Before 2014 ends, I want to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The New Tarot Deck, as well as the “projective” reading technique, and two men who were at the center of the late 20th-century tarot scene in the San Francisco Bay area.
The counter-culture shock waves that rippled up and down the California coast in the 1960s swept Jack Hurley and John Horler into a three-year residency at Esalen in Big Sur. After falling under Joseph Campbell’s spell, they designed a radically new tarot deck and created a new way of reading the cards. Read more
Tarocchi, trionfi and carte, oh, my! Playing card historian Franco Pratesi has put up a chronological list of links to all 313 of his articles on tarot and playing card history. The only other way to get access to these articles, written between 1986 and 2013, is to subscribe to several rather obscure journals.
Of special interest to my fellow tarot history nerds: Read more
Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan and the most successful condottiere of his time, gave the world the Visconti-Sforza deck, and contributed immensely to our knowledge of Tarot’s origins.
Francesco’s father-in-law, Duke Maria Filippo Visconti, commissioned two gold-leaf tarot decks in the 1440s, but so many cards are missing, we can only speculate on what the complete deck was like. Francesco’s deck, painted with precious mineral pigments on gold leaf, is nearly complete, showing us that the familiar 78-card deck existed in the mid-15th century.
Throughout the 1440s, tarot decks were mentioned in account books and correspondence from Ferrara, Bologna and Venice; but we have nothing from Milan because the castle and all the court’s records were destroyed during the political turmoil of 1447. Two letters Francesco wrote in 1450 are our earliest written clues about tarot’s place at the Milan court. Read more
Even if you’re not interested in the Tarot de Marseille, Enrique Enriquez’s Tarology video is worth having for the bonus interviews with a dozen contemporary taroists like Rachel Pollack, Donnaleigh de la Rose, Marcus Katz and Robert Place. Enriquez’ video inspired me to dust off my VCR and pop in the VHS tape of interviews produced by Gary Ross in 1988. Ross was a fixture on the San Francisco tarot scene for three decades and was the editor of Tarot Network News, which he published a few times a year in the ’80s and ’90s. Read more
Gertrude Moakley is my tarot history muse and the wise and magical aunt I wish I could have had. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an image of her anywhere (Not true! See the comments below). I have to imagine her in the 1950s as a gray-haired librarian in tweeds and sensible shoes, a Waite Smith deck hidden in her purse, slipping away from her colleagues at the public library to have lunch with Eden Gray.
After graduating from Barnard College then the Columbia School of Library Science in 1928, Moakley began a 40-year career with the New York City Public Library. In the 1950s, she published two articles in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library: on the Waite Smith deck’s influence on T.S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland; and on the relationship between the Visconti-Sforza trumps and Petrarch’s poem I Trionfi. Read more