Tarot of the Pirates
Deck by Michele Benevento
and Arturo Picca
© 2008 Lo Scarabeo
The Tarot of Pirates should not be confused with
Both are pirate themed tarot decks, but are very different presentations.
Piracy was most well-known during the
16th and 17th centuries, and even the early parts of the
18th century. Through time, the life of a pirate
has tended to be romanticized as something adventurous,
fun, and exciting. In truth, the pirate life was
filled with danger and hardships.
In the 63-page little white booklet for
this deck, it states: "Thanks to literature and cinema, pirates
have become a symbol of courage and audacity, the
emblem of freedom and adventure. This romantic
and legendary idea, rather than their true history,
rich in cruelty and notoriety, was the inspiration for
the Pirate Tarot Cards."
So the authors do tell us up front that
this deck is based on the romanticized legends of pirate
life and not necessarily the real "life and times" of a
pirate. You will, however, find scenes in the
cards that were a part of pirate life, including
drinking, violence, sexual situations, and a bit of
nudity in terms of females presented with exposed
breasts. Thus, be warned that this would not be a
deck for young viewers or for those who are sensitive.
I found this deck while looking for the Pirate Tarot Deck -- a deck that is very different from this one. The aforementioned deck contains no color, but is a replica of woodcuts. The Tarot of the Pirates, on the other hand, is very vivid and colorful. It is perhaps ironic that I tend to favor the other deck when it comes to the theme of pirates, because bright colors or otherwise beautiful art in a tarot deck tends to draw me in.
With that said, Tarot of the Pirates is indeed a lively and
colorful deck. It is quite graphic as well, although
not in terms of bloody scenes as one might anticipate.
Through the cards, you will find coins and treasures,
celebrations and disagreements, authority and leadership,
and scenes that could come straight out of a pirate-themed
movie. There is definitely a masculine feel to this
The cards have a thin light blue border. They are
created on a fair or average cardstock. They don't
feel especially sturdy, so this is a deck that would be
questionable as to whether it would withstand heavy usage
for anyone who wanted this deck to be their "workhorse" deck
or their "go to" deck. As this deck doesn't rank among
my top ten favorites, I'm sure it will last a good long
while for me, and I will pull it out at the request of a
client. I anticipate that this deck will likely be
requested more so by male clients than female clients.
However anyone, male or female, who loves the theme of
pirates may be inclined to choose this deck.
The cards measure 2-5/8" x 4-3/4" and shuffle
smoothly. The Major Arcana card numbers are noted with
a red roman numeral centered at the top with the title of
the card printed on the left in English. The card
names are presented in six languages, with two of the
languages at the bottom of the card. The listing of
multiple languages in this way is typical for the Lo
Scarabeo deck publications. The Minor Arcana numbers
are printed in red with Arabic numbering and the suit name
noted at the left.
The Major Arcana Names are the same as tradition, with the
exception that the Star becomes plural in this deck and is
"The Stars." Additionally, the Wheel of Fortune is
simply called "The Wheel." In this deck, Strength and
Justice trade places with Strength being card #11 and
Justice as #8. The card of Judgment does not use the
letter "e" as the Judgement card of a traditional RWS deck
does. The spelling tends to differ among various
decks. Some use the "e" in this title's spelling,
while others do not.
The LWB, on page 5, tells us about the Major Arcana Cards
for the Tarot of the Pirates: "The cards of the Major Arcana
illustrate the history of the Pirates of the Caribbean, a
legendary context where adventure meets magic. The
iconography on pirates then became representative of a
world without impositions, dominated by authentic values
where man established a balanced relationship with the
forces of nature."
The suit names are Chalices, Pentacles, Wands, and
Swords. Suit names are Knave, Knight, Queen, and
King. The back of the cards have a swirling design in
blues, greens, and pinks. See below for an image of
the card backs.
I think the Suit of Chalices could have more aptly been
named "Barrels" for this particular themed deck. We
predominantly see barrels in this suit, although the use of
cups as symbols is included for some of the cards as well.
The Pentacles suit could have aptly been named the suit of
Coins, as the scenes feature coins as well as jewels and
In the suit of Wands, we find that oars have been used for
the wands or the rods. Perhaps this suit could have
more creatively been referred to as "Oars." But
perhaps the creators of this deck did not want to create
confusion from what is traditionally known for the suit
In the suit of Swords, you will find heavy usage of
Swords. So that suit in this tarot deck is most
fitting with the imagery used.
The Tarot of the Pirates is not a Rider-Waite clone.
It's not a deck that I would recommend to a tarot beginner,
but would likely be more enjoyable and useful to one who has
some tarot experience and enough familiarity to work with a
themed deck such as this one. While this deck is
different from tradition, there are still a few cards that
may ring a tone of familiarity for the advanced reader.
As is typical of the small booklets that come with a tarot
deck, this one doesn't offer much in terms of
interpretation, so be prepared to get creative and use your
imagination . . . and your intuition . . . with this tarot
deck. While the back of the cards are reversible in
their design, there are no reversed meanings included in the
Here are examples from the
LWB (little white booklet) for the sample card images
posted at the top of this page:
- The Wheel: It is not the ship that follows
the course but the helmsman who sets it. If it is the
right one or the wrong one, the merit or the blame is his
- The Stars: The power of experience
sometimes defeats the power of the sword.
of Chalices: What is new or from far off is
not always better than what we are familiar with.
of Swords: True power is exercised and never
of Wands: The help of those traveling our
same path must never be refused.
of Pentacles: Wild ambitions make us loss
sight of our true objectives.
Some of the interpretations above don't even feel fitting, so you'll want to decide how you see a given card and what it means to you for the question being posed to the cards.
When I look at the 8 of Chalices in this deck, I can see a traditional meaning. I don't see the booklet's interpretation at all! To me, it looks like the ship has been unloaded of some things to make it lighter. They are moving on their way, but the path they are now taking means they needed to let go of that which was no longer as useful to them.
So we can even glean from this card that one needs to
lighten up in some way -- whether in what they are mentally
and emotionally carrying around, or whether in the form of
letting go of a difficult relationship, or simply leaving
behind what is familiar in order to explore a new path.
In the 4 of Wands, the feeling of a "homecoming" is what
comes to my mind. The LWB description speaks of
accepting help from those who are traveling on the same path
as we are. To me, it looks like the four men on this
small boat are nearing their homeland, and together they are
going to make short work of the journey. Perhaps the
ship let these travelers off, lending them a smaller boat so
that they could row home, while the big ship itself sailed
on. (See how you can use your imagination with these
cards? And in doing so, you can arrive at a core
meaning that feels right to you.)
With the Wheel card, I think the LWB was on the right track
here -- at least in terms of what I can resonate with for
interpretation. I can see the captain who is steering
the boat and taking control of his direction. And in
real life, there are both ups and downs, but the upright
Wheel portrays the up side in life. We get to that
point through our own actions, and of course, we must take
responsibility for our choices and actions in life, no
matter what the result is.
I would see this card as an indication of being on the
right path in life with smooth sailing for the time
being. This can be a karmic card, so it can also
suggest that we reap what we sow. If we turn the wheel
and move in another direction, that is our choice to
make. Sometimes that is exactly what we need to do,
while at other times, we need to just stay on course.
So this card would tell us that we are on the right course
for us at this time in our lives or in this particular
For the Ace of Pentacles, I cannot resonate with the little
booklet's interpretation at all! While the pirate is
indeed featured as a wild-eyed man staring into the
potential riches that the coin in his hand represents, I see
this as a card of possibilities -- even in this particular
deck. What one has found can be just the beginning of
great things to be gained. But certainly, I don't feel
that one would necessarily be losing sight of their other
important objectives, unless other cards surrounding it
suggested that to be the case -- or if this card was
reversed, then I could see the booklet's interpretation to
The women featured in the Tarot of the Pirates are strong
women -- no weak and fragile females to be found here!
But in the days of piracy, the few women who entered such a
lifestyle had to be strong. There wasn't room for
The artistic style of this deck is vibrant, bold, active,
and lively. That's one of the things that captured my
attention when I was searching for pirate decks. The
color is quite pleasing. As mentioned in the beginning
of this review, I was actually searching for a different
pirate deck, but when I saw this one, I was enchanted and
decided to get it as well. Even though I tend to
prefer the "Pirate Tarot" deck over the "Tarot of the
Pirates" deck, this one is still a workable deck and may
appeal most to the masculine audience.
Those who enjoy the theme of pirates in general may also
like this deck. As I am a big fan of the famous
"Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, this particular theme was
of interest to me. I don't think I would have enjoyed
the life of a pirate, but watching from behind the scenes
suits me just fine.
Deck Details - Tarot of the Pirates
of Cards in Deck: 78
Size of Cards: 2-5/8" x 4-3/4
Included with deck: A 63-page LWB (little white booklet) with the first 14 pages in English, and the remainder in other languages (Italian, Spanish, French, and Dutch).
Major Arcana: The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Justice (card #8), The Hermit, The Wheel, Strength (card #11), The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Stars, The Moon, The Sun, Judgment, The World
Suit Names: Chalices, Pentacles, Swords, Wands
Court Cards: Knave, Knight, Queen, KingBack Design of Cards: