Tarot of the Pirates

Deck by Michele Benevento and Arturo Picca
© 2008 Lo Scarabeo

The Wheel -
                Tarot of the Pirates8 of Chalices
                - Tarot of the Pirates4 of Wands - Tarot of the

The Stars -
                Tarot of the PiratesKing of
                Swords - Tarot of the PiratesAce of Pentacles - Tarot of
                the Pirates

The Tarot of Pirates should not be confused with the Pirate Tarot deck.
Both are pirate themed tarot decks, but are very different presentations.

Tarot of the PiratesPiracy 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 deck.

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 treasure chests.

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 titles.

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 LWB.

Here are examples from the LWB (little white booklet) for the sample card images posted at the top of this page:

X - 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 alone.

XVII - The Stars:  The power of experience sometimes defeats the power of the sword.

8 of Chalices:  What is new or from far off is not always better than what we are familiar with.

King of Swords:  True power is exercised and never flaunted.

4 of Wands:  The help of those traveling our same path must never be refused.

Ace of Pentacles:  Wild ambitions make us loss sight of our true objectives.

As you can see, these bits of interpretation are not very useful. So my recommendation is to forget about the little white booklet, and just read the cards intuitively along with your current knowledge of tarot meanings.

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 situation.

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 be fitting.

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 weakness.

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.

Tarot of the Pirates deck

Deck Details - Tarot of the Pirates

Number 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, King

Back Design of Cards: Tarot of
                    the Pirates card back

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