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Meeting the Mermaid: An Interview With Dame Darcy

I've known Dame Darcy as a comic book writer for years. She was the creative mind behind Meatcake, a mind-blowing comic that mixed romance, mermaids, strange characters with interesting names like Wax Wolf, StregaPrez or Scampi the Selfish Shellfish, Victorian landscapes, tutorials on how to make dolls, goth chicks and whatever else caught her fancy.

She also used elements of the tarot in one of those. In a four panel page, Dame Darcy was able to synthesize the essential about the minors. You can check it out below:

For someone that grew on a steady diet of superheroes, Meatcake was a breath of fresh air and made me realize how much I was attracted to weirdness. Meatcake was dark and funny and campy and strange all at the same time, and you never knew what to expect from the next story. Only that it would be fun.

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Fast forward to 2015. I was browsing some facebook postings and I saw someone talking about a Mermaid deck created by Dame Darcy. The very same Dame Darcy that created those Meatcake comics. Which, of course, meant, that I had to have them. It also meant that another of my favorite comic book creators also had a foot on the magic scene.

And just this year, the Meatcake Bible, which for the first time collected all those Meatcake stories in one single volume, got a nomination for the Eisner Awards for Best Graphic Album – Reprint category. While it didn't end up winning the prize, just getting nominated for what is considered "the Oscars of comics" was already quite a feat and a recognition of the quality of her comics work. And it also gave me the perfect reason to reach out to her and bring a little of her mermaidness to you. After all, we're supposed to be a maelstrom here, and what's a maelstrom without some mermaids?

1) What brought you over to tarot and, since you've published a book about it (The Handbook for Hot Witches), magic?

I set a goal, then I trust the Goddess to guide me, every day.
Working towards the goal, I watch for the signs she shows to guide me on the path of least resistance. Repetitive numbers appearing as confirmation is one kind of sign.
The basic outline of my experiences here have been that, sometimes frustrating or infuriating circumstances will lead to an ultimate unexpected reward and one must remember to be patient.
Making a mermaid tarot deck is one way to serve the ancient mermaid Goddess Yamaya and writing an occult book for children on a main stream publisher like Holt makes me so happy!
When I lived in LA I didn't like how my Latina students were treated like second class citizens in what was originally Mexico. And I felt like the billboards with all the white girls weren't honoring diversity and celebrating different kinds of beauty.
My students inspired me to write Hand Book For Hot Witches as well as my FairyGodchildren.

2) In both your Meakcake comics and the Handbook for Hot Witches you've made a point in showing how being different was actually a good thing that brought richness, creativity and diversity to the world. And yet, you've identified yourself as a mermaid, and even put out a Mermaid tarot deck. But mermaids have traditionally been associated with bad omens and dangerous events, the story of the goddess Atargatis who transforms herself into a mermaid after unintentionally murdering her human lover immediately comes to mind. How do you see the mermaid as an agent of change in this world?

Like the ocean, Mermaids can be beautiful mysterious and happy sparkiling creatures, representing the glorious days spent at sea when the weather is clear and bright. Bringing joy and abundance to all who love the sea. It is the source of all life on this planet.
My parent's named me Darcy Megan which means Dark Sea Pearl. How they knew I was going to be a goth mermaid when I grew up is very intuitive of them. And I embrace the dark side of mermaids. Everyone should fear and respect the ocean because Tsunami’s and shipwrecks are not a joke.

All the sad things going on with climate change nowadays and the ocean kills me. I wish plastic had never been invented. Or the corporate jerks who don’t take responsibility for its clean up, and one day they will all be stopped. Ultimately, the ocean will win and humanity will lose if they keep it up.

3) Also in your Handbook for Hot Witches, you've mentioned in passage how witches were related with storytellers and how rhymes and songs were important in spells and chants. Being a tarot reader (and deck maker), what do you think is the song of the tarot?

I made the tarot to be lyrical and romantic like a song, and even in one review someone said they could tell I was a musician.
I think the song of my Mermaid Tarot would be a sea shanty.

4) Browsing through your Mermaid deck, there's a noticeable Waite-Smith (WS) vibe there, specially in the minors. At the same time, the court cards and the majors often deviate from that WS matrix. What made you choose the WS tarot as a backbone for your own deck, and why did you choose to present different images for the Majors (for the most part) and the courts?

The first time I saw a tarot deck was my mom’s classic Ryder Waite from 1971.
I’ll never forget one night Mom’s friend was visiting us in Idaho from LA, and they were in the back room sitting by the fire. My mom’s long light auburn hair hung like a curtain with the fire glowing through it as she placed the cards in front of her friend to tell her a story of her life.
I thought it was very entrancing. When I was a teen witch my Mom bought me my own deck in Highschool, but I lost it sadly.
Then my friend Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland bought me another Rider Waite deck about ten years ago which I still use now.
I loved the atmosphere of the illustrations and have tried to emulate and recreate this kind of drawing style influenced by the Ryder Waite deck as well as illustrations from turn of the century fairytale books in my comics.

5) Comics are a form of visual narrative and the same could be said about the tarot. Both have their own distinct approach, and yet, there are several similarities between them. Having worked with both, how did your comics work and your tarot work influenced each other? And how do you think comics can help with tarot reading skills?

I was raised catholic and I always loved how the catholic church has stained glass windows that tell a visual sequencial narrative like comics.
When I decided to do a tarot deck I was very inspired by the fact it is also another form of sequencial art. And I couldn’t wait to do a nautical themed one with mermaids as the key characters.
The next tarot deck I want to produce will be based on the characters from my comic book Meat Cake.

 

 

You can contact Dame Darcy through her site, here. The Meatcake Bible can be bought over at amazon, at Fantagraphics or through Dame Darcy's online shop. Her tarot deck, now on its third edition, can be bought directly from her also from her shop. As for the Handbook for Hot Witches, you can get it from amazon and Dame Darcy's online shop.

Every Picture Tells A Story: An Interview with Aliza Einhorn

Aliza Einhorn is a recent find. I was over at Patheos a few weeks ago when I saw an ad for one of her astrology posts there. At the end of the post, Aliza had a short text plugging her latest on-line tarot workshop on how to create your own tarot deck, which is being developed in collaboration with the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW). For those of you who don't know what SAW is, SAW is a school for cartooning, comic art and graphic novels that started its activity in 2012. But more that just a school devoted to teaching the art of making comics, they're invested in bringing more people to comics and guiding people on how to communicate through images. Which is, basically, what we all do with tarot cards. Watching comic book people discovering the tarot is always a joy. Tom Hart, both a comic book professional and the director of SAW and has just posted his reaction over at the SAW's newsletter and it's great.

This is why, when I learned of Aliza's course, I was all over the place and immediately contacted her for a short interview. After all, comics and tarot are two of my major passions. Capital M, capital A, capital J, capital O, capital R. And I will take every chance I have to bring them on. This time, I have invited a tarot reader / astrologer / poet. Which, as you probably know, is a great combination to have together. She will talk through images and words and will spin those into a charm just for you. With her new course, she proposes to bring some of that magic forth and show you how magic is just another word for art.

So, without any further delay, here's Aliza Einhorn, about tarot and comics.

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1) How did your collaboration with Tom Hart and SAW, the Sequential Artists Workshop, come about?

Synchronicity! I was messaging with my friend, illustrator and cartoonist Leela Corman (who is married to Hart) and was saying how I'd like to do another local Tarot workshop for SAW students. I had already done one, a few months before. Literally a second later, Tom asked her if she thought I might be interested in teaching in the on-line SAW school. It felt like it was meant to be.

I've been teaching Tarot and Astrology classes on line for years, on my own. This was the first time I’d ever done anything local and also my first collaboration. Astrology lovers reading this know that Jupiter is in Libra and I have had all kinds of new partnerships spring up during this transit.

2) What is the class about? Who is it for?

I like to say that the class is for everyone! Artists, writers, those who want to create their own decks, Tarot lovers, Tarot curious.
It’s also for folks who simply want to get more in touch with their creativity, or feel blocked, using the Tarot as our template. It’s different than anything I’ve done before, more structured with weekly videos and writing and drawing assignments, and a private forum to talk about it all.

3) How can comics benefit Tarot readers?

Exposure to any art form will benefit Tarot readers because art, good art, moves us on a deep level, just as the Tarot does. This makes us more sensitive humans and thus better able to read the cards with compassion and truth and help people.
For me, comics are like holding a movie in my hands. It’s an immediate, raw experience. Happens so fast and so deeply. The best comics, for me, are like arrows to the heart and I can’t put the book or the comic down. It’s the feeling of not wanting to take the arrows out.

4) You said that reading comics is a raw immediate experience. How would you define a tarot reading?

I really love this question! Although Tarot reading, for me, is art and magic, ultimately I want clear answers, whether I'm drawing for clients or for myself. I want clarity. I want the road ahead. And I want to know what is most likely to happen. I'm in pursuit of truth, more than mystery. And if mystery comes, then I wait, and seek the truth again. So to answer the question of "how would I define a Tarot reading?" a Tarot reading is daily life. Just like I brush my teeth, drink coffee, eat food, work, etc., I draw the cards. For me, the spiritual is practical. And yet I often say to people: I don't know why it works, just that it does. I know a lot of Tarot readers who shy away from prediction. I run towards it!

5) What do you think is the most important aspect when creating a deck?

Courage. To be yourself and to tell your story. Your own imagination is key. This is a theme that runs through the class, but also it’s important to have some knowledge of Tarot history and tradition. You don’t need to be a Tarot scholar, but I think one should know some of the history they’re stepping into.
Still, the most important aspect is YOU and to discover your personal vision, what you want to say, show, within the Tarot context. Every new deck is a conversation with the decks that came before.
There may be folks in the class who decide to NOT make a Tarot deck at all and instead create some other Oracle or head off in a different direction. Folks who do want to create their Tarot deck though will have ample opportunity to explore and experiment and sketch out their ideas with plenty of support. I’ve just started creating mine and class hasn’t even started yet! I got inspired just from the process of putting together the class.
But in order to be yourself and to tell your story and to go deep in that, it helps to be fearless, vulnerable, and allow yourself to feel. Allow yourself to draw (or write) how you feel. That’s the hard part, that letting go, but that’s what will cause you to create something unique and authentic and beautiful.

 

Every Picture Tells a Story, Aliza Einhorn's Tarot Deck Creation Class starts September the 5th. For more information on how to sign on and a freebie, do please go the SAW website, here. For more Aliza goodness, you can check her personal website MoonPlutoAstrology and her Patheos column.

 

Raising Up a Fire to Call Me Back Home the

According to the Mayan Calendar, yesterday, the 31st of July, 2017 was the Day of 10 Owls, also known as 10 Ak’Bal. Since this might not say much to most of you, here’s a little explanation: for the Mayans, the Divine Calendar  — also known as the Tzolk'in— was composed of 13 rounds of 20 days each, for a total of 260 days; each day was determined by the particular combination of two inter-locking cycles, one consisting of numbers which runs 13 days, the other cycle consisted of images and lasted 20 days. Now, much like our tarot cards, each number and image was assigned a particular set of meanings. By decoding both, the Mayans would get the information necessary to make the best out of the day.

As yesterday was 10 Ak’bal, that particular day was about Personifying A Private World. Meaning it was about embodying our private world. Now, I’ve been doing some daily readings with the Thoth deck while taking the Tzolk'in into consideration (which you can follow here or here. The cards that came out yesterday were the Princess of Disks and the 7 of Cups and what they had to say was,

'Today's about personifying a private world. Look after yourself; it's about time you cleaned everything that's messing with you.'

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Of course there’s a lot more that could be said about these two cards. In the 7 of Cups we can see all the slime that is dripping from the walls and the cups filling and infecting everything. In a way, it almost looks like things have gone stale and can’t be endured anymore. Which make the need to act all the more pressing.

But the interesting part is what came next. About 30 minutes later, I got a call from my landlord urging me to go quickly to the check my room where I perform my readings as there was some kind of fire in the bar located on the ground floor of my building. Apparently, black smoke had been coming out of the bar for hours and it was be necessary to open doors for the firemen and to check if everything was in order. Nothing came out of it, but that didn’t stop the local news media to hover around trying to get every little dirty detail out of it.

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Truth and dare

Still, it forced me to look once again at the place that I rented more than three years ago with the purpose of establishing a practice in my home city. While this never really took off — specially with me being away for all of  the last year in East Timor — I’ve always resisted the urge to pass it, since I felt such a positive vibe in the place and it was so superbly located I grew attached to it. So it remained… not really abandoned and not really being used.

This also came to mind as I’ve been following Camelia Elias's latest series of tarot prompts, this one about the house. [You might notice how Camelia is a favorite here at Maelstromtarot. She is. In a way, she’s also the precursor of this whole journey as we all met at a Camelia Elias event]. As I was waiting for all the commotion to end and finally re-enter my room, I sat at the coffee reading her prompts and thinking about what to do with the space.

Guided by her first prompt, my first action was to determine where did the local spirit of my room resided in order to thank him for calling me into action. To this I decided to engage one of my all-time favorite decks and also one I haven’t used in years, the Tarot of the Siddhe by the talented Emily Carding.

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The answer was simple: ‘I stand in a place of gatherings. I am by the door, hovering. Protecting it and kindling the fire.’

The implications were clear: the spirit of the place could be found at that bar that caught fire. It did make some sense, as both the bar and my reading room are in the same building. Also according to the cards, the fire was his own doing, marking all of this as a definite call for action.

Should I stay or should I go?

Sometimes, the best questions come from popular culture. The Clash’s song perfectly echoed what I was thinking about: was it worth it to cling to a good vibe and a promise of what was to be? or was it better to just cut my losses and all attachments to the place and be on my way?

Truth be told, I was leaning more to the second answer. After all, the place was in limbo for about 18 months now, and with a new relocation just looming over the horizon, it would most probably remain there for at least another year. Letting it go seemed like the logical thing to do. The spirits, however, had other ideas:

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Things were bleak right now and reaching for that sunny spot there seemed almost like a mirage. Such was the situation, which was accurately portrayed in the Dancer Eight. I also couldn't help noticing the parallel with the 7 of Cups card I drew earlier for the daily remind. Talk about stagnation. And yet… even so I was invited to go beyond all of this and remain at that spot. 'This is a power spot', the cards say. 'Here you will end up channeling the power to move you straight to the sky. Besides, what's the alternative? Trying to figure out how to wrestle with dragons? Well, good luck with that! You will end up bargaining for what is here freely given.' 

'Fair enough', I said. When magic calls, one should answer. No ifs. No buts. Just saying yes will suffice.

I do!

Only one thing to do then: clean the whole place clean and put the show on the road. Offerings of thanks were made to both the local spirits and the ones that were guarding the place. Incenses were lighten and prayers were done. And in the end, a final question, 'How can I honor this place and the ones that inhabit it?'

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'Reside in harmony with this place; do not let go of this connection.'

Good, powerful magic is always simple. Even when it looks complex. If I want something out of it, I must give something of myself. The more present I am here, the more I use it for the gift of sight, the better it will be for the both of us. Talk about stating the obvious! Didn't it called me into coming back? What else should I be expecting?

As I lit the final candle and turned off the lights, a final message appeared. What was also a candle became something more; something greater. And the most appropriate seal imaginable.

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The Following Day, 11 K'an

For the Mayans, the day would always start at sunrise and would go on until the following sunrise. So even though I'm finishing this post at about 3:30 am of the 2nd of August, the corresponding Mayan day is still 11 K'an, which is about Owning a Public World. The cards that came out for this day were The Fool and the Ace of Swords and they spoke about going that extra mile to break through all those boundaries that wouldn't let us move forward. In a way, it does seem about right that tonight's the night when I post this.

🌞

 

 

 

How To Use Tarot To Interpret Dreams

How To Use TarotTo Interpret Dreams

Tarot cards are an excellent tool for helping you find meaning and understanding in your dreams. Using the cards is more personalized than using a generic dream interpretation book, which knows nothing about your personal history or unconscious impulses. With the cards, you can take the information you receive and incorporate it with your own information to form a complete picture.

The heart of Jungian psychoanalysis lies in analyzing the messages your unconscious delivers to you via your dreams. The idea is that your dream material is what’s ready to emerge from the lower iceberg of your unconscious, so that you can now work with this material, integrate it and move forward in a more complete way. You can use your cards to perform this function on your own. Although it isn’t psychoanalysis, it is a valid instrument to gauge what’s going on underneath the surface and help you work with your hidden “stuff” that’s ready to be examined.

Today I’ll use myself as an example so you can see how this process works.

I follow my dreams and often remember them. I’d suggest that you don’t “force” remembering your dreams but rather allow the ones that stick with you to emerge. Work with the material that seems to call for your attention.

Over the past few years I’ve had a recurring dream from time to time that varies in setting and some particulars, but never wavers from its basic theme: my first serious boyfriend (who I broke up with at 20 after nearly two years, for no other reason than I was young and wanted to experience the world, not be tied down) returns to me in my dream and I desperately want to reunite with him. He, however, is unavailable and although he comes close in the dream and at times even indicates he wants to be with me too, he always leaves or is always somehow prevented from being with me (usually it’s because he has another girlfriend).

The most recent iteration of this dream was the most dramatic; I stood before him and looked right into his eyes and said in all sincerity: “Leaving you was the biggest mistake of my life.”

Here is a three-card spread I devised that you can also use for any dream image or message that you’d like more insight about and are ready to really delve into and work with consciously:

  1. What message is this dream showing me?
  2. How can I work with and integrate this message?
  3. What’s the next step?

For my example, I used the Thoth Tarot. While I generally rely on the RWS for most of my readings, I opted for the Thoth as it appeals to me in terms of dream work. The images on the deck are much more nuanced and have a dreamlike quality about them. Since I feel I haven’t fully penetrated this deck’s depth (and perhaps never will, because it really has that bottomless-well quality to it), it seemed the perfect match for working with dream imagery.

Here are the cards I received for my mysterious, recurring ex-boyfriend dream:

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With the Thoth, I first like to allow the images to soak in and I take my initial impressions without any additional input. The immediate message to me of the 7 of Cups here is that we have something that has “gone bad.” It made me think of spoiled fruit, something that’s past its expiration date. It’s no longer fresh. Hence, we can garner an immediate interpretation that the dream is trying to show me that my ideas about “going back” to this ex or still desiring him, or imagining that “he was the one that got away” all those years ago, are mistaken. This is a “relationship” that exists only in the realm of things that are spoiled and overgrown, rotten and unsuitable to eat.

Secondly I noticed the opposing symmetry between the 7 of Cups and the 7 of Swords. Such a profound difference. It’s as if all the muck we see in the initial card is purified and clarified and made razor sharp in the third card, in the “next step” after we pass through the integration phase in the second card. Clearly the cards are showing a way forward. Further, if you look closely at the 7 of Swords, there’s a planetary symbol hanging off the point of each sword, with the moon being indicated in the central position. For me this points to being called on to trust my inner knowing and intuition, my emotions and heart impulses, mystery rather than logic, when it comes to taking the next step in terms of relationships.

The middle card for me is such a departure from the two “bookend” cards here, that it seems to be the major message and lesson. In fact, I often see the Knight of Pentacles in my RWS readings when I ask the cards about my love life and future. They continually, continually insist that I must focus on and “go for” the stable man, the one who doesn’t move, the one who’s real, concrete, loyal, faithful, grounded, etc. Here then, we see an example of how the cards repeat their messages across decks and across time.

You can also turn to references for additional information. I absolutely adore the book by Lon Milo Duquette, Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot.

In terms of the first card, “what message is this dream showing me?”, Duquette says the original title of the 7 of Cups is “Lord of Illusionary Success” (which immediately makes me think about the castles in the sky in the RWS 7 of Cups and how what we think is real or available or possible isn’t always the case). I immediately realize my ideas and longing for this past relationship and my romanticizing of it belong to a world of illusions. In fact, in the card itself, you can see how the lotus plants are covering each cup, much like an umbrella, and as Duquette points out, “all the cups are empty.” We’re reminded there’s no love here, there’s no substance here, there’s nothing here to nurture or grow. Duquette says:

This is much-too-much of what was once a good thing and, this low on the tree and this far off balance, there isn’t a single influencing factor left to remind her the party’s over.

At this point I feel I understand the message that’s trying to break through: what you think is this perfect past relationship really isn’t how you imagine it at all. It’s not real, and it’s not available to be revived.

Granted, this was always obvious to me on a semi-conscious level, but a part of me continued to want to cling to the idea or fantasy. This is where the cards help hammer home the message of the dream.

Moving to the final card, despite the keyword “futility” (I often ignore the Thoth keywords, because they distract me and I don’t get into the Kabbalah aspects of the cards), Duquette mentions Crowley said this card is “like a rheumatic boxer trying to ‘come back’ after being out of the ring for years.”

As it regards my love life, I’ve been “out of the ring” so to speak for about six years as I’ve been floundering around in the dating world since my divorce, coming up not with any healthy fish but rather seaweed and tin cans. In his divinatory meanings, Duquette mentions: “Yielding when victory is within grasp, as if the last reserves of strength were used up. Inclination to lose when on the point of gaining, through not continuing the effort.” This makes sense to me in terms of my love life. I often go for the unavailable or inherently impossible, and then give up when it inevitably doesn’t yield results, which takes us back to the central card, the Prince of Disks.

Everything about Disks suggests stability to me. Duquette suggests Crowley’s prince represents “the ultimate handyman.” Crowley’s take: “He is competent, ingenious, thoughtful, cautious, trustworthy, imperturbable; he constantly seeks new uses for common things.”

Once again I feel I’m being shown the direction for the “right” man in my life – if only I can accept and integrate the messages of letting go of expired illusions and take the next step of understanding how I might get “just this close” and then somehow abandon ship.

Using the tarot to work with dreams is a very organic process. By that, I mean you need to really allow yourself to be fluid and accept what comes through as resonating with you, rather than sticking to super strict rules or interpretations. Dreams offer the messages we’re ready to receive, much as the cards do.

How To Use TarotTo Interpret Dreams

A Cock & Bull Tarot: The Minchiate Etruria

I love Italy a lot. At least I love a lot of Italian things: the food (divine), the art (frighteningly brilliant), antiquities (just such a lot of it), opera (because FEELINGS), the men (well they ARE very well-groomed & know how to drive a Vespa), faux-antique tea trays (yes, they’re a Thing & JUST LEAVE ME ALONE), and above all, Italian cards. Come to think of it, I hardly use any other decks anymore: the Soprafino tarot, the Vera Sibilla oracle (about which I will tell you more in the future), and pretty much my first big tarot love: the Minchiate Etruria (say Ming-kee-AH-tay. Which looks surprisingly like Chinese but it isn’t. Honest!). Although it never really went away from my practice I’m getting reacquainted with it at present, and so I reckoned you might feel like joining me for a light Italian summer snack.

I found my beloved Etruria about nine years ago in a cheap bookstore amid a batch of Lo Scarabeo leftovers, a print from 1996. The original deck itself saw the light in 1725 in Florence, Italy. It was my first non-RWS deck, and it was quite a departure. But I loved everything about it: the baroque art, the bewildering amount of strange majors (or trionfi), the sporadically illustrated pips. Even the LWB that gave meanings so unlike the high-flown esoteric reading style I was used to. Although at first I struggled to make sense of it, when I found The Minchiate Tarot by the late Brian Williams I fell in love even more. This brilliant book (which I will use as the main source for the discussion below) not only explores in great detail the iconographic context & history of these cards, but it also emphasizes its earthy, self-assured, even cocky nature. The book also comes with a modern Minchiate deck illustrated by the author. Recommended!
 
The name Minchiate seems to have been derived from a (lost) gaming term, as originally it was played as a game, a variant of tarocchi . But it also sounds the same as an obscene expletive, or disparaging term for trifles or nonsense. In Dutch we would probably say gelul, talking out of your dick. In English ‘cock & bull’ would be the nearest expression. Not inappropriate for a worldly, chatty, confident & proudly Florentine deck! So let’s take a closer look.
 
The Minchiate Fiorentina is but one of many tarot variants strewn along the path of what we now know as the traditional tarot deck, of which Marseille-type decks are probably the best-known (I will go with the term traditional deck or tarot for clarity’s sake when comparing the Minchiate). The Minchiate deck did not evolve slowly over time like other regional patterns, but it was invented all at once somewhere early in the 16th century. It continued to flourish throughout the 17th & 18th centuries (hence the Etruria edition), and remained a living game until the 1900s. As there is a lot of excellent information about the Minchiate to be found for the enthusiastic student such as this excellent article by Benebell Wen whom we should all adore), I will limit myself here to the trumps & their most glaring divergences from the mainstream tradition.
 
Firstly, the sheer number of trionfi: there are 41 instead of the usual 22. Because of this it is more or less traditional to read trumps & pips separately. I myself hardly bother with the pips when reading this deck. So what are the extras? Well, in addition to the three ecclesiastical Virtues present in the traditional decks (Temperance, Strength, Justice), we also have the four cardinal Virtues as first described by Aristotle: Hope, Prudence, Faith, Charity. This alone firmly makes the Minchiate a product of the Renaissance with its renewed interest in the Classics. Another series of added cards are the twelve signs of the Zodiac, although no one knows how to explain the random order in which they appear. Furthermore we have the Four Elements. 
 
Cards that iconographically diverge from the Marseille-type, but not from Italian pre-Marseille cards, are Wheel of Fortune, Chariot, Time, Hanged Man, Death, Devil, Tower. Time replaces the Hermit, and depicts an elderly male figure on crutches, surrounded by Saturnine symbolism such as the hourglass & kneeling stag. The Tower is traditionally called the House of the Devil (or God, whichever you prefer), and depicts a nude woman running out of a burning building.
 
Curiously the first five trumps (after the Fool) are called I Papi (the Popes), even though there is no Pope to be found! Instead we have two Emperors: the Western & Eastern Emperor. The Popess seems to have been replaced by the Grand Duke, of which both the name & nature are uncertain. It seems that he started out as a Popess or Empress-like figure, but morphed into an androgynous-looking young male. I therefore read him as an ambiguous, mutable figure, capable of change & growth, but also deception. 
 
There is no Empress either, but before anyone complains about the gender balance in this deck: the Chariot depicts a nude Victory instead of the usual Martian male, the angel in Fame (Judgement, about which more in a minute) is distinctly female, and the four cardinal Virtues are of course all ladies as well. Moreover, the pip suits of Coins & Cups have Fantine (maidens) instead of Pages. So there.
 
A number of trumps have quite distinct iconographies as compared to traditional decks. However, I’m picking my two favourites here: the World & Fame, which replaces Judgement. The World does not depict a simpering world soul enshrined in a floating bower, but a fully nude Amor triumphantly standing on the Globe, bearing his arrow & a crown. This harks back to the Love card, in which a kneeling lover receives a crown from either the object of his adoration or the Goddess of Love herself (and who is to say those two are different beings?), while being shot at by Amor. Love makes the World go round is what these cards are saying, and what a glorious, perilous affair it is. 
 
However, to the Florentine mind this is not even the highest ideal yet: the final trump is Fama, Fame, also called the Angel or the Trumpets. In the Etruria deck this angel is a woman blowing on two trumpets, floating above a recognizable Florence, and sporting the De’Medici family crest. So still better than Love is Fame, when the whole city (which is the whole world you need anyway, at least when you live in Florence) talks about you. Even if it’s only cock & bull. No such thing as bad publicity, right?
 
My love for the worldly message of this deck has NO BOUNDS, people: no Pope or Popess, Amor ruling the world, and what your neighbours say about you completely negates the Judgement at the End of Days. 
And that’s before even trying to read them! 
 
So let’s look at an example. This is a reading I recently did for a client. As you can see I added charms to this reading, which are very well received by the baroque images of the Etruria. This is the ‘traditional’ spread from the LWB: three trumps for the main story, more or less past-present-future, but to be read loosely as a story. Four pips around it, past, present, future developments or challenges, and outcome.
 
The client felt at a loss about where her life should be going: to leave her situation including her relationship, or not? To me, World at the centre with Amor on top of a crossroads of sorts, reflects this conundrum. The figure is holding the Cross & the Heart charms, meaning a choice between shouldering the burden & following your heart. Amor being at the heart of this reading is significant in itself of course. The Mask covering his face indicates that the querent does not feel the love anymore, and she feels fake & insincere. 
 
Taurus to the left, looking wistfully at the Chariot that I pulled as a sight card, shows that the querent has found stability that they now find stifling (Elephant, Cloud), and would rather move along (Star charm). Also, the Chariot explains why the querent is reluctant to move from a secure spot, after some abrupt movement earlier on. However, from the cards to the right it is clear that she will eventually make the dreaded move: House of the Devil shows a woman running from a dire situation, with the Man charm covering the figure pulling her back in.
 
The woman figure got the Oyster & Pearl charm, showing that deep down she already knows that she needs to leave. The Water card shows the Ship, meaning a new adventure, and also a literal journey. So she will definitely move away. The Ship also got the Compass, meaning a new direction. With the Roman numeral X at the heart of the Chariot, the World crossroads, and the Compass, this means three Crossroads in a row. Obviously there is a lot of emphasis on choosing a new path.
 
Looking at the pips, we see the painful situation that the querent has left behind, before she found her present stability that has now turned stagnant: Three of Swords, with Dragon covering the wolf that suckles the children. This situation was toxic, not nurturing, and she did well to leave it behind (Skull, Dagger). In the present we find the Seven of Cups, with four accompanying charms. The Cups show an illusory relationship, and the Lion staring at the Moon & Ring but ignoring the Apple that would actually nurture him tells us that the querent is using her Strength to keep herself in an unhealthy situation. 
 
We already saw that she will likely move away, and if she does so she will receive a gift, as illustrated by the Three of Coins. She will be dealt a lucky Hand, and find a nurturing & prosperous situation (Peacock/Empress). Moreover, with the Seer’s Eye & the Hand of Cards, the Three indicates that she will be able to expand her card reading business some more. 
 
The outcome looks very good indeed: the Eight of Coins shows her happy & secure amid a warm community. With Butterfly & Raven it is clear that her ancestral spirits are fully on board with this transformation. Locket & Witch Plant show gifts & growth yet to be revealed, and confirm that loss & stagnation are diminishing factors, even though the querent will need to continue her internal work.
 
So that is a clear, concise reading that you can make as detailed as you want, with just this simple spread! However, I mainly use the trumps in freestyle storytelling readings, or sometimes in a Grand Tableau, using all the charms as well. Endless possibilities! If you take the trouble to get to know these intriguing cards, you will be well rewarded.
Buon’appetito!
 
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