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
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
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.
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
My 1983 Vandenborre deck by Carta Mundi has been sitting unused on a shelf for a few decades. After falling in love with Pablo Robledo’s recent production of the deck, and discovering a third version on the market at the GameofHope website, I went on a buying spree then sat down to compare the decks. All three decks faithfully recreate the lines on the original cards, but none is a photo facsimile. The stains and tax stamps have been eliminated, making each deck pristine. (There’s a link at the bottom where you can see the original cards in the British Museum.) Here’s a run-down of how the decks compare. Read more
At the bottom of an old carton, I recently found a file folder stuffed with divinatory meanings (DMs) for the Tarot de Marseille (TdM) pip cards. When I began reading with historic decks about 20 years ago, I bought European TdM books, snapped up English language books when they became available, and downloaded lists of card meanings online. Then I took copious notes and made charts comparing various authors’ meanings.
I pulled the 4 of Swords out of a deck at random and listed the DMs for that card given by the eleven authors in my folder: Read more
I am very excited about this fresh new version of the 1762 Vandenborre deck published this month by the Argentinian tarot maker Pablo Robledo.
This Brussels-Rouen pattern deck is first cousin to the Tarot de Marseille. Some of its unique imagery may stem from a lost tradition that migrated from Ferrara to France and Belgium. Its most notable feature is the substitution of the Spanish Captain and Bacchus for the Papesse and Pope. Read a lot more information about this deck and the Captain in another blog article here. Read more
Another beautiful edition of The Cartomancer just arrived in my mailbox. With a new owner, Arwen Lynch, the magazine has become even more eclectic. This issue contains thoughts on shadow work with tarot, plus articles on divination with tea leaves, Lenormand decks and playing cards. I was very happy to see several pages of tarot art in rich colors on a black background — a tradition in each issue. Read more
Around the year 1565, two men on opposite sides of northern Italy wrote down their thoughts about the moral lessons in the tarocchi deck. In the 1980s, both essays were discovered by playing card researcher Franco Pratesi, and were recently published in Italian and English as Con gli occhi et con l’intelletto: Explaining the Tarot in Sixteenth Century Italy. Generous footnotes and introductory material by Ross Sinclair Caldwell, Thierry Depaulis and Marco Ponzi put the essays in their historical context. This extremely important book shows us how a typical, well-educated Christian of the time would have seen the cards, without the distractions of occultism and Egyptomania that came a few centuries later. Read more