Tarot of Dreams (USGS) | Review

3 July 2016

Tarot of Dreams KitThe Tarot of Dreams was Ciro Marchetti’s second deck and is still one of his most popular. But as it goes with self-publishing decks not everyone is able to ‘snatch’ one away due to pricing or limited editions. That’s why, when it became clear that US Games got the rights for the mass market edition, loads of people were holding their breath for a good alternative. And specifically that deck, the mass-market Tarot of Dreams, is what this review will be all about.

Let’s start with the box and the deck itself. The USGS Tarot of Dreams comes in quite a large, very sturdy, box with a lid lift top. On the inside the deck is divided into two piles and it includes a 110 pages thick companion book written by Lee Bursten. Quality of the box is excellent and it has the highly original Ace of Swords on the cover. Therefore it could function as storage, but the fact you have to split the deck everytime to make it fit, became a little annoying. If you’re going to use the deck often, a pouch or case is recommended.

Digital dream quality
The Tarot of Dreams comes with bigger cards on quite good card stock. From all the bigger publishers US Games has the thickest card stock, but it can be too shiny or sticky at times. Not this time: they are not too laminated, there’s no stickiness, they shuffle really well – but they’re a little bigger, so overhand for little hands and riffle only when you have some strenght – and the matte gloss brings out the images just right. Despite black borders and using the deck daily for 3 weeks no visible chipping anywhere, so ‘score’ on the printing job.


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The World, Death, Priestess (instead of High Priestess) and Wheel (Wheel of Fortune) in Tarot of Dreams, the Major Arcana.

The whole deck is true to Ciro’s style: bold coloring, lot of gold and silver tints…I would say: royal with a touch of alien and a hint of Steampunk. Here and there I miss a bit of expression on faces, although that is just with a few cards (the Pages for example). Other than that it is in your face, rich art, with a huge amount of details. Of course this whole deck was made with the computer, which means that a large percentage of tarot readers won’t be attracted to it. However, I personally think that *if* you buy digital, you should buy Ciro Marchetti. He’s a master with it and just uses a digital pen where others apply ink.

Changes in black & gold

So back to the cards. Like I said, in the original self published version the border was a colored frame with little squares in the corners that held all the attributions in this deck. To be honest: I love the change US Games made with this border. The art is still framed, but in such a way it gets a huge boost and unlike in some other decks with GD-correspondences (Thoth) you won’t have to go searching for the signs. (In case you’re new to the concept of correspondences for tarot, here’s a nice and simple introduction on Biddy Tarot’s blog)


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Speaking of those correspondences: in the companion written by Lee Bursten it is made clear that Marchetti made this deck in exactly the way he wanted. It not only has his personal stamp art-wise, but this is also the case when it comes to certain symbolism and adaptions to the correspondences. If you read according to the Golden Dawn rules and do not want anything else, I can tell you, you don’t want this deck. While there is definitely an overlap with Golden Dawn attributions Lee and Ciro incorporated all the modern planets. So if you are used to working with Thoth and similar decks it might feel a little ‘off”. Unless you don’t mind stepping out of your comfort zone of course ;-).

Correspondences & symbolism

Now, not to worry. This is probably the reason the companion for the Tarot of Dreams is much larger than any little white booklet tarot decks usually come with. All the differences are easily explained in the book. This creates a very workable situation and gives room for some learning. All in all I was really a fan of Lee Bursten’s work. It is well written, very easy to understand for both beginners and advanced readers, and it divides the texts into meaning (tarot and kabbalah), symbology and astrology. In other words: you can choose to ignore any part that doesn’t suit your (current) needs.


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The Wands and Coins, including astrological and Kabbalah correspondences

I do think that if you do not want a deck with correspondences, better not buy this at all, because the Tarot of Dreams is clearly made as such a deck. The art goes hand in hand with some of them and the story Marchetti is telling with this Tarot. The Star (Acquarius =air) is in the sky, Hanged Man hangs over water (mem means water) and is preparing to go into the subconscious (Neptune) and then there are many other Majors and minors that work that way.

Tarot system & Palace cards
So, to which system does the Tarot of Dreams belong? That isn’t an easy question. According to the guidebook the Tarot of Dreams follows ‘the system of Kabbalistic and astrological correspondences assigned to the cards by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’. However, changes were made to that system. And while the art follows the RWS on many an occasion, it also has a lot of new symbolism and portrayals and the minors don’t *always* have a scenic. So I think it falls into its own category. It is not a specific systemic, it is a Marchetti.


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The Swords and Cups for Tarot of Dreams

There is another addition to the Tarot of Dreams. Some designers make extra Major Arcana cards in their decks, but Marchetti chose to include an extension on the Minors and Courts. These are the so-called Palace cards: they focus on environment of their element, for good or bad, what is missing or there in abundance. For example the Palace of Swords can stand for a stubborn, narrowminded community (jealousy). The Palace of Wands can mean the fulfillment of ideas, an environment that is completely inspiring. And in many cases they either emphasise or lessen the strength of a King next to it. I really like this addition. When doing a reading with two 3-card readings combined, three of the four Palace cards fell out, making something clear as day that I was not completely sure about before (which can happen with personal readings). If you don’t care for them it is very easy to leave them out, because the rest of the deck is already a full working tarot.

The Tarot of Dreams is a deck that divulges its secrets slowly. You need to work with it to get the extra symbolism over time and in that regard the excellent companion is not only useful but necessary. All-in-all it is a combination of an intuitive and systemic deck; one that might possibly overwhelm a beginner. The choices Ciro Marchetti made in his adaptions are all explained and make sense (to me at least). And concistency is a huge plus when dealing with so many elements in a deck.


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The Tarot of Dreams has a card with the Kaballah Tree of life in it too. The Palace of Coins is one of the extra Palace cards. The court cards only have the elements on them, but the head dresses all have an important message to tell (love The Queen of Swords here). The backs are also useful for reversals.

If you are a fan of his work, there is no doubt about it: you’ll like this Bursten & Marchetti deck, Golden Dawn adept or not. For others the most important part will lie in the fact if they’re attracted to rich, digital art and fancy a multitude of correspondences and intruiging symbolism. Is that answer yes, then surely check out the Tarot of Dreams.

Author or artist Publisher Publication
Ciro Marchetti US Games 2016

Wrap Up

Tarot of Dreams