One of the biggest hurdles for students of the Tarot de Marseilles is learning to read the suit cards fluently without memorizing a bunch of keywords. I’ve come up with some techniques that ensure you get lots of suit cards to practice with. In fact, I enjoy these techniques so much, they’ve become my favorite spreads.
In my reading style, the suits are the meat and potatoes of the reading. They tell you what’s going to happen, how it’s going to feel, and who’s involved. The trump card derived from the sum of the suit cards is the background situation, the underlying tone of the spread, the lesson, or the archetypal energy working behind the scenes. Read more
My favorite card-of-the-day draw involves shuffling the trumps and suit cards separately, then pulling a card at random from each stack. I like to flip the two cards over simultaneously so they hit my retina at the same time, setting up resonance between them.
Suit cards describe the details and address specifics. The trumps are like a color filter or a pinch of herbs – they bring out certain qualities of the suit card without altering its core meaning. Here’s an example from my tarot journal of several entries for one suit card in combination with different trumps. Read more
My journal is a three-ring binder with a page for each card. Sometimes I wish I’d started my journal on a computer so I could do searches, but my mind works better when I’m holding a pen; and after more than a decade, I’m stuck with my current system. The advantage to organizing your journal by cards rather than chronologically is being able to see clusters of associations around each card. Sometimes a card will give you surprising insights, and sometimes the patterns that emerge over time will validate what you thought the card meant all along. Read more
We know the Tarot de Marseilles is established in the English-speaking world when North Americans start doing send-ups of the deck. Andrew McGregor’s sly and witty Tarot Waiting to Happen shows us what the figures in the twenty-two trumps were doing just before they were frozen in time as tarot images.
I laughed the most at the sight of the Emperor in his bedroom putting on his robe and crown. Unfortunately, I identified the most with the Devil tethered between a tray of cocktails and a huge cake. The cake appeared again as bait in the Hanged Man’s snare. Then there’s the Lover, slumped on a bar stool, a mug of beer at his elbow.
The black and white line drawings are spontaneous and lively. Titles are in French with Justice and Strength switched back to their original TdM positions.
The cards are 2.5 x 4.0 inches, lightly laminated, and packaged in a sturdy cotton twill pouch. The cost is $40 including shipping in the US and Canada. There are only 200 copies, so this deck is going to be a collector’s item.
See the entire deck and get purchasing information at TheHermit’s Lamp
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
As proof that Tarot de Marseilles readers are not always obsessed with historical correctness, I present my favorite purchase from the 2013 Bay Area Tarot Symposium (BATS): Beth Seilonen’s Kilted Rubber Chicken Tarot de Marseilles. Evidently, this deck started as a joke on the oh-so-naughty Daughters of Divination Facebook page, where someone posted the photo of a hunk in a kilt cradling a chicken. Thus was born one of the most delightful TdMs to cross the road in recent times.
Every card cleverly incorporates a yellow rubber chicken sporting a kilt. What’s more, the deck can double as a Lenormand oracle. Seilonen has incorporated traditional Lenormand symbols on the trump and court cards, like the boat and snake shown below. Just pull those cards out of the deck, et voila, you have a Lenormand. This deck was self-published in an edition of 35, so don’t procrastinate if you want one. The cards are 2.5 x 4.0 inches, laminated, sturdy, and very easy to shuffle. Read more
For years, I’ve puzzled over what to call decks like the TdM, Swiss 1JJ, Rolla Nordic, and Visconti-Sforza that have suit symbols instead of pictures on the number cards. Here are some generic names I’ve seen recently: Read more
Tarot collectors now have the opportunity to acquire rare and historic Tarot de Marseilles decks thanks to Yves Reynaud of Marseilles. He has access to the tarot collections of various European museums and private collections, and is gradually putting out high-quality facsimile editions of these decks.
You can see the trump cards from twelve decks in his online gallery. So far, he’s produced facsimiles of the 1736 Chosson deck and the Pierre Madenié deck published in Dijon in 1709. He only shows the 22 trump cards in his gallery, but his decks have all 78 cards.
I intended to buy the Chosson deck, since it’s the template for today’s standard TdM, but after looking over all the decks in his gallery, I changed my mind and got the Madenié. It’s the oldest complete TdM in existence, and I’m a pushover for the first, the original or the oldest of anything. Also, the rich colors really grabbed me – Deep ruby, forest green, dark royal blue and antique gold. 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
What does it take to put together a tarot deck collection that covers every important era in Tarot’s 600-year history? After making a list and distilling it to the essentials, I found you could cover all the bases quite nicely with fourteen decks. If you stick to just the main highway of tarot evolution and avoid going down interesting by-ways, you can create a basic collection with just seven decks.
Here are my guidelines for a well-rounded collection comprised of decks that are affordable and readily available. The collection falls into five broad categories: Fifteenth century, Tarot de Marseilles, Occult, Rider-Waite-Smith, and contemporary decks. The basic collection has the oldest examples of each category. I’ve given suggestions for filling out the basic collection with additional essential decks; then I provide a shopping list at the end of the article. Read more