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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.

From My Bookshelf: Sigismondo Malatesta and the Italian Renaissance

Sigismondo Malatesta, bad boy of the Renaissance, gave us our first documented evidence for tarot. Researcher Franco Pratesi discovered a note in a Florentine account book dated September 16, 1440 saying a deck of naibi a trionfi had been sent to Malatesta that was beautiful, expensive and decorated with his arms. In 1452 he surfaced again in connection with tarot. Bianca, the Duchess of Milan, sent a note to her husband Francesco saying Malatesta was asking for the trionfi cards that were made in Cremona. Read more

Tarotforum RIP

Waves of shock and grief are rolling through a large segment of the tarot community in reaction to the announcement that www.tarotforum.net will be shut down as of July 14, 2017.  Since 2002, Tarotforum has been one of the largest and best-moderated communities on the internet. When Tarot_L on Yahoo shut down over a decade ago, Tarotforum became my go-to place for tarot history. I’m greatly relieved to learn that the forum will still exist in read-only form, so we won’t be losing its huge storehouse of information. Read more

Three New Tarot de Marseille Books

Things have certainly changed since I began reading with the TdM around the turn of the millennium. Back then there were no books in English on the subject; so I spent a fortune on shipping for a small collection of books in French. Since then there have been almost no other basic TdM books in English. I recently found three books that show the tide is turning. Read more

The Two Madenié Decks

If you bought the first edition of the Pierre Madenié deck produced by Yves Reynaud in 2013, do you need to get the second edition as well? Yes, you probably do.

Even though it’s my number one reading deck, I initially felt a second copy was an unnecessary indulgence. Besides, I was afraid the newer, cleaned-up version might be too pristine. I prefer historical facsimiles that preserve the original intact; so I shudder at the thought of someone touching up historic cards to conform to their arbitrary criteria of perfection. But a fellow collector convinced me the second edition was even more beautiful than the first, so I succumbed to temptation. I’m very glad I did. Read more

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