Understanding the Oriental Tarot
I spent most of last summer waiting impatiently for the arrival of the Oriental tarot from Rinascimento Italian Art. I was so intrigued by it, after years of collecting Marseille style tarot and studying its history, I never knew an Oriental Marseille style deck existed.
Giordano Berti explained that this tarot deck was created in Turin by lithographer Claudio Foudraz in 1845 in the ‘Oriental Style’ which was very popular with high society at the time, but the deck was never printed. I just had to have it.
It did not disappoint; the deck comes in the typical luxurious Rinascimento book like box designed by Letizia Riveti. It also comes with a little booklet containing historical research done by Giordano Berti, as well as images of different types of Chinese playing cards.
The cards are printed on vellum paper, which is similar to the Perrin Tarot- divine.
In contrast to the Perrin’s no nonsense, straight up, blunt character. The Oriental has a softer Yin approach. It makes you think, slow down and contemplate. Perhaps this is due to the different configuration of the minor arcana to the Marseille style as I know it. Here is an example of the 10 of cups and swords compared with the Vergnano tarot (1830).
The difference in configuration, creating alternative shapes, has inspired me to interpret some minors in a different way, as well as making elemental links with the principles of the I-Ching. For example, in a Marseille style reading, the 10 of swords in general terms equals trouble. In the Oriental tarot you can see that the swords create a diamond formation. Elementally speaking the shape of the diamond represents fire and swords is metal, therefore fire + metal = clash.
I like the visual aspect of the swords and wands tied in ribbons, it looks very structured (Yang). Compared to the cups and coins, their symmetry is more irregular (Yin).
When looking at the major acarna, the chariot (VII) is female instead of the traditional male figure, as well as in the lovers (VI) card where the centre character is also female.
No horses for her; this has also altered my reading as I generally read the function of the chariot as to conquer. As for the lovers card, even though there is no cupid, you can still see that there is ambivalence and that a decision needs to be made.
Whenever I receive a new deck I conduct an interview, but on this occasion I just asked one question. What have you got to offer?
The Star: Trust. The Moon: Imagination. Justice: Balance.
You can get your copy of the Oriental Tarot here!