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.
A sister of the Umiliati Order in Milan, Maifreda da Pirovano, was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1300. Many historians believe this card from the Visconti-Sforza Tarot is her portrait. When the Duke and Duchess of Milan commissioned this golden Trionfi deck from their favorite artist, Bonifacio Bembo, shortly after 1450, they commemorated family history in some of the cards. Maifreda may have been related to the duchess; and her heresy involved claiming to be the equal of the Pope, so the connection seems obvious. But if you were the duchess of Milan, with a reputation based on good works and piety, would you advertise a heretic in the family? Let’s look at some other, more respectable, possibilities for this card.Read more
Here’s a deck that not only looks like the fifteenth century, but feels like the fifteenth century: I Tarocchi Rosenwald restored by Marco Benedetti, with hand-folded paper borders (Bordi Rivoltinati). Benedetti glues backing paper to each card, clips the corners then folds the borders to the front using traditional checkered paper. Every Italian playing card was made with this labor-intensive technique from the fifteenth century to the 1930s.Read more
How did we get from there to here? How did the Fool go from being a medieval village idiot to a vagabond, to a free spirit on the road to enlightenment? Does the medieval Popess have any relation to a modern, witchy High Priestess? Did these changes make a radical break from the past?
It’s my thesis that every major change to tarot imagery and card interpretation evolved from what preceded it. There’s a continuous 600-year thread from Italy to France to Britain to the United States and beyond.
I’ve created a new section of this website, From Trionfi to Major Arcana, where I’ll follow this thread of development for each trump card, looking at how the interpretation of the cards shifted along with the image.
The Al Mondo Tarocchino is one of very few Bolognese-style decks to survive from earlier centuries with all cards intact. This deck comes to us from a narrow slice of time—after 1725 when Bolognese decks were required to have four Moors, and before the 1760s when double-headed figures became standard. The British Museum has the only copy of the Al Mondo deck in existence. Marco Cesare Benedetti has obtained the rights to reproduce twenty facsimiles. See deck details and purchasing information at the end.Read more
Some of the most beautiful Tarot decks I’ve ever seen emerged from nineteenth-century Piedmont. Giordano Berti has been producing limited editions of these precious but forgotten decks for several years. His most recent deck in the series is the Corband Tarocchi based on Carlo Della Rocca’s soprafino tarot. Della Rocca died in 1835, but enjoyed an afterlife later in the century when piemontese printers like Corband and the Avondo Brothers produced knock-offs of his beautifully engraved deck.Read more
This beautifully illustrated book delves into a neglected aspect of Tarot history. Historians usually skim over the suit cards (minor arcana) in their rush to the juicier trumps. This book gives the pip cards their due. After all, the four suits comprise 65% of the deck and predate the twenty-two trumps by centuries. Tarot as we know it could not exist without them. Read more
I’ve been watching Alejandro Jodorowski read cards on Youtube. He has a unique method of picking the cards for his three-card line. I’ve described it below and demonstrate with two readings. You’ll need two sets of trump cards to try his method. He uses two identical sets of trumps from the TdM he created with Philippe Camoin. I see this as a chance to use a variety of trumps-only decks that rarely come off the shelf and are too precious to shuffle. Read more
One of the most exciting events in my twenty years of collecting historic decks occurred in 2017 when Sullivan Hismans (Tarot Sheet Revival.com) introduced the Budapest Tarot. He meticulously recreated a very important fifteenth-century deck that only exists in museum collections as partly damaged uncut sheets of cards. This limited edition of 250 decks sold out quickly and has become a favorite reading deck of the lucky few who own one. Hismans just released another edition of 450 Budapest decks with some changes that I’ll illustrate below. But first, I want to put the deck in its historic context. Read more
This phantom of the tarot world is possibly the earliest Tarot de Marseille we know of. The only traces of the Rolichon tarot’s existence are a brief listing in an 1851 French auction catalog, and reproductions of thirty-five cards in the July 1919 edition of the Larousse Mensuel magazine. The deck itself has disappeared, so Benedetti’s careful recreation is a wonderful opportunity to experience this important piece of tarot history. Read more
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. Read more