The illustrations on the corresponding cards from the two decks are not necessarily for the same number in the same suit. This is true for the 3 of Swords in both decks, but not for the two other cards shown here. He could use a different number in the same suit (look at the 6 of Coins in the Sola Busca deck and the 8 of Pentacles in the RWS deck) or the same number in a different suit (like the 10 of Swords in the Sola Busca deck and the 10 of Wands in the RWS deck). Independent of the differences, the resemblances of these illustrations are striking. Some other illustrations, not shown here, are equally similar in design.
The Sola Busca deck has a special place in the history of Tarot. It is the oldest (dated to 1491) complete deck we have. Actually, it is property of the Pinacoteca di Brera, an art museum in Milan, Italy. The deck is not on a permanent exposition, to see them, a special authorization is required. The next oldest complete deck dates from the early seventeenth Century, the so-called Tarot of Paris. The French National Library in Paris has a copy of this deck.
In contrast to the Sola Busca and the RWS decks, most of the ancient decks show only the suit symbols. There are in most cases almost no illustrations, except for some floral decorations. Examples are shown in the next figure, where we see the first three pip cards of the 15th Century Italian Brera-Brambila deck and the corresponding cards of the TdM deck signed with the name Jean Dodal. The Brera-Brambila deck was created in Milan during the last years of the reign of the Duke Filippo Maria Visconti, who died in 1447. The Jean Dodal deck was created over 250 years later at the beginning of the 18th Century in the French town Lyon.
On this site, we will try to show you how the Tarot developed, from its early beginnings up to approximately the 18th Century. You will see how the different suits represent the cycle of being born until giving life yourself, how the pip cards represent the cycle of life from birth to death and how the 22 trump cards give a detailed description of all facets of human life. The Tarot started as a game, with both the suit symbols and the illustrated trumps carrying a message for its users. The message behind the cards changed over time as did the structure of the deck. There are very few objects on Earth having such a rich and mysterious history as the Tarot.
On these pages, you will find very few words about to interpret the Tarot. That is because my philosophy of the Tarot is rather different from most scholars. Tarot has a general structure that can be applied to any deck. Details on a specific card should have no importance for a correct interpretation of a card, in contrary, they can mislead the interpretation. Details on a card are details that have been added by a specific card maker, in most cases to clarify his interpretation of the card. For this reason, details on the cards are essential to understand a specific deck, but they are of almost no importance for the general understanding of the Tarot. Worse, they guide your interpretation and limit your own intuition. Let me illustrate this with an example.
On the left side we see the six of Coins of the Rosenwald deck published around 1500 (actually conserved in the National Art Gallery in Washington, who kindly provided me high-resolution images of the deck), and on the right side the six of Pentacles of the RWS deck published in 1909. On the RWS deck, we see a rich person giving pieces of money to some poor people. You might immediately think at giving or receiving a gift. However, this is not at all the interpretation that flashes through my mind looking at the six of Coins of the Rosenwald sheet. The number 6 is the number of Harmony, and the suit of Coins is dealing with yourself, your health and your wealth. So for me the six of Coins indicates for me that the consultant has no great problems himself. He has probably no financial concerns, and his health is good. The drawing on the RWS deck is very misleading. I chose this example because it is a classical example. Waite did not invent his interpretations of the cards, they were for a big part based on the interpretation of French occultists. In the interpretation of Etteilla, there was the word "Présent", that means "Now". According to Paul Huson, Waite followed the translation of Samuel Mathers, who misunderstood this word (Mystical Origins of the Tarot, 2004) and translated it as a present, a gift. In conclusion, the poorer the illustrations on the card, the richer the possible interpretation. This does not mean that details are always bad, often they really help to get a better understanding of the structure of the Tarot. Later more on this topic.
So, be welcome on my site, as a guest on this astonishing journey through the Tarot.