This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.
Death. Typically depicted as a skeleton with a sickle, one might suppose that if this card appeared in a tarot reading that you should prepare for an untimely demise, but it rarely signifies a physical death. Tarot card readings are a highly subjective topic depending on what you believe, but according to A.E. Waite, a recognized authority on the occult and tarot, the Death card usually means an end to a cycle or a transition into a new stage in your life.
Le Taro sacerdotal : reconstitué d’après l’astral et expliqué pour ceux qui savent déja published in 1951 consists of 22 beautiful lithograph cards, most of which are hand-colored with watercolors. The cards consist of an iconographic image with a corresponding description of the archetype below it, one of the exceptions being Death.
You can see that the style of the description scripts vary according to the image. Again according to Waite the Hermit represents guidance, introspection, solitude, and seclusion. The Hanged Man is based on a pittura infamante, a shameful image of a traitor being punished in a manner common at the time in Italy. Waite suggests the Hanged Man is associated with sacrifice, passivity, contemplation, and inner harmony.
The illustrator of these cards, Lucien Laforge, is also known for his illustrative work in magazines including La Charrette : “Charrie” Aujourd’hui which was a short lived serial publication in 20th-century France. Courtesy of the JMSD collection we have the very last issue no. 24 in Widener and it is possible we may uncover more as we continue to catalog.
Hoping to find more information about Laforge I discovered the Database of Modern Tarot Art. Adam MacLean, who is an enthusiast for alchemical texts and symbolism, is creating a database from his own collection of tarot decks. They are currently sorted by geographic regions though there is also a keyword search function. The description of the entries vary depending on the information MacLean has on the specific deck, but it is a pretty robust database with at least two images from the deck for each entry.
Le Taro sacerdotal : reconstitué d’après l’astral et expliqué pour ceux qui savent déja / Lucien Laforge [and] André Godin : prints, 1951. MS Fr 606 can be found at the Houghton Library.
Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager and Susan Wyssen, Manuscript Cataloger, for contributing this post.