Nostradamus and Tarot
The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus has caught my fancy.
When the mysterious Lost Book of Nostradamus surfaced in 1994, I remember reading about its discovery. At the time, the manuscript was met with some skepticism, was it an authentic article penned by the 16th century seer; or a product of his son, or other contemporary?
When the tarot deck of the same name hit the market in 2012, I confess to having a dismissive opinion of it based on reading those earlier articles.
Last week, I spotted a few card reproductions from this deck on one of the tarot social media platforms I subscribe to and this time it piqued my interest enough to reacquaint myself with the lost book and the cards associated with it. Imagine my delight when I was able to score a kit set (book and cards) for under $10.00 USD on Amazon. At that price it was virtually no gamble and I could not resist.
I'm kind of disappointed in myself for not having jumped on this deck earlier. By all accounts, the book does seem to be a legitimate product begun by the great man himself, with accompanying illustrations apparently sketched out by his son. It seems authentic enough to indeed consider this deck worthy of consideration.
Certainly the seer and tarot are a perfect collaboration. Cartomancy was widespread in Nostradamus' time and he would have been familiar with it. The eighty accompanying illustrations seem to coincide remarkably well with the seventy-eight cards in a tarot deck and it is not a far stretch to wonder if Nostradamus himself may have designing a tarot deck for his own use. It is now apparent that he died before this project, whatever it may have been intended to be, had been executed. So there are legitimate questions whether or not this body of text and imagery was indeed the conception of a tarot deck or something else. But the evidence is pretty compelling that he was working on a tarot deck and that's pretty exciting territory.
In the fifteen hundreds there was a wide variety of tarot styles and content. Tarot hadn't yet gelled into the more-or-less standard and recognizable format which it attained in subsequent years; we have copies of decks like the Minchiate and Sola Busca to bear that out. For this reason it should not be surprising that some of the tarot imagery that Nostradamus conceived of is not readily identifiable to us. Keep in mind also, that it was becoming increasingly treacherous to be overtly associated with astrology, astronomy, or other occult practices that challenged church beliefs. Since it is known that Nostradamus' quatrains could be understood on multiple levels, so why not too, his conceptions of tarot imagery be disguised to avoid an overt reference to what it truly was. Case in point, The Hanged Man which in this deck is represented by a slithering snake. In some renditions of The Hanged Man in other decks, the rope is actually a serpent. And really, isn't a rope a stone's through away from visually resembling a snake? Another unusual card is The World, which in this deck is identified as The Completed World. If you think of it as the Holy Grail sitting on the earth, representing the end of a long journey and realizing the ultimate truth, you get the idea. If you can think along these lines, the cards of the Major Arcana readily make sense.
The four suits take greater leaps from what we regard as the standard norm in tarot; There are Stars, Spheres, Suns, and Moons which seem to correspond respectively with Swords, Coins or Pentacles, Wands, and Cups. Each of the suit borders, including the borders of the Major Arcana have their own unique color. The majors are defined by gold, stars by mercury, lead for spheres, copper for suns, and silver for moons. It is in the borders that the creators of this deck took their greatest liberties but that is forgivable since they are seamless in keeping with the time and content and because their borders assist us in more readily distinguishing the suits. I believe it goes without saying that if you have any sincere interest in tarot, you need to know your Roman Numerals since all these cards are identified by them, even the court cards which are numbered XI to XIV; which brings us to the next very interesting deviation in the cards. The court cards are not identified as page, knight, queen and king (or some variation thereof), but rather they are identified differently in each suit. Stars are religious figures, Spheres are scientists or more appropriately for the time, alchemists. Suns are religious figures and finally, the moons are philosophers and occultists. It all makes perfect sense and really, not difficult to follow its logic at all.
The only things that bother me somewhat about this deck, is that the card quality is lacking, but coming in under $10.00 I can hardly complain. 0 appears on the Fool card, and since there is no 0 in Roman Numerals, it really should have been left blank to take its natural and fickle position in the deck.
Anyway, I'm five years late in reviewing this deck, and deck reviews are not something I usually do on my blog anyway. So this entry is a bit of an anomaly. I usually limit deck reviews to a quickie video in my Instagram feed @TheTarotReader, and reserve my blog entries for other discussions. But today, I made an exception, and it was a nice way to break the ice back into writing on my blog. The recent death of my mother has had me greatly occupied with very time consuming pursuits settling her estate, and this was just the diversion that the proverbial doctor ordered.
The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus may be purchased here.