I associate the Reader’s Digest with seeing copies in a basket in my grandparents’ bathroom. Tarot just doesn’t seem to be aligned with the Reader’s Digest’s market niche; so I was intrigued when I learned that a Tarot de Marseille published by Reader’s Digest was on Ebay. Since it was only $11, I decided to satisfy my curiosity.
I’m very pleased with the quality of the cards and book, a collaboration between Czech artist Jindra Capek and writer Vlasta Duskova. The twenty-two cards are set into a niche at the bottom of a sturdy box which holds a 110-page hard-bound book that’s extensively illustrated in color. Read more
According to a review in the November 2015 issue of Art News, a museum in Bordeaux, France has just wrapped up a 50-year retrospective of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s career. In the photo shown here, peeking out from under the screen, you can see the bottoms of the Tarot de Marseille that Jodorowsky designed with Philippe Camoin. But Jodorowsky is about a lot more than tarot. Read more
The poems in this important anthology take us on a ride from black jack tables to the Last Supper. Many poems gently evoke the essence of a card, like lingering incense. Others delight us with new insights, like Tony Barnstone’s paired poems on the same card upright and reversed; or Amy Schrader’s poems on court cards. The Devil has been transformed by Lore Bernier (I am restrained by a lack of restraint) and Amanda Chiado (He was the kid who only ate the icing). On these pages we hear the voice of a rather smug Temperance angel, a tricksterish Fool and a foolish Fool, and Judas as the Hanged Man. Read more
Question: Who is the Spanish Captain, and what’s he doing in a tarot deck?
The Short Answer: He’s a character from the Commedia dell’Arte who substitutes for the Papesse in a type of 18th-century Belgian deck.
The Long Answer: Read the rest of the article.
What is Commedia dell’Arte?
It’s a type of popular theater with roots in the classical world. It flourished in Renaissance Italy and spread throughout Europe, especially France, in the 14th through 18th centuries. An array of standard characters appeared in every play like Harlequin, Pantalone, and Pulcinella, who was the prototype for Punch and Pierrot. The audience instantly recognized these characters by their masks, their walk, costume and regional accent, as well as characteristic slapstick routines, stage business, gestures, jokes, and favorite curse words. Read more
Tarot was the last thing I expected to see in the latest issue of Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku Society of America.
If you’d like to write haiku but feel constrained by its extreme compression, try haibun. Haibun consists of a few sentences or short paragraphs of prose with a haiku inserted somewhere. The haiku resonates with the prose but isn’t a literal illustration.
Here’s a tarot haibun by Alexis Rotella. Read more
Osvaldo Menegazzi, the artistic genius behind Il Meneghello, has once again created a beautiful facsimile of an historic tarot deck. This deck, commissioned by the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, in the 1440s, is one of the oldest Italian tarocchi decks we know of. The cards were hand-painted on an embossed gold background, much like the Visconti-Sforza deck commissioned by Filippo’s son-in-law, Francesco Sforza, a decade later. Read more
The Pierre Madenié deck (1709) and The Tales of Mother Goose (1696) emerged from the same cultural milieu at nearly the same time. A small archive of letters has recently come to light showing that Cinderella, Bluebeard and their friends frequented a fortuneteller who read cards with the Madenié deck. Here’s the transcript of a reading that was delivered by post to a rather cautious prince.
The Question: While on a hunting trip, I discovered an ancient, crumbling castle in a forest at the edge of my father’s kingdom. It was so overgrown with brambles and brush I couldn’t get near it. Some villagers said the castle is haunted by ghosts. Others told me that witches hold coven meetings in the grand ballroom on the full moon. Then there were stories about ogres who drag children into the castle to eat them. Read more