A Tarot de Marseille Book for Everyone
The Tarot: A Strange and Wondrous Thing by Annette Wakulenko will give you a solid foundation for reading cards with the Tarot de Marseille (TdM). The card meanings, spreads and exercises in this book are the result of the author’s many years of devoted study. The author’s mission is to introduce tarot readers to the TdM and show a method for interpreting the cards, especially the pips, that does not rely on the Golden Dawn system. The book is written in a conversational style that feels like receiving one-on-one mentoring from an experienced teacher.
This book accompanies the Triad Tarot reviewed here. If you use her square deck, it will add layers of meaning to the keywords in the deck’s booklet. But you don’t need the square tarot deck to use this book. If you want some structure to your tarot studies, especially when it comes to the pips, this might be just the book for you.
The Trumps (Major Arcana)
This section of the book begins with a three-step process for getting acquainted with each card using all your senses plus creative writing. The section ends with a method for working with your “card of the day” that’s especially good for people who prefer working with their cards in the evening. The author discusses the symbolism and details in each trump card and gives a broad range of meanings. Her understanding of the cards is obviously gleaned from extensive study; but we aren’t spoon fed her subjective interpretations.
Be sure to work with the pictures of her square cards where you have to turn the book upside-down to read some of the meanings. Her Triad deck is designed so the trump cards can be turned at random in four directions. The card meanings have different nuances depending on how the figure on the card is facing: right-side-up, upside-down, face-down, or on its back face-up.
The keywords surrounding the picture will give you a range of meanings. For instance, the Juggler right-side-up is about knowledge, skill, dexterity, communication and career, among other things. Upside-down, these optimal qualities are distorted into workaholism, dislike of one’s career, using skills destructively, and blocked opportunities. When the Juggler is on his back face-up he’s hesitant, inexperienced and distracted. Face-down he feels trapped, bored, unfulfilled and just going through the motions. No matter what deck you use, this range of meanings could be applicable, depending on the context and the surrounding cards.
The Pips (Number Cards)
This is a complete system rooted in the 19th-century German philosophic system of Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis that was explained in great detail by Papus in Tarot of the Bohemians. This book strips away all the esotericism that made Papus’ system overly complicated, and is presented in a fresh, contemporary way.
The pip cards are divided into three sets of three:
Ace-2-3: Commencement – something is asserted, claimed, begun.
4-5-6: Opposition – Resistance, complications, blocks (either internal or external).
7-8-9: Equilibrium – A final resolution which could involve refinement or compromise.
10: revision and integration.
Each set of three cards also has these three designations. So, 3 is the Equilibrium of the Commencement; 4 is the Commencement of the Opposition; and 8 is the Equilibrium of the Equilibrium. The 40 pip cards are given complete descriptions showing how all of this works in the real world. In the Triad deck each set of three pips is on one card, so reading the keywords means turning the book different ways. Each card also gets a paragraph with more layers of meaning.
I’ve been studying the TdM intensely for nearly 20 years and am very comfortable reading with the number cards. But this book is teaching me even more ways to interpret them. For instance, I’ve always seen the Four of Rods as strong but somewhat static – a solid launching pad for moving into the complications of Five. This book gives me some more meanings I really like: resistance to change, a desire to maintain the status quo, clinging to outmoded traditions. All of these relate to this card as the Beginning of the Opposition in the book’s system.
As with the Major Arcana, you don’t need her deck and you don’t need to buy into this three-fold system. The card meanings work with any TdM.
There’s an immature Page and dynamic Knight, both gender-neutral; and a mature man and woman. They experience and act through the energy of their corresponding suits. The card meanings are in line with most TdM books and will give you additional ideas for interpreting these cards.
How to Read the Cards
Most books cram spreads and reading tips into the back with a few words of advice and a handful of spreads. This topic is nearly half the book. The author walks you through how to conduct an in-person reading. There are loads of spreads and tips for how to recognize patterns and repetitions between cards, with many illustrated examples.
- Discussion of the color schemes in various TdM decks and an explanation of the color symbolism in her deck.
- Her philosophy of how card reading works.
- The symbolism of numbers 1 to 10 and how these numbers correlate to the first 10 trump cards.
- A system I’ve never seen before that takes into consideration that everyone has their own ideas about how to designate elements, seasons, etc. to the suits. With her charts, you can mix and match to customize your own keywords for each suit. I’m going to read her charts carefully; and I may end up changing my familiar associations.
- An annotated and opinionated list of decks and books.
- Footnotes and an index that can also serve as a bibliography and a list of online resources.
This book should go on your shelf alongside all the other notable TdM books in English. It’s comprehensive and serious. If you want to up your game with a mind-bending experience, try reading with her square Triadic Tarot, reviewed here.
Purchasing the book is charmingly low-tech (I’m old enough to appreciate this). Go to her website, download an order form, and mail it in with a check.
Her website has a lot of TdM resources, including links to deck creators, tutorials on her reading method and sample readings. https://arcanapress.net/