Tarot Travel Guide of Italy,
History of a Mystery from the Renaissance
Museo Dei Tarocchi
Review by Stewart S. Warren
The “History of a Mystery” indeed, as the subtitle of this new addition to Tarot literature purports. The “Tarot Travel Guide of Italy” by Morena Poltronieri, Ernesto Fazioli and Arnell Ando is both the accompanying text for a 21st Century sojourn to northern Italy, and a guide in its own right through the necessary steps required of the Tarotist to go deeper and move beyond the fanciful imaginings of any “new age”. It is honest, unpretentious, and therefore a useful tool. Mystery, after all, doesn’t need hype, only revelation and respect.
The Travel Guide begins with a brief summation of impelling hypotheses concerning the origins of Tarot—from China, India and Egypt through Cabala and the Crusades. Never is there disagreement, only respect for the sensibilities of the reader, and a forward leaning momentum to keep looking, to keep investigating, to consider the magic of the evidence before our eyes. And so we arrive in northern Italy, mystery enough for any pilgrim.
By examining Medieval and Renaissance art, much of which is remarkably intact, in sculptures, frescoes, oil paintings, mosaic floors, and yes, even tower clocks, the traveler is initiated, if not awed, by the prevalence of Hermetic, Neo-Platonic and Alchemical symbolism and references. In every city from Bergamo and Ferrara to Bologna and Siena the threads of the mystery teachings in Tarot become obvious. But there are no academic axes to grind here. Look, let the evidence of your eyes and the wisdom of your intuition make the connections. No one is saying that nomads brought a deck of cards across the desert, but the underground streams of these traditions quiver before you on the walls and ceilings of castles and basilicas. Now it is you who has entered in.
Throughout the Travel Guide the authors bring decades of research, their own and the compiled studies of others, to the Astrology, Alchemy and Mysticism of Italian Renaissance art, revealing the historic depth and interconnectedness of these traditions. And the reader is right in the middle of it, a studioso coming to your own conclusions and contributing to this noble path. The pilgrimage you make is not only in a past come to life, but in a present that is thriving in modernity. You will stroll through house-high mosaic sculptures of the Major Arcana by Niki de Saint Phalle completed at the beginning of this century, be welcomed at Il Meneghelo Tarot Shop in Milano by the affable and dedicated artist Osvaldo Menegazzi, and climb through the intriguing rooms of a 400 year old general store now transformed into the Museo dei Tarocchi, a hands-on museum of both ancient and very contemporary Tarot packs and related creations. This is a living tradition, and this modest volume is a worthy and gentle guide for “children of the art.”
~ Stewart S. Warren: evocateur and author of 20 poetry collections, five of which explore the Tarot
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