially have more to offer for
meditation, inner exploration, and
other evocative approaches.
2) Waite's nineteenth-century
perspective. Human spirituality, if not
human nature, has changed. Many decks
have simply adapted these changes to
the RWS structure -- I think that it is
Q: What are your personal feelings
about tarot as an "art form?" Do you
think that it is always necessary for a
tarot to include meaningful symbolism,
or do you think that there is value in
a tarot that strives for nothing more
than sheer artistic beauty? (Here, we
acknowledge that it is possible for a
tarot to have both, but are asking if
it is necessary.)
A: I think it is necessary for
Tarots to have meanings. However, the
meaning does not necessarily have to be
symbolic in nature. I think that if you
remove meaning from Tarot cards,
however it might structured or
conveyed, then you no longer have a
Tarot. You just have an illustration on
What makes the difference is that
art allows more ways for meanings to be
expressed beyond a standard symbolism:
i.e., "this means this" and "that means
that." Tarots are important because
people use them. However, they do not
necessarily use them for reading. They
may use them for many other purposes,
such as studying, meditation, and
self-exploration. Having art without
meaning will make decks useless.
9 of Soul (Cups) from the Tarot of
Q: In general, what kinds of things
(products, changes, etc.) can we expect
to see from Lo Scarabeo in the near
A: In 2003 and 2004, Lo Scarabeo
should complete and publish many decks
of great impact. After that, it will be
a time to examine the results produced
by our efforts.
I'm very curious about how people
will respond to our latest decks. Very,
very curious indeed.
The Tarot Garden is proud to include the
Lo Scarabeo line of tarot products in our online
here for a listing of Lo Scarabeo
titles that are currently in stock.
© Riccardo Minetti and
1 August 2002