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Published August 01, 2023 Updated September 04, 2023

Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights (1001 Nights Tarot)

This tarot deck captures the idealised Eastern world's magic from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, blending traditional archetypes with mystery and romantic allure. It celebrates the legendary Scheherazade and Eastern mysticism.

2005 Egypt India Iran Lo Scarabeo Leon Carré Arabic Art & Design Fantasy Myths & Legends Orientalism Tarot Add to Collection

The Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights", curated by Pietro Alligo and released by Lo Scarabeo in 2005, builds upon the striking work of early-twentieth-century French Orientalist artist Leon Carré. Carré's illustrations for the esteemed book “Thousand and One Nights” also know as "The Arabian Nights", or Alf laylah wa laylah in Arabic illuminate these cards, portraying the magical Eastern world once romanticised by eighteenth-century European nobility.

The box, with the caption Scheherazade, Aladdin, Sinbad, and Ali Baba are characters of A Thousand and One Nights, where they pursue adventure, magic, poetry and eroticism.

Above: the box, with the caption: "Scheherazade, Aladdin, Sinbad, and Ali Baba are characters of A Thousand and One Nights, where they pursue adventure, magic, poetry and eroticism."

A selection of cards from the Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights. The Seven of Pentacles showing a dockside market, the Ace of Swords showing a flying four-poster bed, and Harun al Rashid Khalifah of Baghdad as the Emperor

Above: a selection of cards from the Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights. The Seven of Pentacles showing a dockside market, the Ace of Swords showing a flying four-poster bed, and Harun al Rashid Khalifah of Baghdad as the Emperor

Inspired by the Near Eastern oral traditions, the cards reflect the legendary stories narrated by Scheherazade, a cunning Persian queen. These narratives, spun out over 1,001 nights, captivated a Persian king, saving her life, and ultimately leading to his love for her. The tales include famous narratives such as Sinbad's voyages, Ali Baba and Aladdin. Translated into English by Richard Francis Burton in the nineteenth century, they became a staple of Victorian society's reading list.

The major arcana of the deck features mythical elements like dragons, winged beings, giant snakes and flying thrones. In contrast, the minor suits (Chalices, Wands, Swords, and Pentacles) display everyday scenes such as landscapes, inns, fishermen and merchant ships.

Interestingly, the depictions of human figures on these cards stand in contrast to the historical Mamluk cards, which did not feature people due to Islamic prohibition on human depictions in artwork.

While the primary attraction of this deck is its striking artwork rather than its divinatory aspect, the reinterpretation of traditional archetypes adds an intriguing depth. The detailed, rich artwork infuses the tarot reader with an essence of Arabian mystery and romantic allure, connecting them with the sensual delights of the Eastern world.


Major Arcana

Minor Arcana: Chalices (Cups)

Minor Arcana: Pentacles

Minor Arcana: Swords

Minor Arcana: Wands


References

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By Adam Wintle

Member since March 15, 1997

Adam has been involved in developing the site as well as reviewing new decks and conducting research. He is particularly interested in innovation, Kickstarter and East Asian cards. He is a member of the IPCS and webmaster of the EPCS.


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