Decks I Love – Tavaglione’s Tarot of the Stars

Written by Mark McElroy

This post is part of a series called “Decks I Love,” featuring favorite Tarot decks in my collection.

From the oversize cards to the hefty “little white book,” from the comic book artwork to the intriguing symbolic details — Tavaglione’s Tarot of the Stars (I Tarocchi delle Stelle) intrigues me years after buying it in 1991.

Have a look at the Five of Wands:

If you’re used to working with variations on Pixie Smith’s iconic “five men battling with rods” image, you’ll find that Tavaglione’s version gives you a lot more symbolic fuel to work with:

  • a complex diagram at the top of each suit card relating that card to a zodiac symbol (here, Tarus) and a card in a standard poker deck (here, the Five of Clubs)
  • a compelling keyword (in this case, “Ambition”)
  • detailed artwork.

I mean, just look at that gorgeous illustration. What do we have?

  • A strong, virile, victorious warrior, clad in red and gold, pointing out his next target
  • Nude wrestlers, striving with each other
  • Five wands, standing in a squared circle
  • The central wand, flying a banner you’ve seen on other cards
  • Mountain ranges in the background – suggesting what has been overcome, perhaps?
  • Rocky terrain in the foreground – suggesting difficult progress, perhaps?

Don’t get me started. I could go on and on about the symbolism here — and that’s part of the appeal of this magical deck. Thank goodness Dal Negro published it as a pack of oversized cards! (And frankly, even at this size, each card invites careful study, as many touches are simply not apparent at first glance.)

A thick paperback book accompanies the cards, written in an ancient and mysterious language (Italian). Years ago, when Google translate was in its infancy, I started a translation of these notes — more an expression of my passion for this deck than a serious scholarly effort.

I own hundreds of decks, and this one has stood the greatest test of time I know: more than a decade after the purchase, it remains on the shelf by my desk … one of very few decks I keep at arm’s length.

It’s out of print but still around. Several copies are on, but they’re listed between $150 and $200. That’s a steep price, especially since you can still buy new copies from for 40 Euro (plus shipping from San Marino).

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  • I’ve just ordered this deck and can’t wait to get it. It spoke to me as soon as I saw it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mark. And now I’m intrigued – what are the *other* decks you keep at arm’s length?

    • What a nice note. Thanks. I should write about those other decks, but the list would include the original Alchemical Tarot, the odd little Navigator’s Tarot of the Mystic Sea, and even the good old Rider Waite Smith (which, I must confess, stands the test of time very well). Thanks for stopping by!