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Hello, and welcome to my blog. This is where I’ll share book reviews, my favorite tarot decks, tidbits of tarot history, and some ideas I’m working on that combine tarot and astrology. I’ll also bring you news and reviews about Italian books and websites. Please explore the other pages on this site for in-depth articles on tarot history and tips on reading with historic decks.

Tarocchi Visconti Sforza by Il Meneghello

I already have three full-sized facsimiles of the Visconti-Sforza deck. So when I came across yet another version, published by Il Meneghello in 1996, I wrestled with temptation for a couple of weeks before succumbing. I’m very glad temptation won out because this deck is the best of the lot.

I compared this deck with my other three: Dal Negro, USGames 1984 and USGames 2015 (with portraits of Francesco and Bianca Sforza on extra cards). Read more

From My Bookshelf: Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France

Are you ready for immersion in the electrifying atmosphere of pre-revolutionary Paris? Etteilla, Cagliostro and de Gebelin flourished in this era of scientific marvels, crackpot inventions and magnetic healing. Pseudo-science, alchemy, astrology, and fantasies of the Golden Age swirled about uncritically in the public mind. In this atmosphere, stories of golden tablets under the pyramids inscribed with ancient wisdom didn’t seem the least bit implausible. Read more

The Cartomancer December 2016 Issue

This magazine just keeps getting better. The latest issue has several articles that especially intrigued me.

In the Tarot Art section, Monica Bodirsky’s Lucky Lenormand deck caught my eye. Its swirling, free form watercolor background appeals to me since I adore abstract art. Bodirsky appears twice more. Bonnie Cehovet reviewed her deck, then Bodirsky contributed an article on cartomancy, the proliferation of Lenormand decks, and the role imagery plays in a reading. Read more

Besançon Decks

As far as I know, there are only a few Besançon-style decks on the market. I’ll start my survey with the most affordable and accessible deck, a re-creation by Evalyne Hall. While translating the writings of Antoine Court de Gebelin and the Comte de Mellet (18th century French authors who were the first to link Tarot and Kaballah), she realized de Mellet used a Besançon deck. Since she didn’t have access to this type of deck, she created her own by lovingly re-drawing historic cards that reside in Paris in the Bibliothèque Nationale. Read more

From My Bookshelf: Courts and Courtly Arts in Renaissance Italy

If you want to immerse yourself in the world that gave us the Visconti-Sforza and Sola Busca decks, this book, subtitled Arts, Culture and Politics 1395 to 1530, will deliver.

Nothing was ever the same in Italian politics and society after Gian Galeazzo Visconti purchased the title of Duke from the Holy Roman Emperor in 1395. Other rulers soon followed suit: the Gonzaga of Mantua, Montefeltro of Urbino, d’Este of Ferrara and the rulers of Savoy.

Unlike a French or German aristocrat who could trace his pedigree back to Charlemagne, a newly-minted Italian duke did not have a divine right to rule. These parvenus were acutely aware of their modest origins as merchants or condottieri who had usurped civic power. They felt tremendous pressure to over-compensate by amassing a trophy art collection and building ostentatious palaces that were stage settings for elaborate ceremonies and festivals. Read more

Zoni Tarot de Marseille: Big and Small

I’ve just acquired the tiniest deck in my historical facsimile collection — a miniature version (1-1/8 x 2-¼ inches) of Il Meneghello’s reproduction of a TdM printed in Bologna in 1780 by Giacomo Zoni. Lo Scarabeo also publishes a facsimile. Shown above is a mini card superimposed on the Lo Scarabeo, which is a bit larger than Il Meneghello’s full-size version. Read more

Soprafino Death Card

When I saw this print on the Hyperallergic art blog, I immediately thought it must have been the inspiration for the Soprafino Death card (see below). The artist’s palette caught my eye first. Then I noticed so many other items the two images have in common: gold chains, a medallion, bishop’s hat, armor, a spear point and crown. I think I see the spine of a book near the far right edge of the print. The book isn’t nearly as prominent as on the card, but the stone tablet on the print sits in nearly the same location and tilted at the same angle as the Soprafino book. Read more

A Fifteenth Century Flemish Hunting Deck

While 15th-century Italian aristocrats were commissioning gilded and hand-painted tarot cards, aristocrats further north were doing the same with regular playing cards. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is offering a facsimile of the only complete playing card deck from the 15th century in existence. This deck is unique for several reasons: it’s Burgundian, it’s the oldest known deck of its type, and it’s oval-shaped. Read more

Tarocchi Orientali Foudraz

A collector recently discovered a trove of uncut sheets of tarot and playing cards that have been sitting in Turin’s archives of since the mid-19th century. Giordano Berti has given new life to one of these forgotten decks by transforming the black and white uncut sheets into the beautifully colored Tarocchi Orientali.

The deck was created by Claudio Foudraz, a lithographer working in Turin in the mid-19th century. As an all-purpose lithographer he printed business cards, invitations, ads and art prints. Foudraz’s tarot deck was useless for game playing because of mistakes in the numbering, which the current edition corrects, so it probably never reached the market. Read more

Tarocchi Fine dalla Torre

The Museo dei Tarocchi near Bologna, Italy has given us many highly creative art decks. Now they have produced an historically significant bolognese tarocchi based on an original that rests in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Bologna has its own unique tarot tradition that dates back to the early sixteenth century, and possibly earlier. The order of the trumps is slightly different, and pips two through five of each suit have been removed to make a shortened deck that was very popular for card games back then. Some trump cards have distinct imagery: the Fool as a street musician playing a drum and horn, the Three Magi on the Star card, and a woman with a spindle for the Sun are just a few examples. The Aces are very distinctive as well. In the early 18th century the deck took its present form when the Empress, Emperor, Papesse and Pope were changed into the four Moors and the trump and court cards became double-headed. Read more