I walked out of Namaste Bookshop in New York City last month with a petite, $22 tarot deck in my hand: Tarot del Fuego, by Ricardo Cavolo. Little did I know it would rock my tarot world.
A prolific muralist, Cavolo creates art that can be seen in cities around the world. (Sadly, his Seattle mural, once gracing a Pioneer Square alleyway, has been painted over.) In Tarot del Fuego, he has made each card its own compelling visual story. The images are bright and energetic, featuring flames, shooting stars, and eyeballs throughout.
In the one English-language interview I was able to find online, the artist gives this helpful clue about his visual vocabulary:
I love to use symbolic details and I thought that with more than two eyes the person becomes different from the rest. And at the same time, as they are heroes in my stories, a hero is wise and intelligent, and I thought that the more you see, the more you know, the wiser. So more eyes, means you are able to see more than normal.
That insight is enough to equip you for a happy romp through his Major Arcana cards, from the Marseille-style Fool to the hermaphroditic World figure (see 5 examples above, or go to his website for much more). Stay awake and aware, tarot readers! Use all your eyes to view this deck.
Some of my favorite individual cards follow:
The King of Wands. I love the treatment of all the kings in this deck. Contrary to tradition, each king has some kind of defeat built in. Each one looks world-weary and has made visible compromises on the way to achieving his position. The King of Swords uses his sword for Hara-kiri. The King of Pentacles victoriously mounts a giant gold coin but wears a devil’s costume. This King of Wands lost all his limbs to his firey drive, but if his beard could talk, the stories it would tell!
Cavolo’s 4 of Swords, a departure from traditional decks, is a head-scratcher at first. A low, even number in the Air suit, this card is associated with a quiet rest for the mind. It is usually depicted by a person lying down in a quiet setting, asleep. Now that I see this contrast, I think how empty the typical card feels, where this one provides a wealth of associations for mental exhaustion. This screams, “I am so tired, every segment of my weary hands is complaining. Cut them off now; I never want to see them again!” The eyes, the minor hand chakras, are important to tarot readers. Our sensors are in our hands and yes, they get tired from time to time.
How could I not call out the giant breast in the deck, a tantalizing embellishment to the Ace of Cups? It lends a wonderful Freudian association to the card representing the spring from which our unconscious life flows. My greatest interest with Cavolo’s suit of Cups – meant to represent the element of water – is how earthy each card is. The liquid in the cups creates conditions for springing roots and budding flowers, pointing out that even the elements exist on a spectrum. I read it as an unconscious artist’s statement. To me, this is Cavolo saying subliminally, “I am a master of making the imagination tangible.” I enjoy that this deck is not airtight, like our lives. It is porous and allows for a lively flow of energy across categories.
The 10 of Pentacles is the highest numbered card in the money suit. It is said to represent dynasty, family wealth, and earthly legacy. The card typically shows an aristocratic family picnicking on the plush outdoor grounds of a vast estate. As if. The Tarot del Fuego 10 of Pents acknowledges that power is money, and that family connections to money aren’t often so bucolic. This features your irascible grandma who made a killing you don’t know exactly how (but you have your suspicions), and now drinks too much (though nobody mentions it for fear of being written out of the will). Her tattoos assert her mark, and she holds steadfastly to the tangible world. Poignantly, this is the only figure in this deck with just 2 eyes.
Tarot del Fuego is a mind-bending delight to study. It’s giving me new perspective and associations, breathing more creativity into the way I see my tarot cards. I do not know yet if it will work for me as a professional reading deck, as its strong imagery might be off-putting to clients. If anyone wants to help me find out, contact me for a reading and you can get the BRAVE GUINEA PIG discount. We’ll find your extra eyes.