Blog, Decks, Reviews

Deck Review: Sharman-Caselli Tarot

Sharman-Caselli Tarot Deck
Connections Book Publishing, 2005
Rating: 2 Decks

The first thing I noticed about this deck was how pink it is. Yes, you heard me… pink. The backs are a bright, solid pink with a single silver rectangle printed near the edges. This brightness comes wrapped in a really nice box that includes a companion booklet. This tarot deck tries so hard to prove that it is THE beginner’s tarot deck that pink seems to be the only thing it accomplishes.

The Sharman-Caselli Tarot follows the Rider-Waite formula but it also borrows “some of its imagery from the earliest decks, such as the Visconti-Sfzora.” The cards are printed on a thick card-stock with no protective finish. Shuffling was difficult, as the cards are stiff, but time and use will loosen them up. The Sharman-Caselli uses a thematic approach with color and symbols tied throughout each suite that help “beginners identify which suit a particular card belongs to and [how] to connect each suit to its element.” The artwork is rich in detail, and features a “line and wash” style. Sadly, the artwork does not evoke much passion from me. If I set this deck down next to one of my other decks, the vibrancy of the other cards just make the art in The Sharman-Caselli deck look flat.

The companion booklet (aka LWB, or “little white book”) gives a short and informative introduction to tarot before going into the meanings of the major and minor arcana. Each card has a half-page dedicated to it. This includes a thumbnail image of the card, a bulleted list of symbols and what they represent, and ends with a one or two word thematic summary for each card (such as “generosity and strength” for the Queen of Wands). A sample reading done with the 5-card “Horseshoe Spread” closes out the booklet.

When I opened the box for the first time things got a bit wonky. The deck was out of order when I received it, so I wanted to put it back into suit order. None of the major arcana have numbers on them, so I wasn’t sure where to place “Justice” and “Strength.” When I referenced the LWB it told me that “Justice” came first. Okay, so it seems that this deck follows Crowley more in with its order and meaning. No worries there. But, after Justice comes Temperance, then Strength, then The Hermit, and then the Wheel of Fortune, followed by Hanged Man and Death. Wait, what?! These cards, number 8-14, appear in an order that I have never seen before. It’s like they completely revised the Fool’s Story for this deck. I know that many decks like to revise the major arcana card orders to suggest how we can interpret the stages of life, but this deck radically changes the order without spending time on the why. Even the LWB doesn’t clue me into why this order came to be. Was it a mistake or intentional? I guess the world will never know.

I typically review decks using three questions:

1.What can I learn from you?
The Four of Cups practically leapt from the deck for this question. It tells me that I cannot learn anything from it because my dislike for this deck obscures whatever insight the cards could offer.

2. What is your speciality?
I then drew the Five of Swords. To which the cards say that their specialty is showing people their limits and victories.

3. How does your personality differ from other decks?
Finally, I drew the Six of Pentacles, and the deck said that what sets it apart is a balanced and generous approach to symbolism. A fairly accurate reading, definitely spot on with the answer to my first question.

Bottom Line
Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this deck to anyone. (Although I may use this deck in an altered art collaboration project.) The box’s backside claims that “this deck has been specifically created for the first-time tarot user.” I disagree. I do prefer the Rider Waite meanings over Crowley’s but to have so many of the bigger secret cards out of order just seems like it would confuse any new-to-tarot student. The images, while nicely drawn, fall flat and fail to keep my attention drawn into the symbolism. And the LWB, while being focused more on the symbolism meanings, doesn’t give enough of a range of interpretation for each card. I’m still left wanting to recommend beginners look at the Universal Waite or Robin Wood decks first.

Postnote: I did check other online reviews to see others said about The Sharman-Caselli Tarot. What I found surprised me. This deck was once offered in a 192-page book and deck set and had been consistently given high review marks. However, not many reviewers mention the backs or the strange ordering of the 7 cards noted in this review. Reading what others said makes me wonder if my low rating and review is a result of this printing and edition only.