This is a fascinating French documentary exploring the artistic connection between the oldest deck of Tarot cards known as the Tarot de Marseille and 15th century art. The documentary travels to Italy where Tarot was born to follow various leads and look at examples of the oldest Tarot decks and Italian art.
The work of Sandro Botticelli features prominently, as does Plato’s philisophical cave allegory which deals with the nature of reality and whether what we see is just a rough projection of reality. The connections between this idea and the Tarot’s Devil card are fascinating.
The documentary is entirely in French without English subtitles, so you’ll probably need to speak French to enjoy this.
In preparation for the upcoming Tarot section of this blog, complete with a brand new online Tarot reader, here is a television documentary on the history of Tarot cards. It’s narrated by the super-hammy Christopher Lee!
The best thing about the documentary is its brief outline of Tarot history. Its explanations of card meanings and interviews with Tarot readers are superficial and absurd. The interviewees tend to be of the type who predict actual events and make foolish assumptions rather than focus on what the cards suggest to a person and what they represent as possibilities in that person’s thinking. Most of the unfortunate people featured in this documentary are of the variety that the Tarot tradition should avoid at all costs. Pay no attention to them.
Enjoy the film for what it is and remember that if you have an interest in Tarot you won’t be disappointed in the new app which will be a very deep resource of information about the entire Tarot de Marseilles deck and will give full 10-card Celtic Cross readings with explanations and card details.
The Italian Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck dates from around 1450. There are several incomplete decks scattered around the world in various museums and private collections. A few of the cards are permanently missing. Apparently, the Tower and Devil cards are among those that got modern replacements to complete printings of this beautiful deck.
Recently, there have been highly successful reconstructions of various Tarot decks. One of the most well-known is the result of several years of work by the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and Philippe Camoin who worked on their version of the famous Marseille Tarot deck in the 1990s. Jodorowsky's research and writing about the meanings contained in the that deck are fascinating essential reading for anyone interested in Tarot. He leans toward using the Tarot for self-knowledge and healing. His writing is inspiring. If you want to read what is probably the best book on Tarot, go get 'The Way of Tarot – The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards' by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa.
However, the actual cards produced by Jodorowsky have a hard-edged, overly precise clarity to them. Everything is edged in black line. The colors are flat and super saturated. It's too clean and modern looking. It misses an essential ingredient in any great Tarot deck: imprecision. My mystical mind prefers some mess. A little blur always makes a symbol more powerful. Clarity brings Tarot too close to the realm of text. The images should be shrouded, revealing multiple meanings only to close and slightly irrational observation. There are other Marseille decks that avoid this fatal flaw. The Visconti deck appears to have the chaos that I require in spades!