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Need help untangling inner conflict between Tarot & TdM


Hello everyone!
This is my very first post though I've been lurking in this forum for a few weeks now I'm an artist/designer and my love affair with tarot has been a slow-burning one, beginning when I had my first reading a few years back when I was going through a difficult creative time. The reading revealed to me the path that I was to take and it changed EVERYTHING for me.

My first deck was the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Law and I used it for personal intuitive readings for a few years. I don't read for others but who knows where this path will take me?

In the past few months I've set an intention to uncover the language of my soul as part of the creativity course I'm teaching (as well as experiencing) and the art project I'm working on, and I felt pulled to dig deeper into Carl Jung, archetypes and symbolism. I read that Jung worked with the Tarot de Marseilles only and so I picked one up!

And so it begins, this wonderful fall into the TdM rabbit hole!! I've been devouring Ben-Dov's Open Reading, Jodorowsy's Way of the Tarot as well as JDM and Enriquez's ebooks while studying my 2 TDM-style decks (A Robledo and the gorgeous Triomphes de la Lune. A Flornoy Jean Dodal is on the way). The more I study it the more I realize why I was drawn to TdM for my tarot education - I love how stripped down it is to the bare bones of symbolism/iconography, how easy it is to find my own truths in its visual language, because there isn't anything extraneous in there to distract me.

And while I totally agree with some Tarot teachers' views that TdM should be an entry point for students of the Tarot seeing that the graphics lasted for so long (centuries) and based on my own experience, less distracting, part of me is conflicted about a concept I've been reading: that the Tarot is perfect in the TdM and doesn't need to be 'improved'.

There are a few reasons for this conflict : #1, I believe that the Tarot language is strongly archetypal, which is why it's so relatable, and like all beautiful archetypal (conscious or accidental) works throughout history -fairytales and stories like 'Alice in Wonderland'-we see ourselves in it and we want to re-interpret it. I believe this is why there has been thousands of Tarot decks in the past 100 years of its re-discovery just as there are innumerable re-interpretations of fairytales.

#2 relates to #1. I want to create my own deck! But not just for personal use. I've spent the past 2 years developing/sharing a personal Myth of the creative soul based on my own journey and the more I study TdM, the more I see the parallel between what I've been creating and the Tarot, and I am feeling called to share this with the world. Should I feel bad for wanting to impose my own version of the TdM or Tarot? I suppose I am a little.

#3 I am intrigued by the idea of Tarot decks that leaves lots of room for personal interpretation. My view on Tarot has changed since I started studying TdM. My decks before this were all RWS-style but now they say too much. I do think that there is a room for deck styles between TdM and RWS because Moonboy (Patrick Valenza)'s Triomphes de la Lune is that for me. It allows me to find my truths without saying too much, and in a much more invigorating way than historical TdMs purely because of his amazing Deviant Moon-like world and evocative visual style. I'd love to be able to do something like that with my own deck.

I suppose my reason for posting is for discourse. I have tremendous respect for all of you who work with TdM, who have restored the decks lovingly, who dove deep to understand why this style of Tarot has been so enduring, what it's really saying, and who worked hard to teach it to others. I want my heart to be in the right place if/when I do take on my own Tarot deck creation and I'd love some guidance and perhaps some alternate perspectives!

So what do you think:
Is the TdM perfect the way it is and needs no improvement?
What do you think contributes to the enduring symbolism and graphics of the TdM-style decks?
Any suggestions for resolving my inner conflicts?


Thank you so much,
Amy
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Hi!

First and foremost, I am a beginner. I first put my hands on a tarot deck last month.

Of course... It was a TdM. To give you a little background - I'm an art and history buff. I grew up with my historian mother giving me her education by some sort of weird "osmosis".

So, I was torn. RW is so beautiful - it has so many colors, so many shapes, PC did such a wonderful job with the illustrations... But the TdM goes deeper.

With my "retouched" Nicolas Conver, I feel that history. I can sense it goes waay back. It's not just the fact that tarot itself might have appeared in the 1400's - it's that the foundations for the cards are much, much older. The cups, for example - I see the holy grail, everytime. The tower, such a mystic card - I see the Babel Tower. But sometimes, I just see the fires of renewal. And THAT'S why the TdM is my favorite.

As you mentioned before, the RW does the work for you. I mean, that 3 of swords? I hate that card. On my TdM, it's so beautiful. I look at it and see hope, growth, creation even. On a RW, it's just heartbreak. Not even going to comment on the 9 and 10 of swords.

Of course, sometimes I think I took a larger step than I should have. These days, doing just a silly reading for practice, I drew a 7 of coins and my mind went blank. "What is this? Oh dear I forgot. Well, I use my intuition anyway, so what does it mean?" it said nothing to me. My fault, I was nervous and trying too hard. As A. Jodorowsky says, the hardest thing to see is the one that's right in front of you. For the TdM, there's nothing more real.

I don't think it's wrong to try and make something your own. It's a natural instinct. Tarot cards have never stopped being improved - that's not going to stop now. TdM has so many different decks, and I find that so amazing.

Also, nothing is perfect. See it this way - if the TdM were already perfect, we would draw cards and be able to tell people exact truths. Things like "This draw is saying you will find a girlfriend next month, 7pm, next to the bus stop". We can't do that. Tarot itself it's an evasive little thing. On it's own, it says everything and nothing. We are the ones who give the tarot real meaning.

The only thing I'd tell you to be cautious about - I think it might be really easy to turn a TdM into a RW. Like for me, the 6 of coins talks about family. I don't know why, but it does. If I were creating a deck, I might be so tempted to make that card to reflect my meaning. That would not be the truth, though - For most people, it talks about abundance of resources. That's a trap we can all very easily fall in.

All the best to you in your endeavors! I hope I was able to help. Also, let me posted if you start making the deck - I'd love to see it
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Welcome to AT, Amy!

Personally, I agree that TdM is perfect the way it is and needs no improvement. However, creating another Tarot deck, in my opinion, is in no way an 'improvement' of something that exists already as much as it is creating something new. Yes, it can be inspired by something existing, but that'll be totally your creation, based on your experience and your understanding of the world. We could say that women's portraits are perfect with Mona Lisa - does this mean nobody should have painted any since?

For me, like for you, what makes TdM special is the simplicity of design and profoundness of symbols. I suspect that part of their charm actually comes from ambiguity and multiple possibilities of interpretations for those symbols, as we keep adding layers of understanding based on our vision of the cards, combined with real-life situations for which those cards come up. But then, of course, there are things I can only get from other decks: beautiful, diverse art, powerful non-Christian symbols, specific reading systems, and so on. Life is abundant and varied, and so should be Tarot decks.
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Have you taken a look at this deck, the Tarot Noir? It was created quite recently, and it re-sets the TdM into Medieval France (maybe a century or two before the Visconti-Sforza would have been produced).

The artist includes quite a lovely book (French-only, but if you can understand it it's a joy to read) about life in Medieval France. I wonder if doing something like that helps to resolve your inner conflict of the TdM being perfect, and yet wanting to create your own take on it.

In that vein there's also the Ukiyoe which puts the TdM in Japan. Perhaps doing something similar, perhaps for your own ancestral culture, would help to bridge the gap between wanting to create, and not wanting to make too many changes.

Personally, I have both of those decks. The Ukiyoe is fairly new to me, and so I don't use it as much. I use my Tarot Noir quite often. So, while I would love to have another Visconti-Sforza (my favourite deck, and the one that first brought me to Tarot), I can also appreciate other takes on it.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Migdal93 View Post

Tarot itself it's an evasive little thing. On it's own, it says everything and nothing. We are the ones who give the tarot real meaning.

The only thing I'd tell you to be cautious about - I think it might be really easy to turn a TdM into a RW. Like for me, the 6 of coins talks about family. I don't know why, but it does. If I were creating a deck, I might be so tempted to make that card to reflect my meaning. That would not be the truth, though - For most people, it talks about abundance of resources. That's a trap we can all very easily fall in.

Yes this is very helpful! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!! I love what you said above, we are the ones who give it real meaning, and that really is the gist of what I'm feeling about the Tarot, a lot of it are archetypes from the collective unconscious, but it's what we perceive of it as an individual that truly matters!

And I think especially with TdM-style decks, for me personally at least, it feels important to understand the original allegory behind it, what the Renaissance artists/crafters were trying to evoke with their imagery so that I can preserve the magic behind the Tarot.

I've been majorly bitten by the deck-creation bug and I started mapping it out according to my own personal Myth (see image attached, diagrammatic at this point). Let me know if you want to know more as I don't want to bore you with details
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dancing_moon View Post
Welcome to AT, Amy!
We could say that women's portraits are perfect with Mona Lisa - does this mean nobody should have painted any since?
Dancing Moon, thank you for the welcome

Haha that's a great analogy! It would be a tragedy to not have any Klimt portraits!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dancing_moon View Post

For me, like for you, what makes TdM special is the simplicity of design and profoundness of symbols. I suspect that part of their charm actually comes from ambiguity and multiple possibilities of interpretations for those symbols, as we keep adding layers of understanding based on our vision of the cards, combined with real-life situations for which those cards come up. But then, of course, there are things I can only get from other decks: beautiful, diverse art, powerful non-Christian symbols, specific reading systems, and so on. Life is abundant and varied, and so should be Tarot decks.
Oh this is so encouraging! Yes I totally resonate with what you said about the simplicity of design and profoundness of symbols, allowing us to read what we want of it. I used to be a lot more literal but I am definitely appreciating the power in ambiguous art with TdM study! Thank you for articulating that so wonderfully!

Also I've been reading Robert Place's book on Tarot history and realize that even in the several hundred years of the Tarot evolution there were many many versions before they settled on the TdM that we know today! Even then, there were parallel developments

Thanks again!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnemoneRosie View Post
Have you taken a look at this deck, the Tarot Noir? It was created quite recently, and it re-sets the TdM into Medieval France (maybe a century or two before the Visconti-Sforza would have been produced).

The artist includes quite a lovely book (French-only, but if you can understand it it's a joy to read) about life in Medieval France. I wonder if doing something like that helps to resolve your inner conflict of the TdM being perfect, and yet wanting to create your own take on it.
AnemoneRosie, Tarot Noir is GORGEOUS!! Thank you for showing me that. I LOVE how it's reinterpreted but still preserving a lot of the powerful symbolism of the TdM. The color palette is just droolworthy. It's HUGE though, lol. Yea, it's definitely what I'm drawn to right now, very similar to Triomphes de la Lune by Patrick Valenza.

The Japanese one is so interesting! I love your idea of setting it completely in a parallel/cultural world which makes it something refreshing and new, but yet retains important symbolism.

Very inspired, thanks so much!!
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Hm. To me, because French is as much my first language as English, I like the Tarot Noir partly for the book that came with it (even though it sheds its pages quite easily). That might be less helpful for you.

It's a great deck though. I'd encourage it even if you find the cards too big - I've got small hands (I'm 5' tall and my hands are proportionate) and I can still shuffle that deck. It's do-able.

I'm glad that you're feeling inspired right now. Please feel free to share your direction of inspiration
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rotipom View Post
So what do you think:
Is the TdM perfect the way it is and needs no improvement?
What do you think contributes to the enduring symbolism and graphics of the TdM-style decks?
Any suggestions for resolving my inner conflicts?
The Tarot of Marseille is a folk artifact. It is something that has been reproduced, with variations, over the course of several centuries. It existed well before Court de Gebelin discovered it and believed that he saw hidden meanings in the figures of the trumps, and launched occult Tarot as we know it today.

As a folk artifact, it is subject to something called the folk process. The folk process is the process of repeating, altering, and transmitting a tradition. Alteration is key to the folk process. There is no "Ur-text" to the Tarot, no pristine original needing to be recovered by hard study, of which any deck in the stream is flawed copy. Rather, each of the historical and contemporary Marseille decks is a separate and equally valid version. No one owns a folk song. And no one owns the Tarot de Marseille. The only way you can hurt folklore is to ignore it.

The process of creative engagement with the Tarot began with the Italian nineteenth century decks, and continues through the RWS and the plethora of decks it inspired. Any deck that shares the names, figures, and structure of the TdM is a contemporary variant of the TdM, rather in the same way that the Marty Robbins song El Paso is an elaborated version of Streets of Laredo, which in turn was adapted from a British song The Unfortunate Rake. It isn't like you can damage folk songs by creating modern interpretations of them. It's rather what they're for.

So yes, go ahead and make your own version of the Tarot while studying the Tarot de Marseille. You cannot harm it by doing so. It's beyond that.
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Hello, I can't help but chime in. I'm also new to Aeclectic and a TdM lover.

Personally, one of the things I love about the TdM is that the imagery feels fresh, yet intimate, every time. Its simplicity, openness, and depth is so alive! So I do think there is something perfect, even irreplaceable, about the Marseille Tarot. Still, new decks honoring it can certainly add to the tradition.

I heartily second AnemoneRose's recommendation of the Tarot Noir. The cards and companion book are excellent. The deck reads extremely well, in my experience. I do not have any problem shuffling it--I rather like the size, actually. My Jean Noblet (pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum, size-wise) is the only deck I use more.

Enjoy your inspiration, and do share!
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