On the Box: The 1JJ Swiss Tarot Deck is reprinted in full colour from woodcuts based upon original tarot designs.
Complete with Instruction Brochure by Stuart R. Kaplan, America's Leading Tarot Authority. This deck is complete with 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana Cards. The four suits of the Minor Arcana cards are Swords, Batons, Cups and Coins.
Pack Information: Complete with 78 cards and a 10 page mini booket.
Size of Cards: 111 x 61 mm
Minor Arcana Cards Individually Illustrated? No
Staff Review by Brett Almond
The IJJ deck is a reproduction of an 1860 woodcut deck and was the first deck that US Games (a major Tarot card manufacturer) published. All descriptions were written in French but in this deck are translated into English. The minor arcana (ie. numbers 1-10 of the four suits) are what is often termed "pip" cards, ie. they do not have individual pictorial illustrations (they show just the number of cups, wands, swords or pentacles), which in my view makes them unsuitable for complete beginners. The major arcana and court cards are illustrated but they do lack the symbolism and visual cues that many more modern decks contain.
The IJJ is one of the better known "historical" decks and still remains popular today.
Guest Review by Vernon Marshall
I was very surprised when I received this Tarot deck. I expected something new as it is a deck with which I was not hitherto familiar. It is not a new deck at all but a slight variation of the classic Tarot de Marseilles with reprints of original woodcut images. Unfortunately, there is no reference to the origins of the deck except a title on the box that refers to “1JJ Swiss Tarot Cards” which are apparently “Made in Belgium!”
This deck is in English though there is a chart in the instruction booklet indicating the original French names of the cards. The cards of the Major Arcana, not surprisingly, show characters in mediaeval costumes and cards of bright colours. The cards of the Minor Arcana depict no real pictures of anything except the objects stated by the cards in question. In other words, the Nine of Cups, for example, will carry a picture of nine cups, pure and simple, although there is a lot of fancy decorative artwork too. This deck is harking back to a period in Tarot history long before the explosion of the many decks inspired by the innovations of the Rider-Waite deck in 1910 with its detailed pictures on the Minor Arcana cards. This deck has similar characteristics to the Classic Tarot. The pictures are not identical but they are similar and they have something of the same quality of artwork. Curiously, the Two of Pentacles in the two decks bear the same words, “Fabrique de Cartes Schaffhouse.” This is no doubt a reference to a card-producing company in the Swiss canton of Schaffhausen, thus suggesting that the cards are Swiss as indicated by the title on the box, “The 1JJ Swiss Tarot Cards.”
The cards are attractive if you are inspired by classical imagery. They are of standard size and are thus easy to handle. I miss the artwork of the Minor Arcana in more modern decks so I do find it a struggle to find the inspiration to interpret these cards. With help, however, they are as good as any other deck for any experienced Tarot user. The pictures are standard and traditional and will ring many bells for the Classical Tarot aficionado. That last point is important, however. I would suggest that this is not an easy deck for a beginner or for anyone who enjoys the much more detailed symbolism of modern decks. Nor have I found this Tarot deck a useful tool for meditation or for one-card readings. The box does, however, refer to the cards as a “Fortune-Telling deck.”
The biggest issue I have with this deck is the poor quality of the instruction sheet. In two places on the box it says, “complete with instruction(s).” The booklet, however, is very basic. It is not a book, so can avoid the criticism of being compared with the notorious “little white books” or LWBs that strive to explain so much with so little space. The instructions here are on a sheet of paper folded over to give us ten pages. It is not the style of presentation of the information that is the problem, however. There are no instructions on how to interpret the Minor Arcana cards, yet it is precisely these cards, with their limited artwork, that would necessarily require more help. Beginners are advised to use only the Major Arcana cards at first and then to obtain a copy of a book by Stuart R. Kaplan which is, we are told, “the only complete and authentic guide to the spreading and interpretation of the popular 1JJ deck.” I know that when I was first struggling with my Tarot cards, many years ago, I was bewildered by the Minor Arcana cards of my classical deck and I needed every bit of help I could get. To be told that I needed another book in order to get going would have been a bit of an off-putter.
The instructions for the Major Arcana are a little inadequate also. There is a brief chart with just a few words as suggested meanings. For example, the Hermit Card, Number 9, gives us the following: “Prudence. Withdrawal. Circumspection. Caution. Solicitude.” That is all that is offered. The other cards are treated similarly, with no complete sentences or nuances explained, just a little collection for each card of one word explanatory meanings. There is also only one spread detailed in the instruction booklet, an unnamed ten-card spread to be used only by reading cards from the Major Arcana. The beginner could also be a little confused about the occasional reference to the “Greater Arcana.” I am certain that that is just an alternative title for the Major Arcana but I am not sure that a beginner should be faced with such a potential cause of perplexity. It seems that poor quality proof reading was responsible for such an obvious stumbling block to comprehension.
I acknowledge that I do sound somewhat negative about this deck. That is not quite the reality, however. I know that there are many users of the Tarot that find inspiration in the archetypal figures that have been of value for hundreds of years. It was a classical deck that got me started many years ago and I do feel that more Tarot experts could do well to go back to their roots from time to time. It is important as we experiment with more and more new and imaginative decks to remember what the old Tarot looked like and the culture surrounding its usage. It is also sometimes a tendency to get carried away with the symbolism on more modern card decks and a simpler deck can allow for more space to free oneself from modern day images. This deck is quite appropriate for divination for experienced users. For the less experienced it is also appropriate if a good Tarot book is used as well. I have many Tarot decks on my shelf but I have always made sure that a more traditional deck features amongst the collection. The 1JJ Swiss Tarot Deck serves that purpose well.
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