Fool’s Gold

 

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Albrecht Durer, title page from Sebastian Brant’s Narranschiff, 1494

Some 15 years ago, Brian Williams created a Tarot based on humanist Sebastian Brant’s illustrated tome of moral commentary, the Narranschiff, or Ship of Fools. It was inevitable that my interest in the Ship of Fools Tarot would be reignited. Brant’s 15th century work is not only fascinating in its own right, but it was undoubtedly an influence on Jost Amman, whose 16th century deck of 52 playing cards has become a bit of an idee fixe for me of late. Continue reading

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Of Printing Pads and Cabbage Stalks

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Jost Amman playing cards, 1588 (Edition Leipzig, 1967)

Seems there is a small flurry of interest lately in the lovely 16th century German deck of cards by Jost Amman. This is the deck featured in the intriguing novel The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann (and in a recent blog post).  Most people interested in this deck will turn to the very affordable reproduction by Historic Games. But the (out of print) 1967 reproduction by Edition Leipzig comes with an extensive introduction to the cards by one Erwin Kohlmann. He’s got some fascinating tidbits for those eager to know more: Continue reading

The Tarot of Chinoiserie

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Tarocchi Orientali Foudraz 1845

Chinoiserie: the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century.

chicanery:  deception by artful subterfuge or sophistry : trickery Continue reading

Oh look! A chicken! (maybe an egg)

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Medieval chickens and eggs (source unknown)

I’ve been experimenting with the common practice of pulling three cards each morning to say, What will the day be like? I’ve found I assess the day’s spread with an inner criterion I’ll call resonance. When the cards resonate, they articulate the prevailing mood quite exactly.  Not that I knew what the prevailing mood was, beforehand. Up till that moment it was just a swirl of nebulous, disorganized bits of thought and feeling, cloud cover and barometric pressure. Continue reading

A Sibilla Madrigal

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Sibille del Originale 1890, Il Meneghello

I’ve been writing lately about a cartomantic deck I like a lot, the Italian Sibilla. Meanwhile, this month of April is National Poetry Month. So I had the bright idea of combining two loves, by sculpting a Sibilla reading into a poetic form. Continue reading

Eeyore and Tigger Read the Cards: The Statistics of Optimism

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Every Day Oracle (La Vera Sibilla): Malinconia and L’allegria (Lo Scarabeo); with A. A. Milne’s Eeyore and Tigger (E. H. Shepard, illustrator)

Have you ever caught yourself subconsciously picking which of your friends to confide in? When you’re bursting with exuberant feelings about that hot new date, you’re not rushing to Facetime your good buddy Eeyore. And when you have vague unsettling suspicions about how your boss is treating you, trying to get Tigger to stop bouncing and listen is a fruitless task.*

But there are times you want neither Eeyore nor Tigger’s one-dimensional world view. Because…tell me the truth! Is the world basically a happy place or a difficult one? Is the cup really more than half-full, or less than half-empty? Continue reading

The Daily Round

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La Vera Sibilla (Every Day Oracle), Lo Scarabeo

How to describe the Italian Sibilla cards?

It’s like going to your great-aunt’s house when you’re quite small, where the smells are old and the furniture ponderous. All is dusty and dim but for the brilliant light streaming in the kitchen window, spilling onto vivid purple African violets and red geraniums. Silence hangs heavy as brocade drapes, yet sometimes you think you hear laughter from another room. Your great-aunt is kindly, offering tidbits of unaccustomed food and conversation. She’s ancient, but sometimes unexpectedly, for an instant, her lissome, younger self bubbles forth. Continue reading