Updated: Aug 31
A couple of months ago I found myself looking for a new Tarot deck. I love to see how different artists can come up with their own view of the Tarot. But I'm also always amazed at the amount of poor quality decks exist. I'm not a fan of all these cheap game of thrones inspired decks where boobs take more space than actual symbolism. Show a little respect to the High Priestess... she's seen enough.
And that's probably why I immediately loved the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg painted by Yuri Shakov. This deck is one of the most beautiful I have stumbled upon so far. It's a true work of art. I could not find much information about Shakov himself unfortunately but I'm still looking.
The look and feel of the deck is very Eastern European and reminds me very much on the colours and canvas I would see at my grandma's place: Vibrant colours, fantastic folkloric clothes and an easy-to-read RWS based system make this deck very approachable and just lovely.
A Dive in the Deck: quick facts
- The 2 suits follow the original Marseille/RWS order. No fantasy or made up card is to be found. 22 major cards and the 4 minor suits are there. This is great for beginners because you can start using this deck while still learning the basics without risking any confusion.
- The cards have a strong Eastern European feel. If you're a fan you'll love it.
- The deck has a colour code of its own. The characters are wearing very colourful outfits and the artist started his own new code with strong purple, deep shades of green and softer reds. These colours can give you many clues during a reading as you learn to interpret them.
- The Devil is impersonated by Joseph Staline. Instead of little demons, it is the people who are tied to a chain and subjected to him. A little heart tattoo, sailor style, on Staline's chest is both pretty funny and weird. This card shows the main issues often brought up by The Devil: enslavement, addiction, fear, domination, danger etc.
- The deck is so easy to read! Each card focuses on just a figure and is right on point. There is little background information, not many details and secondary scenes. This can help beginners focus on the main messages of each card without being confused by an artist's addition or interpretation that would come on top of the basic knowledge of Tarot.
The minor arcana of the Tarot of St. Petersburg is worth buying it alone. The illustrations are so clear. So gorgeous too. Each card of the minor arcana tells a simple story, largely based on the Rider Waite Smith deck. You can use them to go very, very deep in your interpretation.
To conclude: the St. Petersburg deck is a precious addition to your collection. It can be used by advanced and beginners readers alike and there will always be something new to discover. The only tiny flaw of this deck, to me, is the size of the actual illustrations as the golden background takes a lot of space on each card. I prefer larger formats. But this is totally subjective and that size may work well for others.