John Bauer Tarot: Initial Thoughts

I received my copy of the John Bauer Tarot (published by Lo Scarabeo, Torino, Italy) in the mail last night and I’m opening the deck now at my office (it’s a slow morning in my Big Pharma world, LOL). John Bauer (1882-1918) was a Swedish painter and illustrator; a great deal of his work was informed by his love of his culture’s folklore, which obviously informs the artwork of this deck. (His work to me is similar to the English artist Arthur Rackham; they were contemporaries.)

Initial thoughts: The artwork is gloriously evocative and paradoxical: rich but muted in the color palette, with many images glimpsed but dimly by the pale glow of a campfire’s dying embers or sunlight squashed in the canopy of dense evergreens in Sweden.

I do wish, however, that the cards didn’t all have the same green color background–especially the suits of the Minor Arcana, as you really have to zero in on the graphic in the bottom of the middle of the card to know which suit you’re looking at. The Major Arcana is differentiated by use of Roman numerals.

I think I’m going to have to become better educated about Swedish folktales in order to more fully appreciate the symbolism of the artwork in order to give effective readings for myself and others. That being said, I’m more than happy with the assortment of trolls, tomte (house spirits), and sacred beasts (moose, bears, goats) I see before me to contentedly use the cards as part of altar decor to certain spirits.

Sound off: do any of you use this deck? Any Swedish readers care to chime in on some of the more visually obscure cards (like the 8 of Wands, 4th card from the top in the montage that follows)? I’d love to hear from you!

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