The Universal Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2002) is a RWS clone, and a very pretty one. The clothes worn have an elegant, Renaissance feel to them, and the artwork is accomplished. As such, the deck is both attractive and easy to read, while still offering its own nuances.
Take the Star: we have all the traditional elements of naked woman pouring water from two jugs, one into a pool, the other onto the ground. Also the tree in the background with an ibis, and a large eight-pointed star with seven more, smaller stars about it. Even the shape formed by the stars echoes the RWS image exactly, as does her foot resting on top of the water, as though it were a solid surface.
|Mini Rider Waite|
Yet there are differences. The woman is slimmer and somewhat more buxom, the ripples from the water she pours into the pool have not yet spread across the whole surface, there are red and yellow flowers about her, and the mountain behind her is snow-capped, suggesting greater height than the brown peak of the RWS. The jugs she holds are also more defined, with stripes around them, and the bird behind her is white instead of reddish brown.
And so the card offers very traditional readings while still leaving room for a particular element to jump out and offer a slightly different reading. The bird might highlight clarity in communication, or the mountain might speak of the breathlessness of spiritual heights that the Star is guiding us towards...
When we get to the Courts, there are a lot of differences. In part, this is due to the different clothing, which is so often a part of interpretations. For instance, the Queen of Cups strikes me as strange in a leopard-skin print cape. It may actually be some kind of shell, but I can't clearly tell, and from a distance I just see leopard-skin, which feels more Queen of Wands to me. And yet, that challenge to assumptions is always a good thing. Does this suggest the Queen of Cups has a somewhat soft shell over her emotions? And what of the fact that she doesn't have her feet in the water like the RWS version? Is she more grounded or more distant from her emotions? She still gazes into her cup, and has water all about her, yet there is also land in sight - she's not all at sea :)
The Aces are similar to the Majors, being far closer to traditional RWS imagery without many additions or changes. Yet even here, if we choose to dig into the details, there is no W/M on the cup, and instead there are little faces where the bowl of the cup meets the stem. We can see three faces, could these be the faces of the Goddess?
And our man in the Three of Wands stands behind a wall, instead of simply on a jut of land. Is he trapped by the projects he has set in motion? His foot rests on a stone: what will he trample to reach his goals? He gazes out over the sea, but there are no ships on the horizon. Will anything come of his actions?
I'm glad I was reminded of this deck. It is sufficiently RWS to be easy to read, yet it does offer its own voice. A good, workable deck!