In Which a Deck of Cards May Have Taken Over the Dys-Brain
I’m busily back in the world of the Fury Triad. Want to know what I’ve been researching lately? Can I tell you without giving away any spoilers? I think maybe I can.
Back in the 1400s a card game called Tarocchi became popular amongst the wealthy in what we know today as Italy. [Amongst: a sign my brain is living in the UK, now!] It was known by different names in different parts of Europe, including Tarot in France.
These cards were hand-painted, each one a small work of art.
The deck I’m researching for Untune the Sky is known as the Visconti-Sforza deck, believed to have been painted by the artist Bonifacio Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza family around 1450.
This deck’s not just painted. It’s gilded. Yes, gilded, as in gold.
Here are some of them spread out on my worktable for me to figure out which images will suit the story. OR will the cards tell me?
If anything looks familiar, yes, these cards have evolved through the centuries to become the decks we play with today. Even the games are similar.Top row: Their wands/staves/sticks/batons became our clubs.
Their coins became our diamonds.
Their cups became our hearts.
Their swords became our spades.Middle row: Their court cards are like our face cards, only where they had four, we only have three. We dropped the page but kept the knight, queen and king.Bottom row, Ieft to right, trump cards that represent an emperor, strength, death, and judgment. [Look closely at judgment and you’ll see a man and woman coming out of the grave, angels, and God in heaven.]Those are four of the twenty trump cards that represent forces that are superior to even the human royalty. In addition to the four above they also include the wheel of fortune, temperance, the devil, just to give you the idea.You can probably imagine in the world of the medieval age when you were at the mercy of so many who outranked you in real life, it was gratifying and even fun to be reminded that even they will get, ahem, trumped.It was centuries later before they began being used as divination tools, and the 18th Century before there began to be detailed with specific meanings for each card, etc.Today there are Tarot decks for just about any interest you might have, from the whimsical to the downright dark and scary. I love the English Magic Tarot because it’s based on English magic system in the 16th Century, which is considered the golden age of magic. Astrologers and alchemists were considered scientists, and Sir Isaac Newton combined knowledge from both sides of that divide. Since I love English history, I love the imagery on these. While not all of the cards are famous historical figures, a number of them do show up, like Henry VIII [the Emperor], Sir Isaac Newton [the star], and the Tower of London [the tower, obviously!].Okay, this is weird. I went to get a link to the English Magic Tarot in case anybody wanted to see more of it and discovered, wth? It’s on sale for only $6.50 and that includes both the deck and the book? Could this be real? Well, real or not, here is the link. Warning: This is a really unusual deck and more of interest to people who know what the cards look like and mean normally, and/or like to find the historical references, that sort of thing. Anybody wanting to learn how to use the Tarot cards for divination would want to go with something far more basic like the Waite Smith deck which has been reproduced in many different ways. Oh, look, this one comes in a pretty tin and also has a really good price.
Okay, I did not intend to derail myself but I did. Squirrel!
Back to my Visconti deck. It’s an Italian import I bought from Amazon and it is tiny! Here it is in my hand.
I cringe at the state of my nails. Pretend they are nicely manicured, please?
Now, how do these fit into Untune the Sky, you ask?
I laid the foundation way back in This Crumbling Pageant. Not that I expected anybody to notice or remember. But it’s there! It’s even searchable if you know which word or words to search for.
Someone is going to play a game of cards.
That’s all. No magic. No fortune telling. Nothing to see here, folks!
Or is there?
If you’re as fascinated by this deck of cards as I am, you can actually buy the mini-deck like mine for $8.98 at Amazon. How good a deal is that? When it was still available in the Morgan Library Shop, it was $24.95.
I had no idea how beautiful and fascinating these images would be when I bought the mini-deck. I assumed they’d be, I don’t know, just something to use for a reference and I wasn’t confident that they’d be clear enough even for that purpose, as small as they were. But I didn’t want to invest in a big deck that I wasn’t going to use.
Now that I am musing over them, I’m thinking they may end up playing a larger role than I intended.
A much larger role.
The cards are taking over.
The cards are telling me what to do.
I love all of your magical ephemera, taunting and teasing us, as you craft Untune.
I think the first rule of writing should be to choose a world that makes you want to explore it and learn more. 🙂