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The Dark Grimoire Tarot

by Michele Penco & Giovani Pelosini

The Dark Grimoire Tarot
Price: $22.95

Number of cards in deck: 78

Measurements: 2.6 x 4.72 inches, or 66 x 120 mm.

Back of card: A dark portrait of a man in a suit, set in an oval with dark green scroll-ey things surrounding it. It's the same face as on the Fool, but on the back of the card, his head is up. His arms are in the same position as on the Fool, but hold a closed book. (See the discussion on books, below.) Strictly speaking, you will know if cards are inverted or not, but in practice the back of the cards are not contrasty & you may not notice. The backs are dark greenish, the fronts are dark brownish, which means the backs & the fronts contrast just enough to keep track of things.

Booklet included: Yes, 64 pages, 2.52 x 4.65 inches, or 64 x 118 mm. Instructions in English, Italian, Spanish, French & German.

Publisher: Lo Scarabeo. Printed in Italy, imported by Llewellyn Worldwide.

Comments: This is an abstract deck. By "abstract", I mean the images on the cards bear little relationship to what we expect to find on the cards. When we read the instructions, we find the cards do not symbolize what we think they should. So for example,

0-The Fool. If the abyss of the unconscious unexpectedly gapes open before you, all reason may fail. As you pass the spheres of existence one by one, you approach the centre of the External Universe where time & space no longer have meaning. Extraordinary creatures are born of chaos in the mad mind of Azatoth and settle in the multidimensional world.
Which this deck depicts as a man in a straightjacket seated under a lamp (first card, second row, above). This is not the usual meaning of "Fool". The fool voluntarily sets out & then has unforeseen experiences. In this deck, the fool has been captured, physically restrained, and then forced to undergo a process of some sort. Despite what the delineation explicitly states (centre of the External Universe), the description is not of being in the center of anything, but rather, the edge. Sensory deprivation. Googling "straightjacket sensory deprivation", I found a website that sold straightjackets for entertainment purposes. They describe their product as,
The straitjacket (sj) attacks our emotions with fear, anxiety, excitement, security, challenge and threat to say the least...
Which is PANIC, in other words. Not the visions of demented sugarplums which surround our Fool. Tarot cards often show things that are fantastic or strange, but it is discouraging when they erroneously depict things which are unlikely or simply not possible. That's failure to do your basic homework.

The instructions tell us there are ancient magical texts known as grimoires. This is true. The instructions then get distracted in a discussion if this or that specific grimoire actually existed, and if H.P. Lovecraft possessed one. On page 3 the text takes up the question, if tarot cards could themselves be a grimoire. Excuse me, but there are any number of decks that have done just that. Crowley's chief among them. The author then posits her deck as being the essential grimoire:

The Dark Grimoire Tarots are therefore a true Clavicula due to their intrinsic nature and genesis: a key that can open forgotten doors in the darkest corners of the psyche, those doors hidden in the shadows & engulfed in spider webs. Opening those doors can mean gaining knowledge of our own fears & recognizing our own dark side, learning how it can balance our whole being. (pg. 6)
Which is, again mixed. On the one hand, dark, spooky cards are to scare us, on the other hand, we will somehow get hard knowledge out of it all. If you like dark cards & if you like being spooked, the deck will satisfy the first requirement, but it will explicitly not fulfill the second.

In this deck, the aces do not show the essence of the suit, but rather, books. All four aces are shown, above. Open the book, you will learn about the suit in question. Fair enough. So now we consult the esoteric rules concerning books. Which are:

Books that are OPEN may be read by any reasonably learned person, without restriction.

Books that are CLOSED may only be opened & read by an initiate.

Books that are LOCKED are unavailable to anyone, at this time, at any rate. A locked book may indicate a text that has been removed & returned to secrecy.

Doors may be substituted for books. You will see this symbology in countless medieval churches, in the great tympans over their central doors. Open book, you may read freely. Closed book, you must come with the key that unlocks it. I have never before seen a locked book. That is something new, and discouraging.

You will note that in this deck, the Aces of Cups & Pentacles are locked. The Ace of Wands is closed. The Ace of Swords is ajar, with a loose leaf for our inspection.

Well, the eager student may say, isn't this enough? Can't I start with a loose sword? Won't that pry the Book of Swords open?

Yes, with great effort it will, but all the swords at your disposal won't open the Book of Wands. Swords are for cutting. Wands are for burning. Swords cannot burn, Wands cannot cut. You are stuck. To open the Book of Wands you must pass some sort of test & be certified by some master. Only then will you be able to read the Book of Wands, which has been lying open in front of you, but you were blinded by your sword & so did not see. (I can literally do this at Chartres Cathedral, which has only closed books. I can read the stone cycles.)

But the Books of Cups & Pentacles are beyond reach. Beyond me, beyond you, beyond us all.

But that is reading far too much into this deck. It's dark, it's spooky, it's creepy. And harmless. Real black magic, which this book strives to give you, is, on the one hand, the rarest thing on earth, and lucky for us it is, too. And on the other hand, it as common as the dirt under our feet. Which is our great peril.

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Tel: 410-638-7761; Toll-free (orders only): 800-475-2272

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