Interviewing Christine Cianci, creator of The Roman Tarot.

My dearest readers,

As a passionate historian, I cannot help by being in awe with The Roman Tarot deck. The perfect mixture of my two passions, history and divination, all in one place, with not only exquisite artwork but also historical rigour. A delight for the senses, including the sixth!

Let me introduce you the artist, Christine Cianci, a very talented and witty woman! I hope you all enjoy the interview and her artwork as much as I do.

Q – What inspired you to create this deck?

C.C – “As a child, my favorite reading material was Greek and Roman mythology and mysticism, an interest that has continued throughout my life.  I became interested in the history of the occult in my early teens, and began reading tarot when I was 15.  I actually started designing a standard deck in my teens, (I think I still have the watercolor sketches!) then abandoned it as too big a project for me at the time, but the idea stayed with me.  My paintings and sculptures are heavily inspired by my lifelong love affair with mythology, history and symbolism, and so the idea for a tarot deck was always in the back of my mind.”


Q – Why Ancient Rome?

C.C – “I began getting interested in world history in my twenties, with a particular interest in Italy and ancient Rome, possibly because of my Italian ancestry.  By my forties I had read many of the roman classics available in English translation and was a dyed-in-the-wool Roman history dork.  It’s not that I think the Romans were good people to be adulated, but their love of education, science and philosophy as being part of their society is what I feel to be the testament to their “greatness”.  Without them, the world most likely would have lost a lot of the ancient Greek culture that the Romans emulated and encompassed.   For instance, many of the sculptures we have today from Rome are Roman copies of Greek originals that have been lost or destroyed. Their approach to life was so very practical, prosaic perhaps in comparison to the Athenian ideal, but admirable to me for its adherence to the realities of life, its reverence for history as a teacher and its cohesiveness as a state.  When I decided that I was ready to begin a tarot deck, there was really no question what it would be – and it so happens to be the only Roman inspired deck, so that was a bonus!”


The Moon from The Roman Tarot by Christine Cianci.

Q – Did you do some kind of historic research? 

C.C – “I did EXTENSIVE research.  As I mentioned, I am a Roman history geek, so I have almost all the primary sources for Roman history in my library at home (My husband is a history dork too!).  But first off, I looked at my interpretations (as a reader of the tarot) for each card and made extensive notes about what I felt each meant to me.  Then I looked at how I would represent each card using Roman symbology.  For instance, in choosing the personalities for the Kings/Queens/Knight/Page  I chose a period of time for each suit that I thought best represented the temperament of the suit – The Flavian family in the Sword (Gladii) suit (Vespasian, his son Titus, and their Jewish biographer, Josephus as the page) were the ones that built the Colosseum, that conquered Jerusalem and Masada, and Vespasian became emperor during the year of the 3 emperors, winning out over the other 2 – A time of great conflict and many wars.  The background of all the cards in this suit is black.  The swords are historically correct, as are the clothes, and the faces are taken from extant portrait busts of Vespasian, Titus and Josephus (except for the imperatrix, instead of his wife, I chose Vespasians life long love, Canis, who was a freedwoman and as such was beneath his class so he couldn’t marry her by law, for whom no image exists- I used a famous female portrait from the same time period as her image.) Each of the major tarot was gone over in detail as to what would have existed at the time.  Even the first card, Baro (the fool), yes, I used my own little dog as the model but -Maltese dogs were very popular in Ancient Rome, and are one of the most ancient dog breeds. (just for the record though, while I love him to pieces, he is possibly the most annoying dog in the world…)

In short, I researched every detail, from the style of cup in the Scythi suit, to the scroll ends on the scrolls seen, to the floor on the Iustita card which can be seen in the Curia in the Roman forum still today.”


“It’s not that I think the Romans were good people to be adulated, but their love of education, science and philosophy as being part of their society is what I feel to be the testament to their “greatness”. “

Best, damn, sentence.

Q – What kind of audience would be the most pleased with this deck?

C.C. – “My hope was that by keeping the way that the archetypes are portrayed still close enough to the standard Rider-Waite deck as to be recognizable, that the deck would be easier to read than say, the Dali deck, which while stunning and a cherished part of my collection, I find impossible to read.  I think there are some decks made by artists that are gorgeous, and collectible for their beauty and ways of depicting concepts, but because they are focused on their unique artistic vision, the purpose of the final deck being usable for the purpose of reading can sometimes suffer in my opinion – the imagery doesn’t trigger the same thoughts in me that it did in the artist.  I really tried hard to balance purpose with vision in the creation of this deck.  That being said, I would hope that the deck might appeal to lovers of history, Roman fans of course, and those who might enjoy the artistic appeal of the images themselves; but also hope it proves to be a readable deck for a wider audience of tarot readers/collectors.”


Q – What was your intention when creating the deck?

C.C. – “Since I’ve had this idea for most of my life, I would say partially to say “There!  I’ve finally done it!”  Seriously though, I wanted to create a deck that I would be proud of, something that was uniquely my work inspired by serious study of both the Tarot, and Roman culture. “


The Lovers from The Roman Tarot by Christine Cianci

Q – What do you think is its purpose?

C.C. – “For this answer I’m going to quote from the introduction of the book I’m writing to accompany the deck, (which I’ve been such a slacker on finishing!!!)

“…it is my belief – and I realize this may be heresy to include in a book about the tarot – that whatever props/tools one uses in divination, when one “parts the veil”, it is really the diviner reading directly from the questor; the tool, whichever one the diviner has chosen, forms a focal point or guide to use to channel “knowledge” from one human to another like an electrical conduit.  In the case of the tarot, the cards can provide a structured pictorial language to express the mental impressions gleaned from the questor.”

A little spooky/occulty perhaps, but I do feel that the Tarot is like a map.  It has to be readable, with symbols that people recognize to get them where they are trying to go.  In the case of divination, they are trying to get to what is inside their questor that shows the various possibilities/consequences of the question laid before them.  But just like maps can be beautiful, and some are more useful to their purpose than others, so too the Tarot.”

As you can see, an amalgame of knowledge, research, talent and work lead to the creation of a masterpiece. And now, the artist herself interviews her own deck. Don’t miss it!


Christine asks and The Roman tarot answers.


Q – What is my essence?

A – “My essence is history and symbology.  Humans have long used the language of symbolism to interpret the world that they see, and explain the mysteries of the past.  As a tarot deck my essence is to reflect symbols to help you the reader see the answers to the querent’s query more clearly.”


Q – What can you learn from me?

A – “Hopefully you will learn from this deck that while the language of symbolism evolves, it can still be read in any given period; symbolism is an overarching language bridging times and places allowing history to speak to the present.”


Imperator Thyrsi (King of Wands) from The Roman Tarot by Christine Cianci.

Q – What kind of answers am I better at providing?

A – “This deck was designed around the deeper questions of the querent’s life, rather than current relationship status or timing of arrival of a tall dark stranger.”


Q – What is my approach?

A – “The approach of this deck is the story of the Fool’s journey through the major arcana, the story of awakening to becoming a more enlightened human.  Understanding the importance of where one has been (history) where one is and where one wants to go.  The foundation of this is understanding history, the history of who we are, and who we were.”


Q – How can I make you grow as a reader?

A – “Growing as a reader is really about practice.  If you practice with me, your experience will grow as the symbols and images become familiar.”


As a last word, I would like to thank Christine for her collaboration, it’s been a pleasure and so is working with your deck. Personally I considered that most if not basically all of the decks with an ancient theme in the market do have a more mythical centered themed, on the contrary, The Roman Tarot is a delight for any historian or History lover and I feel lucky of having discovered this amazing deck, which in fact happened quite randomly.

As a general review about the deck on its most physical aspect I have to say that the card stock is pretty thick although not uncomfortable to shuffle. It is a tad bit shorter than a standard deck and a tad bit wider, the cards have a glossy finish and the quality of the impression is pretty good. The back of the cards depict the four objects assigned to each of the four suits surrounded by a crown of bay-leaf, definitely a victory!

You can find out more about Christine’s artwork at her website.

And you can add an unforgettable piece of art to your Tarot collection here.

Have a great week!

Mia Alviz

My name is Mia Alviz and I declare myself "tarobsessed". I live in Spain, from where I make a living out of my passion: Tarot. With a taste for traditional European divination and crystal healing, my aim as a professional is to provide my querents with honest, meaningful and empowering insight as well as building a legacy into the Tarot Community.

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