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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.

Oswald Wirth Facsimile Decks by Marco Benedetti

For the first and last time on this blog I’m reviewing a deck by a DFO (Dead French Occultist). I usually run out of the room when someone starts in about Kabbalistic associations with tarot (it’s a personal hang-up). But I know a gorgeous deck when I see one. Marco Benedetti’s gold foil edition of Wirth’s 1926 deck is pure magic. Read more

I Tarocchi Marco Benedetti: An Homage to the Visconti-Sforza Deck

I came across this deck on The Gamecrafter while looking for something else and was immediately taken by the graceful, clean lines and minimalist design. The deck designer, Marco Benedetti, is not an artist, although he’s had architectural training, and this is the only thing he’s ever created. The deck is based closely on the Pierpont Morgan Bergamo Visconti-Sforza deck (V-S) with plenty of quirky personal touches, since it was never the creator’s intention to simply redraw the V-S deck.

Benedetti’s goal was to return to the roots of tarot and strip it of the extraneous occult symbols that had been laid on over the centuries. He believes that any symbolism should be implicit in the overall design, so he made his drawings simple and ambiguous to keep the viewer’s imagination from being imprisoned by specific images. Read more

Trzes’ Mamluk Deck: The Granddaddy of European Playing Cards

In 1931, Leo Mayer discovered a nearly complete deck of medieval playing cards in the Topkapi Museum of Istanbul, giving the world solid proof that European playing cards originated in the Islamic world. With its ornate design and gold accents, this deck is comparable to the hand-painted, gold-embellished decks that were the rage among Italian aristocracy in the mid-15th century.

The Trzes deck is a modern reconstruction based closely on the original, with fifteen reconstructed cards. The booklet says it’s “a recreation from scratch that makes use of the original design principles…the cards the Mamluk people might have produced, had they access to modern technology, such as vector graphics software or modern printing devices.” Read more

Tarocchi di Besançon Miller 1780

When we think of the Tarot de Marseille (TdM), France usually comes to mind. But the game of tarot was played throughout Europe, with locally printed decks that had their own unique touches. Giordano Berti has recently produced facsimiles of two German Tarot de Marseille decks. The Tarocchi Miller is a Besançon-style deck where the Pope and Papesse are replaced with Jupiter and Juno. Read more

Tarot des Aux Arcs

The deck’s name had me puzzled for a while. It looks French but makes no sense in that language. Then I checked out the creator’s website — Aux Arcs in French is pronounced Ozark, the mountains where the artist lives. Read more

Tarot Hes 1750

When we think of historic tarot decks, the French Tarot de Marseille and early Italian decks quickly come to mind. But I’m ashamed to say that in my nearly twenty years of deck collecting it never occurred to me to think about German tarot decks. Read more

The Budapest Tarot Recreated by Sullivan Hismans

In the 1440s, you could go to the store and buy a pack of cards for playing the popular new game of Trionfi. What did those cards look like? Did they resemble our familiar tarot cards? We can’t be sure because not a single printed tarot deck survives from the 15th century. All we have are a handful of gold-covered cards commissioned by wealthy aristocrats. Luxury decks like the Visconti-Sforza prove that by the mid-1400s tarot decks had 78 cards including our familiar twenty-two trump cards. But we don’t know how closely these luxury decks resembled cards printed for the masses. Read more

Golden Decks of the Fifteenth Century: The Visconti di Modrone and Brera-Brambilla Tarocchi

Nearly two decades ago, Il Meneghello of Milan gave us the best facsimile available of the 1450 Visconti-Sforza deck. Now they’ve outdone themselves by producing facsimiles of the two earliest trionfi/tarocchi decks we know of — luxurious gold-covered cards created for the Duke of Milan in the early 1440s. Il Meneghello printed the Visconti di Modrone deck in 2015 and 2017, and released a book in 2018. The Brera-Brambilla deck was published in the summer of 2018 with its accompanying book available in September. Read more

Untold Tarot by Caitlín Matthews – Book Review

This book is destined to become a classic, along with books on the same topic by the likes of Jodorowsky and Ben Dov (to whom the book is dedicated). Three kinds of people need this book:

  • People who are curious about reading with the Tarot de Marseille (TdM) or other historic decks, but are put off by the thought of reading cards that don’t have fully illustrated scenes.
  • People who dove into intuitive reading feet-first and now feel the need for grounding in systematic study.
  • People like me who have been immersed in historic decks for years and think they know just about everything. The book gives lots of new techniques to try as well as fresh insights into the cards.

Read more

I Tarocchi di Valentina Visconti per il Palio d’Asti

Acquiring this hard-to-find deck inspired me to get acquainted with Valentina Visconti and learn about the chapter of her life depicted in these cards.

In 1389, Valentina set out in a magnificent procession from Milan to France to meet her husband Louis, Duke of Orléans, brother of the mad king of France, Charles VI. They had been married in a proxy ceremony two years before, but meeting in person was delayed while Valentina’s father, the Duke of Milan, scraped together her extremely expensive dowry. The procession stopped in the town of Asti to spend five days enjoying the Palio (horse races). Read more