Tarot Cards Review: ‘Ancien Tarot de Marseille’, Grimaud Cartomancie

I have been fascinated by, if not the greatest practitioner of tarot since I was a teenager.

My love of astrology has generally kept me from continually using tarot over the last thirty years or so. This is no excuse, as both methods of divination are generally complementary.

For a time, somewhere in the 1980s, I did use a deck called ‘astro tarot’, which I think you can still buy, but I ‘lost’ these years ago.

In more recent times, particularly over the last few years, I have been drawn more fully into the mysterious and magical world of tarot, its practise and its disputed history.

Most particularly I have learned to respect and invariably use Tarot de Marseille (TDM), rather than the more well known Rider-Waite style tarot decks.

I much prefer the ‘unillustrated’ pip cards of TDM; I don’t like my intuition being influenced too much by the more illustrative and suggestive Rider-Waite, particularly in the swords suit, where, for example, if one draws the Nine of Swords, this can leave people quite worried!

No, I much prefer to stick to basics: swords is the mind, our thoughts and 9 is attainment. It is up to the tarot reader to interpret this. But more of this in another piece some other time.

One particular deck I’ve enjoyed for some time is the Grimaud Cartomancie TDM, ‘Ancien Tarot de Marseille’. It comes in a beautifully presented, sturdy box, with the usual mini-book with basic interpretive ideas – in French.

The illustrations are very clear and basic, with strong colours and bold black linework. The word is emphatic, which I like. The card stock is likewise quite sturdy with a grey-blue patterning on the reverse.

The history of TDM, like all tarot, is complex. There are many variations of TDM but this overall style developed, as the name suggests, in the south of France, but also has strong links to northern Italy, Switzerland and even southern Germany over the years.

In other words, this card style does not owe everything to the city of Marseilles, which could be regarded as a name of convenience – and it sounds good too, doesn’t it? After developing from the seventeenth century onwards, it was in 1930 when Paul Marteau of the Grimaud family truly established and perpetuated this particular artistic style of TDM.

I am very glad that he did, as these cards are a particular favourite of mine and I would very much recommend them.

Copyright Francis 2021

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