Categorized | Nonfiction, Reviews

Gothic Tarot Compendium Review

Posted on January 24, 2008 by Monica Valentinelli

Available at

Written by Joseph Vargo and Joseph Iorillo

Illustrated by Joseph Vargo

This book is a complement to the The Gothic Tarot from Monolith Graphics. For those of you who research the occult for your writing or own interest, this compendium has everything you need to get the most out of this unusual deck.

Having read quite a few “compendiums” and “how-to” guides, some take a very emotionally-filled and visual approach, to tap into and encourage your belief in this form of divination. For me, I am attracted to a more pragmatic approach because I primarily use or research these tools for my writing. In my opinion, neither method is “bad” or “good” for, like all books, it depends upon what you want to get out of it.

I feel that this Gothic Tarot Compendium is really somewhere in the middle. Two essays at the beginning of the book were nice to see, for it removes some of the common myths surrounding the tarot and brings us back to reality.

The use of the Tarot as a means to predict a person’s future began in the late 1700s, when the occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette, also known as Etteilla, published a collection of divinatory meanings for Tarot cards, as well as ordinary playing cards.

Like much of our common mythological and magical beliefs today, most tropes originate from the Victorian era and the Tarot is not an exception. Highly romanticized by occultists of the age, Vargo and Ioriollo include the claims that the Tarot deck originated from Egypt and politely dispel those myths, citing that “There is no definitive archaeological evidence that ties the Tarot to ancient Egypt, nor is there evidence for any of the other theories that subsequently emerged regarding the Tarot’s origin.” In this way, Vargo and Ioriollo set the tone for the rest (and majority) of the compendium, setting the stage for a work that demands respect whether you’re a casual reader like myself, or a series student of this Art.

Illustrated by Vargo in his signature style, full color plates are devoted to each and every card in the deck. For each entry, a two-line synopsis of the card is at the top of the page, with a full divinatory meaning following in both bolded and expanded text. The third part of the entry is, to me, the most fascinating portion, for it describes in full detail every aspect of many of the cards from an artist’s perspective. Many Tarot card readers believe in creating a connection with the cards and, with as unusual as this deck is, the full descriptions give great explanations of the choice behind Vargo’s images and unique style to help connect the reader with the images in order to tap into his (or her) intuition.

At the end of the book, Vargo and Ioriollo offer a few tarot card “spreads” with instructions on how to read them. I felt that the spreads were good layouts, appropriate to the theme of the cards. There wasn’t a lot of commentary about the cards “entertainment value” or “warnings” related to actual readings and, for that reason, I feel that this Compendium is really for more serious Tarot card readers or for researchers like myself. Truthfully, though, not many guidebooks do; to take a light-hearted approach to such a dark-themed set would be a discredit to the artist and creator of The Gothic Tarot.

Whether or not you own the set, The Gothic Tarot Compendium can be purchased as a stand-alone work. With as unusual as this set is, I recommend the Compendium so you can truly appreciate Vargo’s works of art.

Visit for more information on the Gothic Tarot and other works.

Tags | , ,

Print This Post

2 Responses to “Gothic Tarot Compendium Review”

  1. Bebe says:

    Are the images of the cards in full color? Many other reviews say the book is in black and white only. I am looking to buy this book and will be disappointed if the plates at not in color.

  2. Monica says:

    The book is in black-and white, which matches many of the cards. The deck is primarily in two colors per card, with many of the cards displaying a black-and white image.

Leave a Reply

Email Newsletter Sign Up

Click Here to Sign Up for's Weekly Newsletter.

You will receive horror and dark fantasy updates, news, and more once a week!

11 Tales of Ghostly Horror

    Reviews Wanted!

    The new Review Guidelines have been posted on the Flames Rising website. We are currently seeking a few good reviewers to help us expand our collection of horror and dark fantasy reviews. RPGs, fiction, movies, video games and more are all welcome on the site...

    What do you get out of it?

    Beyond helping out fellow Flames Rising readers by letting them know what you think of these products, we're giving away some pretty cool stuff. Regular Reviewers can earn free products to review, which is their to keep after the review is submitted to the site.

    Note: We are especially looking for folks interested in reviewing eBooks (both Fiction & Comics). We have lots of great titles in digital format and even get advance copies sometimes.

    Use the Contact Page to submit reviews or let us know if you have any questions.

    The Devil’s Night WoD SAS

    Free Devil's Night | White Wolf