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The song in English:

Fashion is constantly changing
But as long as the world exists
The Gypsy with an old pack of cards
Will have at least one client…
Someone longing for bizarre miracles
Will knock on her door
And she will lay out in front of him
Those noble kings of hers…
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future

Card-reading can foretell happiness
Or an unexpected blow of fate
Imprisonment and a long journey
Or everlasting faithful love…
Old cards will spread out like a fan
On a shawl decorated with fringe
And suddenly the Gypsy herself
Will believe her noble kings…
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future.

Time destroys granite castles
And covers towns with sand
But years don’t mean anything
For those cards in the Gypsy’s hands…
The heart melts as the fortune-teller speaks
And at all the crossroads of the world
The noble kings are telling lies
With the same expression on their faces…
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future.

Translation from around-lyrics.com.

Didn’t think it could get any better? Watch this version:

I’m happy to announce that I will be presenting, in webinar format, my recent slide-show on the Petit Lenormand Deck. It was showcased at the latest San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium to great acclaim. Of course a few things will change (to make it even better), and I’ll have more time to explain the concepts shown. Here’s the description:

Webinar with Mary K. Greer 

“Introduction to the Petit Lenormand Deck”

Discover the 36-card Lenormand deck via this 64-slide visual feast covering the history, variety of decks and a brief overview of reading methods and traditions. What’s so special about the Lenormand deck? Where did it come from? What does Mlle. Lenormand have to do with it? How is this deck different than or similar to Tarot? What can it do for me and how do I read with it? Learn how the Lenormand cards clued me into something that saved a trip from certain disaster. Discover what the hoopla is all about and get a look at these 212+ year old cards that have exploded onto the divinatory scene in the last three years. Join me in exploring one of the most practical and precise divinatory tools in existence.

*The DVD or Internet access to this pre-recorded talk now appears  here.*

This webinar will be followed by two Lenormand training webinars with Caitlín Matthews whose new deck and accompanying book will be out next year.

In the meantime, here are some great online resources.

I recommend the series of youtube videos by Claire (from Germany but in English) that introduce each of the cards. While each country has its own variations there are still enough commonalities that share core meanings, and Claire is good at presenting these (click on the youtube link).


Additional Resources

I also recommend the list of basic Lenormand card meanings found at Helen Riding’s blog, MyWingsofDesire. And don’t miss out on her other great Lenormand pages and the links on her site.

Donnaleigh de LaRose has a whole page of media-based Lenormand Lessons from her blogtalk “BeyondWorlds” radio shows with Rana George and Melissa Hill, as well as her own youtube videos.

Andy Cerru’s excellent free course, Cartomante’s Cabinet, is available again. Highly recommended but requires a commitment to do the work. See also:

Heidi Kabel as Die Kartenlegerin

The German word for Cartomancer is Kartenlegerin. A YouTube search brings up two fascinating works. The first is the amazing singer/actor Heidi Kabel as the card reader in the made-for-TV play, Die Kartenlegerin (1968). A rough translation by Alexander Kurzwernhart of the reading is available in the Comments. One thing to note is the method of “counting cards,” which is a key cartomancy technique used when reading a layout of the whole deck (usually 32, 36 or 52 cards). One counts 5, 7 or 9 cards in any direction from the querent’s significator and from the significator of the ‘person of interest’. (It looks like she’s stabbing the cards with her finger.) Fast forward to Minute 6:00 to begin the reading.

Schumann’s – Die Kartenlegerin, Op.31 No.2

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) wrote this song in 1840 (based on a poem in French “Les cartes ou l’horoscope” by Pierre Jean de Béranger (1780-1857)), about a young girl stopping her sewing to quickly read her cards while her mother sleeps. Learn more about it here. The translation comes from the Lotte Lehmann League. You might want to listen to the music while you read the English lyrics.

Has mother finally fallen asleep
Over her book of sermons?
You, my needle, now lie still,
Stop this constant sewing.
I shall read the cards,
Oh, what things can I expect,
Oh, how will it all end?
If I am not deceived,
One, I think of, will appear,
Great, here he comes,
The knave of hearts knows his duty.
A rich widow? oh dear.
Yes, he woos her, I’m undone,
Oh! the wicked scoundrel.
Heartache and much vexation,
A school with restricting walls,
But the king of diamonds will take pity
And comfort me.
A nicely delivered present,
He elopes with me, a journey,
Money and happiness in abundance.
This king of diamonds
Must be a prince or king,
Which means that it won’t take much
For me to be a princess.
Here’s a foe, who strives to soil
My name before His Majesty,
And a fair-haired man stands by me.
A secret comes to light,
And I escape just in time,
Farewell, O life of splendor,
Ah, that was a cruel blow.
The one is gone, a crowd
Surges around me
That I can scarcely count them all.
What’s this?
A dumb female apparition,
A wheezing old woman coming my way,
To banish love and happiness
Before my youth has gone?
Ah, it’s mother, who’s woken up,
Opening wide her mouth to scold.
No, the cards never lie.

In 1896 a gem of a book called What the Cards Tell appeared by “Minetta.” Minetta also wrote a book on teacup fortune telling. A special deck by her appeared around 1898 (see ad below), followed by “The Gypsy Bijou Fortune Telling Cards” with a guide by Minetta (Foulsham & Co., 1910; republished 1969). Minetta’s book came out in several subsequent editions, including a 1918 expanded edition called Card Reading: A Practical Guide (William Rider; introduced by Sepharial) that includes a section on tarot using the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.Minetta’s first edition recounts the history of the tarot as follows:

“Since three thousand years before Christ, the art of Cartomancy has been in vogue. Many ancient adepts consulted the oracle before venturing on any great undertaking. The Chinese used to engrave plates of copper and silver with designs of similar import to those in modern use. The Hebrews engraved the sacred symbols of the Tarot on plates of gold, and these were afterwards copied by the Kabalists, and notably by Simeon-bar-Jachai, to whom we owe our knowledge of the Book of Hermes. The art of Divination was in vogue among the adepts of the religious orders in times past, and the vulgar imitation was permitted by them the better to veil from public knowledge the true secrets of the sacred science.”

This brief history contains the much heard claim that the true occult secrets are being veiled from the public. I mention this because I regularly get emails from people asking about the secrets that Waite hid as people are still convinced that someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

What’s most interesting to us is the spread Minetta calls “Method II,” which also appears in a book by Madame Xanto in 1901 and in 1903 in a book by Mme. Zancig (from which comes the illustration below). It may be what inspired Waite’s Ancient 10-card Spread, as it appears to be one of the oldest spreads that is not based on cards placed in lines or a fan, but rather forms a picture.

Method II (later called “The Star of Fortune”) describes a thirteen card reading laid out surrounding a Significator.

“Those cards which crown the Significator predict the near future; those at the feet, the past; those to the left, obstacles; those to the right, the distant future; the top corners, present details; those at the feet, the past details; the card on top of the Significator [covers it], the consolation.” The book also notes that, “If the Nine of Hearts [Cups] comes out in the thirteen, it augurs good luck for the consulter and success to his wishes.”

Originally it was laid out around the significator: above, below (inner); above, below (outer); left, right (inner); left right (outer); left, right (corners above); left, right (corners below); final card crosses the significator. Later it was laid out as a cross: above, below, right, left (inner); above, below, right, left (outer); rest as above.

Who was “Minetta”?

There’s some thought that she might have been Waite himself, who had just published, through Redway, his own Handbook of Cartomancy and Divination, advertised in the same work as Minetta’s cartomancy deck. Usually the authors of popular fortune-telling books are hack writers for the publisher, using a mysterious pseudonym. Another clue lies in the fact that Minetta is the name of a young but resourceful gypsy fortune-teller in W. H. G. Kingston’s book, Fred Markham in Russia: The Boy Travellers in the Land of the Czar. Kingston (1814-1880) wrote more than 130 adventure tales for boys (although is best known for his translations of Jules Verne—which were actually translated by his wife!). In his autobiography Waite wrote about his own youthful fondness for such adventure stories. On the other hand, the style is gentler and not near as bombastic as Waite’s.

A Lagniappe*

Even authors of fortune telling books don’t want to be seen as gullible and so tend to hedge their bets by making sure that everyone knows they aren’t complete believers. Here is a typically convoluted, yet perspicacious, disclaimer, written by the male author of a fortune telling book: The Cup of Knowledge: A Key to the Mysteries of Divination by Willis MacNicol (1924):

“The male sex holds aloof, and leaves the ladies to ‘perform these follies.’ Some ascribe it to man’s superiority; or, as briefly summed up by a member of their sex, who when declaiming against the possibility of the future being made visible, said, ‘with all apologies to you, I must say I am not so profoundly stupid as to believe in these things; it cannot be anything more than rot.’ It is remarkable how such protests die away when some remarkable manifestation has been made by the cup in accurately predicting some event of the distant future that, at the time, appeared absurd and impossible of happening. Women may lawfully claim superiority with regard to her intuitive faculty, and thus she is well equipped for exercising her divinatory powers.”

* “Lagniappe” is a Louisana term for a little something extra (like a 13th donut in a dozen); supposedly it was originally a Peruvian Quechua word that traveled with the Spanish conquistadors, ending up with a French spelling.

Much is made of how tarot cards can be interpreted through their images or symbols—especially modern decks that feature pictorial scenes with lots of  images on all the cards. This post is about how to combine and translate the language of imagery into statements, such that these statements can be more easily interpreted than the images by themselves.

Many of us have spent fruitful hours pouring over symbol dictionaries in order to better understand each detail in the tarot. For instance, we might research and discover that a key, in addition to simply opening or locking a contained space, is seen as the means to unlock hidden meanings in symbols or doctrine. More specifically, in the Hierophant/Pope card, keys have a special meaning regarding the priesthood: the gold key represents mercy and absolution, and the silver key stands for judgment and penance. Furthermore, these keys refer back to the gospel of Matthew (16:19) in which Jesus tells Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Going further, you will discover that Mercy and Judgment (the gold and silver keys) are the two columns on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

How many times have you mentioned any of the above references in an actual tarot reading?

Alternatively, a reader might try to discover the querent’s own, in-the-moment, personal associations with this image: “Oh, my gosh. Those are my car keys that I lost yesterday at church!” Or a reader will offer up his or her own projections and intuitions, as in, “As I’m seeing it right now, the keys are saying that your spiritual leader or tradition “holds the keys” to whether you should get a divorce.” These can certainly be rich ways to read the tarot, but they can sometimes get you sidetracked from the essential message of the card. Even the artist’s stated intention for a symbol can be so personal and idiosyncratic that it, too, misses the mark. I’m not saying that the following technique is the “best” method for interpreting images, but rather that it can be helpful and serve as a checkpoint to make sure you’ve touched on its roots.

What I offer here is a method that involves translations of the essential, objective meaning of an image—its denotative and connotative definitions and its core characteristics or functions (how the thing is used).

At the denotative level, a key is a small piece of metal shaped with parts that fit with parts in another mechanism (usually a lock) so that manipulation (turning) changes the latter mechanism’s function—usually to open or close things. The connotative meaning is that it binds or loosens, and a key often suggests gaining access to something. If we abstract it one more level, then it suggests obtaining the answer, solution or means to something crucial or important. Connotative meanings are more subjective and often convey pleasing or displeasing feelings about the word. [Note: I use ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ here, not as absolutes, but as relative points along a continuum.]

Step 1

To try out this technique, you need to start with the most “objective” meanings and functions—what I often call the “literal” level of a symbol—rather than personal projections or mythic, occult, alchemical, astrological or psychological significances. In other words, try to use as little abstraction, impressionism or subjectivity as possible.

To try another example, the denotative level of the RWS dog in the Fool card is “a domesticated, four-legged, carnivorous mammal with an acute sense of smell.” The functional aspect is that it is tamed by humans to function as a companion, protector or hunter. A further, connotative abstraction includes ideas such as loyalty, instincts or, sometimes, a scoundrel or wretch. (In this process, we won’t consider the mythic associations of dogs with death, like Cerberus at the gates of Hell, nor the Egyptian dog-headed Anubis, nor the association of dogs with the Moon and Artemis, nor the dog of Odysseus, or that in alchemy a dog represents sulfur or primitive, material gold. Nor will we consider that god is dog spelled backwards.) When in doubt, think of a dictionary rather than a book of religion, mythology or literature. In fact, a dictionary is often a good place to start when translating images.

Step 2

Step 2 involves linking together the most essential definitions, functions and connotations of three to five core images from one card into a “literal translation” of these images.

With the RWS Six of Cups as our example, let’s go through Steps 1 and 2. (We should also be aware that traditional meanings for this card often include gifts, pleasurable memories and emotions, nostalgia and old things.) Here are three dominant images from the picture created by Pamela Colman Smith:

Children – more than one pre-pubescent human being. Their key characteristics are small size, immaturity, innocence, vulnerability, playfulness, learning and development, and being a descendant or establishing a lineage.
Flowers – the reproductive organs of a plant, usually with characteristics (scent, shape and color) that attract fertilizing mechanisms.  Flowers are cultivated to function as decorations or gifts. Blooms suggest the flourishing peak of beauty, health and vigor.
Glove/mitten – a garment covering the hand. It protects or safeguards the hand to avoid discomfort, damage, disease or contamination of self, others or environment. It may also serve as a fashion ornament.

First we combine these individual images into a simple statement: “A larger child hands a flower to a smaller child wearing a mitten.”

To translate this, we substitute a key word or phrase for each image:
“A larger, innocent offers a gift of beauty and reproductive vigor to a smaller, innocent whose vulnerability has some safeguards.”

Let’s add two more images to see if this changes anything:

Courtyard – a private space surrounded by walls or buildings. It functions as a place of air, light, privacy, security and tranquility.
Guard – a person who keeps watch. He functions in a defensive manner to watch or protect what is vulnerable or to control access.

A very literal description might be: “In a private, guarded space, a child offers a gift of flowers to a another child.”

The next level of abstraction looks something like this:
“In a private, secure and guarded place, but with inattentive watchfulness, youthful innocence and vulnerability handle, with some safeguards, a gift of beauty and reproductive vigor.”

Step 3

Relate this translation back to the querent’s question or situation (via the spread position, if applicable). Now you interpret what the translated images in the cards add to the situation. Generating questions based on the translation is a good way to start.

Let’s add a keyword from the basic card meaning so that we have the following translation:
“A memory in which youthful innocence and vulnerability, in a private, secure and guarded place, but with inattentive protection, handle, with some safeguards, a gift of beauty and reproductive vigor.”

The following are example questions that emerged from the image translation:

Can you remember moments of former pleasure in which a mature, adult significance was not apparent at the time but may now be? Perhaps you were attracted to or given something that continues to reproduce emotional (Cups) reverberations in you? Have you been too guarded and naive to fully appreciate a gift given or received?

Alternatively, could a larger or more dominant self/person have offered something to a smaller self/person who covered up (gloved) her response as she wasn’t completely open to the experience?

Are some of your memories guarded? How do you protect yourself from what happened in the past? A worst case scenario suggests some kind of childhood abuse from which memory you’ve tried to protect yourself. There may be an element of seeing a difficult past through rose-colored glasses (and this card has had those difficult meanings on more than one occasion)—although, generally, it is a very good card.

In the Comments to this post you might want to try combining the image definitions into other translations, because even the most literal translations will vary. See where different translations take you. Feel free to explore this technique in your own way on your own blog or with others—just include a link back here.

Comparison with Cartomancy

It’s worth noting that readings with decks such as the Lenormand, Sybilla or Old Gypsy Fortune Telling Cards use a process similar to that above, in which each card represents a single image. The meanings of these cards have even more restricted parameters, but can be creatively combined. For instance, the card depicting a dog means loyalty and friendship. The child card can mean one or more children or anything small, young or innocent. A set of these cards are linked together in a fashion similar to what we’ve already done, although the result tends to be more mundane and may yield a single new image. For instance, Dog + Child can indicate a puppy, playmate, or childhood friend.

I’ve selected four cards from the Mlle. Lenormand deck (from Piatnik publishing) that are most similar to images in the Six of Cups just to see what happens if we use their meanings:

ChildLilyGardenCrossroads

Child: Child or children. Play. Anything small, immature. Naïve, innocent, trusting, sincere. Sometimes, gifts.
Lily: Mature, old, the elderly. Commitment. Peace, satisfaction, contentment. Wisdom, soul development. Social welfare.
Garden: Meetings, gatherings, parties, events, conferences. Social encounters and places for this. An audience. Outdoors.
Crossroads: Options, choices, alternatives. Decisions. Separation. Many of something.

The most simple statement we could make about these cards is: “Many wise children (or immature elders) gather together.” (The order of the cards in an actual reading would affect the interpretation.)

To expand on this idea, we could say:
It is about a social interaction involving young and old, innocent and wise (to play old-fashioned games?), and that a choice may be involved. Peace or wisdom could be gained from childhood choices or from an older sibling. An older person could be reconnecting with past friends or relatives (or grandchildren) or, simply, remembering them.

[Notes: Traditional playing card meanings are usually not part of the standard interpretations for these cards (although it is interesting that three Court Cards appear. Regarding modern interpretations: Garden+Crossroads is a perfect description of social networking, ala facebook and twitter.]

Some Final Thoughts

I use the “Image Translation Technique” as a checkpoint to keep me on track and to compare with other card possibilities including projections and intuitions. Studies of intuition show that intuitions are just as likely to be wrong as right, but you can often get to a right understanding faster and more accurately than through any other known means. What works best is to check your intuitions against ‘rules of thumb,’ or what I call ‘checkpoints.’  The true issue is sometimes precisely what is shown by juxtapositions among traditional meanings, literal translations and the reader’s and querent’s projections and intuitions, revealing the tension or conflict causing the unease at the core of a reading.

I want to reiterate that translations of tarot card images are only one level of working with  images (and some people prefer not to work with the pictorial images at all). But, even card keywords are images, and I believe that keeping in touch with the essential meaning of any image provides an important checkpoint for one’s intuition. I’d love to hear about how you work with these ideas and whether they are helpful to you or not.

Acknowledgements: Yoram Kaufmann’s book, The Way of the Image: The Orientational Approach to the Psyche, clarified and helped me to explain the technique I often use in readings. I’ve adopted a few, but not all, of his terms and methodology, and I’ve tried not to psychologize the above material too much (Kaufmann was writing about a Jungian approach to dreams). The concept of using “rules of thumb” with one’s intuition is discussed in Gerd Gigerenzer’s Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious. Sylvie Steinbach’s The Secrets of the the Lenormand Oracle was helpful in putting together the Lenormand interpretation. See my book 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card for lots of other interpretation techniques.

Dr. Flamstead’s and Mr. Patridge’s New Fortune-Book containing . . . Their new-invented method of knowing one’s fortune by a pack of cards appears to be the oldest book with instructions on fortune-telling-with-cards in the English language.  The first edition seems to be from 1729—well before Etteilla wrote his 1770 book on “cartonomancie” and contains a “lot” style method of divination in which the card chosen leads to a verse based on your choice from a list of pre-set questions. However we know from the 1730 play Jack the Gyant-Killer that multi-card spreads with meanings for each card were already current in England. (Thanks as always to Ross Caldwell for additional information and corrections.)At some point between 1750 and 1770 a new, much shorter book appeared called Patridge and Flamsted’s new and well Experienced Fortune Book, delivered to the world from the Astrologer’s Office in Greenwich Park, for the benefit of all young men, maids, wives, and widows. Who, by drawing Cards according to the direction of this Book, may know whether Life shall be long or short; whether they shall have the person desired; and every lawful question whatsoever. The signification of Moles in any part of the body; and the interpretation of Dreams, as they relate to good or bad fortune. Along with the change in author spelling there was a major change in the technique portrayed. For the first time we have instructions for a one-card spread and individual meanings given for each card (text appears below).

The individuals in the title are supposed to refer to Dr. John Flamsteed (1646 – 1719), the first Astronomer Royal, and Mr. John Partridge (1644-1715), a well-known writer of astrology books and almanacs and associate of the astrologer William Lilly. However, the names of both Partridge and Flamsteed were appropriated by others as documented by Adrian Johns in The Nature of the book: print and knowledge in the making, p. 619: “But did Flamsteed remain Flamsteed? The question of his identity had been a real one in his own time. Before him there had been no royal astronomical observer in England, and there is evidence that Flamsteed himself was represented by various contemporaries as a virtuoso, an astrologer, a rogue, pedagogue, and a pamphleteer.” He mentions, as an example, a pamphlet, purporting to be by Flamsteed, entitled Plemstadts most Strange and Wonderful Prophecy.

John Partridge was made famous by Jonathan Swift who, under the pseudonym Isaac Bickerstaff, wrote an April Fool’s prediction for the death of Partridge in a spoof astrological almanac (followed by an announcement of Partridge’s death on the date given), after which the name of the still-living-Partridge became legion, appearing on many spurious publications.

Whoever it was who wrote this book, we can be grateful for the first publication in English of playing card meanings. So, without further delay, the instructions and meanings according to Patridge and Flamsted’s new and well Experienced Fortune Book:

Directions whereby the Reader may be informed of the Rules in this Book.

Take a new pack of Cards. Shuffle them well together, Read the rest of this entry »

Gustave Doré - Les Saltimbanques (Entertainers), 1874

Gustave Doré (1832-1883) - Les Saltimbanques (Entertainers), 1874

Several paintings of card readers tell fascinating stories. As tarot readers we work with the images in pictures as rich symbols of the human condition. It would be interesting to hear what story you see in this powerful and heartbreaking painting by Gustave Doré. Use the “Comments” to share with us what you think has just happened and what message the artist may have had. Refer to as many of the symbols as you can to tell us what their story is. As noted above, Saltimbanque, while a French word, is from the Italian saltare in banco, “jumping on a platform,” and signifies “tumbler, performer, entertainer.” Saltimbanques are a subset of acrobats, performing only on the ground.  I understand the word has a slightly perjorative connotation that includes buffoonery and charlatanism. Marilee reports in the Comments that the painting is also called “The Injured Child,” which suggests that all hope might not be lost. (Click on the picture to make it larger and then click again for one more zoom.)

UPDATE: In an 1874 interview with Gustave Doré for Appleton’s Journal (in England), Doré made his own intentions for this painting clear to the interviewer (this was the same year in which he painted the work):

[Interviewer:] Turning to that picture of ‘The Mountebanks,’ which had so struck me, I asked if the poor wounded child were going to die.

“Yes,” answered M. Doré, “he is dying. I wished to depict the tardy awakening of nature in those two hardened almost brutalized beings. To gain money they have killed their child and in killing him they have found out that they had hearts. . . . The English engraver wishes me to call it ‘Behind the Scenes’ but its French title will be I think simply ‘Agonie.'”

Why do you think the artist included playing cards in this scene? What do they represent?  Read this original story by ‘Helen’ inspired by the painting, which includes a brief reading of the cards.

Added: Here’s an enhanced close-up of the cards for those who would like to try reading them:Saltimbanques card spread

See this post for a couple of animoto videos of this picture.

The most significant painter of American cartomancy is probably Harry Herman Roseland (c.1867—1950). He was born and died in Brooklyn and was most known for depicting the lives of African-Americans, especially black women reading tea leaves, palms and cards for white women. Oprah Winfrey has stated that her favorite picture in her own collection is, ironically, Roseland’s wrenching portrayal of “a woman who is about to be sold into slavery and separated from her young daughter,” To the Highest Bidder. (Oprah has two more of Roseland’s paintings in her library.) See more of Roseland’s work here and here. Compare the works below with the images of cartomancers from Russia, France, England and Italy found here. And read “Aunt B’s” cultural analysis of these paintings here.

Harry Roseland card 6 Read the rest of this entry »

The History Channel TV program Decoding the Past produced a 45 minute episode on the “Secrets of the Playing Card” (2006) featuring several well-known tarot historians like David Parlett,  Thierry DePaulis (A Wicked Pack of Cards) and Jean Huets (who was co-author with Stuart Kaplan on The Encyclopedia of Tarot). The  mystical, magical and divinatory aspects of cards begins around 18:00, the tarot around 24:45, and fortune telling at 32:15. There are lots of images of rare cards. Unfortunately, they keep showing modern replacements for missing Visconti cards to illustrate 15th century concepts. The Egyptian, Masonic and Templar role is played up, though they eventually admit that “these theories are generally dismissed by historians.” The images for the fortune-telling section feature the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot (shown over and over again) reinforcing the idea of tarot as a dark, scary medium that belies the far more sensible verbal commentary. They subtly misrepresented modern tarot readers in this part. All-in-all, this video is well worth viewing.

Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s first published poem, “The Card-Dealer,” was based on a painting by Theodore von Holst (1810-1844) called “The Wish” or “The Fortune-Teller” (1840). The poem, which epitomized Rossetti’s fascination with the theme of the femme fatale, was inspired by the painting that he described as being of “a beautiful woman, richly dressed, who is sitting at a lamp-lit table, dealing out cards, with a peculiar fixedness of expression.” In his poem, the woman (Death?, La Morte, in Rossetti’s Italian) plays with men as she plays with the cards, which, we are told, represent the heart that craves the more it feeds, the diamond that makes even the base seem brave, the club that smites, and the spade that digs a grave.

holst-wish
Read the rest of this entry »

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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