Uncovering the enchanting tradition in Italy and beyond
Picture this: A candlelit room in Renaissance Italy, a glass of the finest Tuscan wine, and the intoxicating allure of tarot cards scattered across a velvet table. It’s not just a scene from a period drama; it’s the enchanting beginning of the tarot’s history, a journey filled with mysticism, symbolism, and an undeniable dash of Italian flair.
For the uninitiated: Tarot is a pack of playing cards, used from at least the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play card games such as Tarocchini. Over time, the deck began to be used for tarot reading – the practice of divining wisdom and guidance through a specific spread of the cards. The first documented uses of such tradition date back to the 17th century in Bologna – no surprise there, given Italy’s penchant for all things stylish and mysterious – although tarot’s modern dissemination in fortune-telling and association with occultism didn’t officially start until the late 18th century, and was mainly linked to French occultists Antoine Court de Gébelin and Etteilla.
Keen to know more? Read on – then delve into the world of tarot with the Paraná Studio Maremma Tarot, a beautiful take on tarocchi Maremmani.
An Italian romance
Back in the 15th century, tarot cards weren’t mystical divination tools; they were simply the playing cards of the Italian upper crust. Nobles and aristocrats engaged in a game called “tarocchi,” a clever pastime combining skill, strategy, and a touch of luck. It wasn’t until a few decades later that these intriguing cards found their way into the world of mysticism, becoming the cornerstone of divination and spiritual exploration. Talk about an impressive career pivot.
Savvy individuals began noticing in fact the cards’ hidden potential as vehicles for unravelling the mysteries of life, divining the future, and exploring the human psyche.
Italy, ever the land of artistic brilliance, was at the forefront of this tarot transformation. The Visconti-Sforza deck, created in the mid-15th century for the Duke of Milan, is an example of how the cards evolved, and stands today as one of the earliest surviving tarot decks. Its intricate imagery and symbolism hinted at a deeper, more mystical purpose, a purpose yet to be fully revealed.
Tarot cards eventually became a portal to wisdom, a gateway into the human soul, and a tool for exploring the mysteries of existence in 18th century France. That adaptation saw the deck’s 78 cards divided into two main categories: Major Arcana (22 cards depicting life’s big themes) and the Minor Arcana (56 cards for the everyday stuff). While the former referred to spiritual matters and important trends in the questioner’s life, the latter dealt mainly with business matters and career ambitions.
That same reading still stands today – a time when tarot has transcended its Italian origins to become a global phenomenon. Tarot readers, scholars, and enthusiasts worldwide delve into its intricate layers of meaning, interpreting its messages with a blend of intuition and learned wisdom.
One tarot, a myriad designs
Italy holds a treasury of tarot treasures, each deck a masterpiece of artistry and insight. But tarot found their fortunes everywhere in Europe, and with that came a plethora of diverse styles for the cards, each one more mesmerising than the other.
Take the Rider-Waite Tarot, with its iconic imagery, which was created by British occultist Arthur Edward Waite and artist Pamela Colman Smith but drew inspiration from the rich symbolism of earlier Italian decks. The Tarot of Marseilles, though French by name, carries the legacy of the Italian tarot tradition with its captivating symbols and archetypal characters.
And then there are the tarocchi Maremmani re-imagined by Capalbio-based figurative artist Charlie Masson who, together with interiors company Paraná Studio and design firm Ilex Studio reimagined the deck through scenes of the Maremma landscape, to recreate echoes of Italy’s enchanting past and the mysteries of the ages through a bucolic scenery.
The result? A tarot that continues to unfold with each reading, revealing insights, answers, and a glimpse into the soul of the human experience and la bella Italia.
How to dive into this mystical practice like a seasoned pro:
Pick the Right Deck: With a variety of artistic styles and themes, selecting a deck that resonates with you is crucial. Whether you’re drawn to the Rider-Waite Tarot’s classic symbolism or the whimsical energy of the Tarot of the Cat People, choose a deck that speaks to your soul
Embrace Intuition: While books and guides can be helpful, trust your intuition when interpreting the cards. Your gut feeling often knows the answers better than any book.
Daily Draws: Start your day with a one-card draw to set the tone. As you become more comfortable, try three-card spreads for past, present, and future insights.
Journal Your Journey: Keep a tarot journal to record your readings, your thoughts, and your evolving interpretations. This journal will be your treasure trove of insights over time.
Practice, Practice, Practice: Like any skill, tarot improves with practice. Don’t be disheartened if you’re not an oracle on day one; it’s a lifelong journey.