Comparative Tarot and the Tarot de Marseilles
A comparative tarot reading starts as a short spread using two to five cards from a deck you’re familiar with. Once the spread is laid out, you add the same cards from one or more different decks to get an alternate view of the reading. If you’ve been over to the Cartomancy section and are still skeptical about reading with cards that lack illustrated scenes, this technique might help you. Do a spread with your favorite deck, then lay the corresponding cards from a Tarot de Marseilles deck under the original spread and look for ways the cards enhance each other’s meanings.
Let’s see this technique in action with a one-card reading for someone who has been dragging his feet on an important project and is wondering why it’s taking so long to accomplish anything. I pulled the Four of Cups from my favorite soprafino deck, then pulled out the corresponding card from a Tarot de Marseilles and Giovanni Vacchetta’s deck. (Complete deck information at the bottom of the page).
The four cups in the Soprafino deck are off in their own corners and not interacting with each other. The two little red flowers have their backs to us, while the large blue flowers are held protectively in the curved leaves and seem rather shy and afraid to come out in public. The large red bulb at the bottom of the stalk shows strong emotional energy, but I don’t see it being expressed in the rest of the card.
In the Tarot de Marseilles, the two upper cups are about to fly off the top of the card. The large leaves hovering protectively over the two lower cups seem to be stifling them and not letting anything in or out. The top and bottom of the card seem disconnected.
The woman on Vacchetta’s card is burdened with a huge bowl on her head and she seems to be responsible for three other overly-large vases or tureens. She either has too much of a good thing, or she’s taken on much more than she can handle.
Next, I look for a core message that unites all the cards. In these three cards I see emotional reticence and inhibition. But each card has its own angle that opens up various paths to explore. The soprafino card tells me the Seeker really wants to do this project but may be sabotaging himself out of fear of success. He may be afraid to expose his ideas to public scrutiny and is hanging onto them protectively. I see a lack of support from friends and colleagues in the Tarot de Marseilles. Vachetta’s deck suggests that the project is big and complicated and needs to be broken down into manageable chunks. The three voices with their diverse but complementary opinions offer plenty of inspiration for brainstorming solutions to the problem.
Do you see something different in these cards? Let us hear about it.
I love reading for myself with the comparative method when I have extra time to really contemplate the cards. It feels like brainstorming with several friends who are all focused on my issue with their own unique perspectives.
The comparative method of card reading was invented by Valeri Sim and discussed at length in her book Tarot Outside the Box published by Llewellyn in 2004. There’s a Yahoogroups discussion list dedicated to comparing the same cards from different decks, and a Comparative Tarot deck that gives you four cards in one for an instant comparative reading.
The three decks used in this reading were published by Lo Scarabeo:
Universal Tarot of Marseille (recoloring of Claude Burdel’s 1751 deck)
Ancient Italian Tarot (Soprafino tarot designed by Carlo Della Rocca in 1835)
Tarot of the Master (I Naibi di Giovanni Vacchetta, 1893)
Is anyone here on the Comparative Tarot list? I participated for several years until life got too hectic and I had to drop out. But I still miss the friendly, casual atmosphere.
If you try this technique, I’d love to hear how it works for you.