Alchemical Tarot by Robert M. Place
I like Tarot decks that are simple and clear visually, yet are complex in their meaning. Such cards are suitable for both beginners and professionals - everyone can understand it in accordance with their skills. Each symbol on these cards is perceived both as a simple associative sign and as a more complex allusion for initiates. Alchemical Tarot of Robert Place is exactly the kind of such decks.
This deck is one of my favorites. On the one hand, it is close to the classical Tarot traditions, but at the same time it reveals a new meaning of familiar cards through alchemical images and symbols. And this connection is justified.
Medieval alchemy had a great influence on the development of not only many occult movements but also a number of modern scientific and philosophical disciplines. The connection between alchemy and Tarot symbolism was traced earlier. But the first person who clearly connected the symbolic images of alchemy with the Tarot Arcana was a famous American artist and Tarot researcher Robert M. Place.
In 1995, the Alchemical Tarot was published by Thorsons and five editions of the deck have been published to date. The appearance of the cards has turned slightly for the better during this time: the massive frames were removed and the coloration was changed. Subsequent editions also contain two versions of the Lovers card, as the original version of this card was censored in the first edition.
While creating the deck, Robert Place did a great job of studying ancient alchemical and hermetic texts. Therefore, there are no random elements in the drawings of this deck, since each symbol is made in accordance with the alchemical tradition and has significant importance.
Major Arcana correlated with alchemical materials (substances) and the process of the Great Work (Magnum Opus). This is the process of creating the Philosopher's Stone and the path of an ordinary person from the zero Fool card to the enlightened one from the World card.
The Minor Arcana cards of the Alchemical Tarot correspond to four main elements: Earth (coins), Water (vessels), Air (swords), and Fire (staffs). Traditional Tarot cups are replaced here with vessels - an important image for alchemists. Four elements relate to the four functions of consciousness (sensation, intuition, thinking and feeling). Here we can see the connection of Tarot deck with Karl Gustav Jung philosophy.
The drawings on this deck are made in the style of alchemical engravings of the XVII century. I really love this visual style. I think this is how a classic Tarot deck should look like.
The deck is of very high quality. The cards are packed in a green cloth covered box, which is easy to use. Deck’s print is sharp and paper is heavy. Cards have golden edges, this looks quite spectacular. The set includes a small booklet with a description of the cards.
Anyone who is interested in this deck, I can also recommend the book by Robert Place “Alchemy and the Tarot: An Examination of the Historic Connection between Alchemy and the Tarot”. In it, the author convincingly shows that the Tarot cards not only contain alchemical symbolism, but the very structure of the traditional deck is associated with the methodology of alchemists. This book will be of interest not only to Tarot card readers but also to everyone who is interested in esoteric spheres.