Recently, I’ve been rotating through the four TdM books listed below, reading about each trump card in turn. I’m struck by the individual voice and unique viewpoint in each book. It’s like holding a gem up to the light and turning it back and forth to appreciate each facet individually.
Ben-Dov supplies meat-and-potatoes card meanings and practical advice for readers. J-M David gives us a foundation in art history and 15th century iconography interspersed with practical exercises. Jodorowsky is an original who shares his deep understanding of the cards while presenting the deck as an organic structure. Elias invites us to look over her shoulder as she interprets spreads for her clients. Read more
This exciting book by Camelia Elias is a new addition to our small supply of Tarot de Marseille books in English.
We hit the ground running on the first page with an actual reading done in a café. This sets the tone for the book, where every card, and every teaching, is accompanied by a three-card spread illustrated in color.
The essence of Elias’s technique is to tell a concise story with three cards, staying close to the reality of the images. When she amplifies her card meanings with another system, she goes to folk traditions in cartomancy, which she calls the “cunning folk” method. Read more
The author of several poetry books based on historic tarot decks now offers us poetic meditations on all 78 cards of the Tarot de Marseille.
Each card is given a double-page spread. On the left-hand page we see a black-and-white reproduction of the 1701 Dodal deck restored by Jean-Claude Flornoy. On the opposite page there’s a very compressed and evocative meditation on the card. Read more
This two-volume book considers tarot from every possible angle: popular culture, occult theory, academic history, literary analysis and artistic commentary. I hope my brief summary of the articles will inspire you to purchase this major contribution to tarot studies.
Volume I offers a good foundation in tarot history.
The late Sir Michael Dummett surveys tarot from its 15th-century beginnings as a card game, to its appropriation by French occultists in the late 18th century.
Robert Place delves deeply into the iconography of the earliest hand-painted decks and discusses the trump sequence as a neoplatonic ascent of the soul. He also describes the first set of trump cards we know of, by the Duke of Milan’s astrologer Marziano de Tortona, which Place is currently re-creating. (Examples can be seen on his facebook page.) Read more
This book has everything a mystery-loving, tarot history nerd could desire: brisk pace, tight plot, illicit love, murder at the Sforza court, and those four missing cards from the Duke of Milan’s Visconti-Sforza deck.
Diane Stuckart has written three mysteries set at the court of Duke Ludovico Sforza in the early 1490s, when Milan was at the height of its splendor and economic power. As artist in residence, Leonardo da Vinci tinkers with his ingenious military machines in between designing costumes and scenery for pageants and masked balls. Whenever a dead body inconveniently appears in the garden or under a tower, Leonardo uses his astute powers of observation to discreetly solve the crime and save the Duke from embarrassment.
Leonardo’s sidekick in these sleuthing adventures is his young apprentice Dino. What Leonardo doesn’t know (or does he?) is that Dino is actually Delphina, a 16-year-old girl who ran away from home disguised as a boy to avoid an arranged marriage with a repulsive old man. Read more
Opening these evocative books of poetry based on the 15th-century Visconti Sforza and Sola Busca decks releases a gentle magic into the air. The tarot figures speak for themselves in these elegant, imagistic poems, opening up surprising revelations about each card. Energy hums between the poems and color photos of their cards on the facing page.
All Love Goes Before Me: Poems on the Sola Busca Tarot
Tarot historian Giordano Berti sets the mood in his preface by invoking the muses and a lineage of alchemist-poets, while telling us the poems are “access portals to another dimension.” In the introduction, Il Meneghello’s art director, Dr. Cristina Dorsini, conjures up the special magic of this deck. Read more
If you want to learn how to read with the Tarot de Marseille while immersing yourself in tarot’s early history, this is the book for you. The heart of the book is an in-depth examination of each trump card accompanied by a web of historic associations illustrated with numerous examples of medieval and renaissance art. The book features the 1650 Noblet deck restored by Jean-Claude Flornoy, but each chapter offers illustrations of numerous decks for comparison; so the book works easily with any TdM. Read more
For years, English-speaking Tarot de Marseille readers have been complaining about the lack of books in English. Well, the book we’ve all been waiting for has arrived! Ben-Dov’s book has everything one could ask for in a comprehensive how-to manual: history, card meanings, symbolism, tips for conducting a reading session, and examples of spread interpretations. Read more
This is one of the most significant books in English on the Tarot de Marseilles. Jodorowsky is a Chilean surrealist filmmaker, therapist and tarot reader based in Paris who uses the Tarot de Marseilles exclusively. His background and tarot experience couldn’t be more different from mine, but I feel he’s a kindred spirit. Jodorowsky’s approach to tarot, which I heartily endorse, rests on the following principles:
- He does not apply external systems like Kabbalah or astrology to tarot. He uses the structure of the deck itself to discover its meaning. (He mentions Kabbalistic correspondences in some of his card descriptions, but they don’t have much influence on his card meanings).
- He uses tarot for counseling and psychological healing; does not use tarot to predict the future.
- He does not confine the cards to fixed meanings, but reads intuitively by closely examining the card images and their interactions while in a trance-like state. Read more
The Sola Busca Tarocchi was created about 1490 in Northern Italy, and is named for the family who owned the deck until 2009, when they sold it to the Italian government and it was placed in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.
There are two theories about the deck’s creator: either he was an artist named Nicola who had connections to Florence and Ancona; or he was an unknown Ferrarese artist living in Venice; or perhaps it was printed in Ferrara and colored in Venice. We don’t know if the artist created the deck himself, or if it was a commission. A small number of decks were printed from the plates, and a handful of unpainted examples from four different decks are scattered about in museums and private collections. The 78-card Sola Busca in the Pinacoteca di Brera, which was painted a decade or so after it was printed, is the deck that Mayer and Il Meneghello used as the basis for their recent facsimile publications. Read more