Hidden in Plain View
Like the original meanings of tarot cards my recent acquisition of the 1995 Lo Scarabeo out-of-print tarot deck is right here for the asking, and yet remains unknowable.
This is because I have yet to break its seal. I saved for it, made it an ambition of mine to finally own it, even kept its purchase from my more conservative husband (who did eventually find out), and yet there it sits in its factory sealed package taunting me. I bought it to study it, to use it for reading despite its incongruities with modern tarot images (which all owe a debt to it) But my conflict is that once I break the seal, its value as a collectible, though still high, will wane somewhat.
I am disappointed in myself for taking this stance. I didn't buy any of my cards as a financial investment, I bought them for my personal use. But there is no question that in recent years especially, tarot cards have become collectible items and big business. I can kick myself now for all the original boxes from some of my older tarot decks from the late 1960s and early 70s that I tossed in favor of placing a deck in a silk pouch or decorative box. Although I own some very nice older decks, quite a few of them are without their original packaging and therefore are of less value to a collector.
In the early days, the only tarot deck available in the U.S. prior to 1971 was the 1JJSwiss tarot deck which was the first deck I owned. (See my blog entry titled, 'Forty Seven Years Later') And yeah, I tossed that box, sigh.
I bought tarot cards to use them in readings. I am also an artist, so I bought multiple decks in appreciation of their art. I never bought decks based on having an awesome collection in later years, though that is what has happened.
My primary reason for buying the Sola Busca, the subject of this blog, is because in addition to being a reader, I am a lover of tarot history and the Sola Busca plays a huge role in the history of tarot as we have come to know it today.
Buying this deck completes my core collection. Sure, I own many, many decks, but there are a few decks I could have lived without. Not so of the cards in my core collection.
So what cards do I consider to be in my core collection?
The Visconti Sforza is the oldest extant deck of tarot and dates to the mid 1400s. I purchased the restored Visconti deck by lo Scarabeo because my purpose was to use them for reading purposes. And also out of respect and awe of the first prototype of all tarot cards. It was a magnificent handpainted deck of playing cards for a wealthy and noble family of Milan. The pips of the Visconti deck have beautiful decorative but not illustrated pips.
By 1491, the Sola Busca Tarocchi deck was created, and is the oldest known complete deck created using a printing process. The images were transferred from copper engravings. What makes them particularly significant in the world of tarot, is that they were the first deck of tarocchi to fully illustrate the pip cards. To my knowledge it is not known if the images had esoteric significance at the time of its creation, but it is known that they greatly influenced esoteric meaning and illustrations assigned to the cards by future creators of tarot decks intended for divination or as a spiritual path. It is evident that prior to the RWS deck, created in 1909, Pamela Colman Smith was introduced to the Sola Busca deck when black and white images of it were on display in the British museum in 1907. A comparison of several cards of the sola Busca and the RWS deck bear this out. Pixie was definitely familiar with the imagery and borrowed heavily from the Sola Busca when creating her imagery on the cards she created with Waite.
The other significant cards in my core collection are: the Marseille Deck, (mid 1600s and significant to me for their possible assignations by those who may have attempted to preserve the story of the Cathars or other mysterious agenda); the Grand Etteilla Egyptian Gypsy Tarot Deck (early 1790s) which is the first known deck created expressly for divination; the RWS deck which I own in multiple publications. This is the deck that most modern decks of tarot are indebted to; and lastly the Aleister Crowley Thoth deck for its combination of disparate disciplines to communicate each card's meanings.
Increasingly, appreciation for the Marseilles style deck is responsible for more modern decks being created in styles reminiscent of the style Marseille and gaining in popularity to the long reigning tradition of RWS.
In owning the Sola Busca and completing my core collection, I kind of feel that any tarot cards I buy from this point onward are just superfluous and part of my tarot addiction, unless one completely makes its mark on the tarot community in the way that each of the aforementioned decks have.
I have read that the Sola Busca are not easy to read since its creator took liberties in designing this particular tarocchi deck. It does not follow the traditional order of the major arcana in the Sforza deck which came earlier or the Marseilles deck which came later. My guess is that artistic license was taken to create scenes as they were were commissioned by the noble family to tell the story of their familial line, to make known or commemorate their family history.
I surely have digressed from the point of this blog which is: Should I or should I not open the factory seal of my Sola Busca deck and use these cards? My heart says yes, but my mind says no. I will surely keep you posted.
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