Tag Archives: card history

Le Tarot Astrologique

Imagine, if you will, a deck published by Grimaud sometime between the late 1800’s and 1917 or so, very roughly coinciding with the Belle Époque. Imagine the strange old art, the fantastic vibe.
Now imagine it’s not yet another Tarot, but an astrology deck. Yes, there are “Majors”: the planets, ascendant, nodes (split into ascendant and descendant) and Part of Fortune. The “Minors” are three cards for each sign – one for each decan.

And it’s an easily readable deck. I’m decidedly not an astrologer (and if I were to deep dive into that particular field, I’d do classical, not modern) but it doesn’t matter. I can approach this as a cartomancer with my smattering of astrological knowledge, and get a clear reading out of it.

The LWB is printed on extra cards, and it’s useful (in spite of such curiousities as “Synthetically, here is the meaning…”, lol.)

It’s an easy deck, but it’s so NOT new age, so NOT “What’s your sign, baby?” (EW.) It predates all that. It’s more elephant-at-the-Moulin-Rouge. A Having Fun In Paris kind of deck.

There are several spreads included in the instructions, but you’re really only limited by your imagination here. There cards can supplement any other system, or stand on their own.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play around with these some more. 😀

Le Tarot Astrologique is available here https://thecartomancer.bigcartel.com/product/le-tarot-astrologique-c-1927-astrology-tarot

“About astrology and palmistry: they are good because they make people vivid and full of possibilities. They are communism at its best. Everybody has a birthday and almost everybody has a palm.”
—Kurt Vonnegut

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Frankie Albano, please call home

(Disclaimer: the title of this post is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and is not an actual plea. 😉 )

One of the most fascinating mysteries of the Tarot world is “What ever happened to Frankie Albano?” He seems to have dropped off the face of the earth after publishing his tres 60’s recoloring of the RWS.(But he appears to have colored his deck according to B.O.T.A instructions, not as an attempt to create anything “psychedelic”. Note the purple mountains on the Fool: https://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=186698 and the rainbow on Temperance http://waitesmith.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/bota_sm_trumps2-min.jpg )

The first thing one turns to when looking to see if fresh information has surfaced is google. And this page features prominently in the results: https://waitesmith.org/index.php/tarot-productions-resident-genius-frankie-albano/

From it, we can see that there was someone named Frankie Albano making records. The text, however, is profoundly ill-informed and sloppily researched. It states that Frankie Albano and the Deadbeats “released a promo single for Dondee records in 1936, even though the single was originally set down in 1922” But if you’ve ever spent any time with old records, you know that 45 RPM singles with big center holes requiring an adaptor didn’t even exist in the 1930’s. From Wikipedia: “The 7-inch 45 rpm record was released 31 March 1949 by RCA Victor as a smaller, more durable and higher-fidelity replacement for the 78 rpm shellac discs.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_%28music%29#7-inch_format

As we can see here, “1936” would have been the catalog number: http://www.45cat.com/label/dondee I have no idea what the number “1922” is, but it’s certainly not a year, either.

I did find the record on the Tower label on youtube. It’s got a Jan and Dean/Beach Boys flavor, but Albano’s vocals seem to be influenced by Frankie Valli:

A bit of trivia: Besides Frankie Albano and the Deadbeats, there was a Tommy Love and the Deadbeats recording on the Dondee label. https://www.discogs.com/artist/3684242-Tommy-Love-And-The-Deadbeats
They recorded for the Orbit label as well, and you can easily find them on youtube. From listening to the vocals, it’s obvious that Tommy Love is NOT Frankie Albano. But one can speculate that they knew each other, if indeed they’re backed by the same band.

There is also a Frank Albano (born 1939, making him about the same age as our guy) who is the current reputed underboss of the Trafficante crime family in Tampa, Florida. But this is not the Tarot guy, obviously. I DO think the singer is the Albano who did the deck, though. In the early to mid 60’s, he took a shot at fame and fortune with a mashup of beach music and Frankie Valli style vocals. When that didn’t work, he left the music business, and in 1967 he did a mashup of Tarot and Ouija:

Are you starting to see a pattern here? A man who likes to combine things? Beach music and Frankie Valli. Tarot and Ouija. RWS and BOTA. 😉

Then the deck came along in 1968. And not a peep out of him after the deck.

Mysteries like this are perfect for reading cards. So why not ask HIS deck?

“What became of Frankie Albano after he disappeared?”

First, we have Death. And I suspect there’s a literal slant, he’d be very old if he was still around. But I don’t think he ended up like Jimmy Hoffa. The other cards are saying he was around for awhile. Death is also “That’s it, the end”, talking about him walking away from his old life. There’s a finality to it. Next, we have the 10 of Pentacles. It’s a card of monetary success, he made a decent living doing something else, for awhile at least. Pamela Colman Smith’s image is interesting in this reading: Odysseus has returned home, and nobody knows him but his old dogs. There’s a certain anonymity about it. Hiding in plain sight, not being recognized. The Six of Pents is also a card of Success, but we’ve dropped back down to 6 from 10. It also reflects the Death card. So it’s probable that the prosperity of the 10 didn’t last, but I still don’t see him as one of the beggars here. He just did VERY well for awhile, and then something changed and he just did OK. For those who are interested, the Qabalistic correspondences are the axis Tiphareth – Netzach, Malkuth through Earth, and Tiphareth through Earth. Almost like a round trip.;)

All of this makes me wonder if “Frankie Albano” might be a stage name. At the time he was recording, the industry was full of Italian teen heartthrobs like Dion, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and so many others – including the aforementioned Frankie Valli. A name like “Frankie Albano” would have seemed like a pretty good strategy at the time. Maybe he retained the name during his Tarot phase, and then dropped it, dropped out of sight, and started going by his legal name again. That goes a long way towards explaining why there’s no trace of “Frankie Albano”.

This is pure speculation, but one possibility is that he went back to wherever he came from and went into the family business. I can easily imagine “Frankie” rebelling and running off to California to try to be a rock star, and later, to make a name for himself in Tarot. But when it didn’t pay off as planned, returning and taking up the yoke.

He could have repaired your washing machine, or owned the corner liquor store, or sold you a car, or installed your Aunt’s carpet…

I like to think his later career was something more creative. But he could have been anybody.

No Time Like The First Time (University Books RWS)

OK, Betty’s talking about sex. But I want you to do this for me if you will: think back…to your very… first…DECK.

Mine was a University Books RWS, a lonnnnng time ago. I had it for about 10 years, from about age 13 to 23. It finally got lost in a move.

I loved that deck! (In spite of the crazy pink ankh backs.) I used to practice while my roommates were watching boring television, endlessly riffle shuffling and laying the cards out. One guy, superstitiously, got scared I was putting curses on him. 😆 I probably should have, he was a shitbag! But the Karminator eventually got him. 😉 All hail the Karminator!

A few years after I lost that deck, a friend gifted me another RWS, a “normal” one with plaid backs, but I couldn’t love it. I didn’t know why, and guessed that maybe I’d moved on? The deck was special for sentimental reasons (the gifter was a good friend, the best anyone could hope for – Brandi/Judy if you’re out there, leave me a comment!) but I just couldn’t get into it the way I used to.

The years went on. I got an “Original” RWS, and I liked the green tones in the deck, but not the lines. (The lines were so borked, some of the facial expressions were changed. Case in point: the Empress.) That deck isn’t really original, I’m told it’s from a 1930’s print made when the plates were quite worn.

But – besides the “Original” phase, the font phase, the copyrights on the card faces, etc. – all of which I could overlook – something else was not right. And it took getting another copy of the University Books deck on ebay for me to figure it out. Look at these brilliant turquoise blues!

And the curious details like the extra rock on the island behind the 2 of Swords lady:

    And the half-shadow on Rosalind’s face:

    Compare the colors. The USG High Priestess has dull, greyish blues and near-invisible greens. But the University Books High Priestess – well, see for yourself!

    For me, there is no RWS that can compare with University Books. Not the Centennial, hell, not even a Pam A or B. The only beef I ever had with it was those pink ankh backs (they bugged me back then!), but now I appreciate the sheer kitschiness of them. Of all the RWS repros I’ve seen, none beat this one. ❤

    What was your first deck? 😀

VAMP: the Theda Bara Tarot from Jook Art

Sample of the Majors and the card backs. The sepia tone on some of the card faces is from a lamp, and is not actually present on the cards themselves.

Haven’t we all been intrigued by Theda Bara since we were kids? I remember the first time I stumbled across a photo from Cleopatra – I think it was in Encyclopedia Britannica – the intense, heavily made-up eyes, the snake bra…this was not the wholesome, cute, boring little thing that we were expected to like and try to emulate, no Gidget or That Girl. THIS Cleopatra made Liz Taylor’s look boring! Theda was a different kind of icon, the likes of which my eight year old self had never encountered before.

In real life, she was different: a hardworking girl who never actually drained a man of his resources and vitality, or lured him to his doom. But she had people believing in the persona:

“…her popularity was unstoppable. In 1915 alone, she starred in eleven pictures. Labeled “Hell’s Handmaiden,” she received two hundred letters a day, including over a thousand marriage proposals. Adoring fans named their babies after her. Her movies ran continuously, sometimes playing six times a day.

“Some fans failed to distinguish Bara from her fictionalized roles. One bitter moviegoer wrote, “It is such women as you who break up happy homes.” Bara replied, “I am working for my living, dear friend, and if I were the kind of woman you seem to think I am, I wouldn’t have to.” Another, a criminal defendant, claimed that he killed his mother-in-law after viewing one of Bara’s films.

Bara defended her role: “The vampire that I play is the vengeance of my sex upon its exploiters. You see, I have the face of a vampire, but the heart of a feministe.” But she also worried about the image she perpetuated: “I try to show the world how attractive sin may be, how very beautiful, so that one must be always on the lookout and know evil even in disguise.” Besides, she added, “Whenever I try to be a nice, good little thing, you all stay away from my pictures.”
– Source: https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/bara-theda

And another article, with some outstanding photos: Cinema’s First Sex Symbol was also America’s First Goth

I have only seen her early film, A Fool There Was, and her comeback attempt, The Unchastened Woman. In the former, she’s predatory, rapacious, and unencumbered by ethics. In the latter, she’s a wronged wife and her vamping is justified. Both films could use some TLC and restoration. Almost nothing survives. I’m not sure that there is anyone left in this world who remembers seeing the others. We have little but her first starring role, tiny fragments of film, and the still photos. We don’t get to see her develop as an actress. We don’t have her Cleopatra. We will never get to see her read the cards in Carmen:

But somehow, she is still having an impact. The Vamp type is alive and well, still luring men to their doom in contemporary media. People still emulate her look, or emulate someone while unaware that the person whose look they copied was emulating Theda.

So when it was announced that there would be an entire Tarot with Theda on every card, I had to check it out. Warily, at first, since so many theme Tarots go horribly wrong.

I need not have worried. This description at the website drew me in – I HAD to have this deck.

“For the major arcana, the text is taken from ‘The Symbolism of the Tarot’ by PD Ouspensky published in 1913. This book consists of pen pictures describing a journey through the 22 cards of the majors.

“For the VAMP majors, snippets of this text can be seen intertwined with the image so that only certain words can be seen, and I have found that depending on the question, different words make themselves apparent to me.

“For the minor arcana, the text is taken from the 15th century tarot poetry of Count Matteo Boiardo. He proposed a 78 card tarot deck with the minors being split into suits based on the Four Passions of Fear, Jealousy, Hope and Love. The VAMP tarot deck uses these minors which are well suited to the themes of Theda’s films dealing with such passions and emotions.

“Boiardo wrote a three-line poem for each card, and these are shown in their entirety on each minor card in the deck.”

– from http://jooktarot.com/theda-bara-tarot

I’m normally not a fan of renamed suits, but these are so flawlessly done. I ABSOLUTELY make an exception for this deck! And the text – these are not bland little affirmations and useless new age promises of getting things just by thinking happy thoughts. This is a roadmap for life. Some examples:

The Four of Fear:
“Fear keeps four horses at the service of a chariot
Under a cane, tied to a yoke
It also keeps many in servitude, whom I do not excuse.”

The Three of Love:
“Love, the end and final goal of your earnings
Is a continuous sighing until you die;
And he who laughs one day, cries thereafter for a year.”

The Four of Jealousy:
“Jealousy, when it comes,
it is better not to think that you can fight it,
Because it wins everyone:
But it is good to be able to tolerate it.”

The Four of Hope:
“Hope, when it comes together with reason
Is the sweetest food for the heart that wears it;
If it comes another way, it brings more suffering.”

A sample of the Minors from each suit.

One would expect a theme deck about an actress to be shallow and kind of dumb. That is emphatically NOT the case here. This deck is deep. There are references to mythology – it would be fascinating to read alongside the Grand Jeu AstroMythological Lenormand (it’s one of those rare decks that could definitely hold its own with that one.) Or just by itself.

The calligraphy and photos are exquisite. You get a unique hand crafted box and accordion-style booklet. The card backs are in the style of the early 20th century Art Deco Egyptian Revival that was so popular in Theda’s time.

I can’t find a single thing to criticize about this deck. I can’t put it away. I may have to get a backup copy.

And I am on tenterhooks waiting for their wet plate collodion process deck! http://jooktarot.com/wet-plate-process

Jook Art is a father – daughter collaboration, Steve and Katherine, and they are superbly good. You can get a copy of the Vamp Tarot here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/694810115/vamp-the-theda-bara-tarot-self-published?ref=shop_home_active_1&crt=1

Box, deck, and extras – all the loot.

You can watch or download A Fool There Was here https://archive.org/details/A_Fool_There_Was

Or just watch right here. 😉

And The Unchastened Woman

Get. This. Book.

I’m about to advise you to get this book. , Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots But the deck in the image above isn’t an ancient Tarot. It’s a Lasenic Tarot, first published “between the Wars”, and full of Wirthy occult goodness. (From what I gather, Lasenic studied with Wirth.)

For you shoppers (and I hope you are here for something besides that!) the deck can be purchased at Pyroskin, the pouch is from Baba Studios,

Now, an occult deck by a strange and wonderful man is by all means worth study and contemplation. Lasenic certainly has my attention! (Karen Mahony once shared this gem at AT: “certainly many occultists hid everything (Madame de Thebes was killed by the Nazis, Lasenic was questioned about occultism by the gestapo and escaped – in what we now recognise as true Lasenic style – by EATING the charge papers when his interrogator left the room for a minute. The super-efficient Nazis could not cope with this and let him go – wonderful story and apparently true).”

But even the Buddha didn’t sit under the Bo Tree all his life. Sometimes we have to roll up our sleeves, put on our high boots, and wade into the poomp: the dirty dishes, the bills, the crazy lady across the street who hates your kids, the middle management guy who thinks he can grope the help, etc., etc. ad nauseam.

And that is where Untold Tarot comes in. This is the best book for reading TdM-type decks that I have come across. It’s an actual, pragmatic card reading manual. There’s a disturbing tendency in Tarot literature -old as well as new – to talk and talk but not give any useful information. You don’t see that in this book at all. There is no such mumbo jumbo going on here. It’s all useful and clear:

“The Fool shows you what you are not taking seriously, which will be the card he faces.”

There’s history, too, and it’s always interesting and relevant to reading the cards, never dry or tedious.

She separates this from GD/Crowley type reading. This has about as much in common with RWS or Thoth as Kipperkarten does.

If you feel the need to (at least temporarily) jettison elemental dignities, hermetic Qaballah, etc. and just want your Tarot to talk to you like your Lenormand does, this is the book you need.

I also want to add that even though it’s a paperback, the pages are stitched in. Better quality than I see with a lot of hardcovers! This book will stand up to years of constant referencing.

Caitlin has truly outdone herself this time, this is the pip-Tarot book I’ve been waiting for. Color me impressed! 😀

Cards are the human condition and should not be “updated”

We were having an interesting discussion over at the Cartomancy Forum and I thought I’d post it here. Longish, meandering version: Donna Maritata

Short version: somebody wrote a bogus book (that will sell nonetheless, because there’s next to nothing in english) that “updated” the Sibilla’s Donna Maritata (Married Woman) to “Independent Career Women”.

And THAT, friends, totally loses the card essence.

She’s a person card, and she’s married or in a committed relationship (with a human, not a business), Giovine Fanciulla is young, Nemica is malicious, and so forth. Very simple. Cards that depict various livelihoods might describe her, but they could just as easily describe any of the other people cards.

Anyway, if you made her “independent”, you’d need another card for a stay at home mom, one for a woman drawing unemployment, one for a woman collecting disability, etc. And you’d have to do that with all the other people cards. Giovine Fanciulla as a working girl, a trust fund kid, a young kept mistress, etc. The damn deck would be a couple of feet thick. Just learn to read combinations. FFS.

Anyway, people go to jobs to get money. If a better job comes along, they leave and go to that one. We don’t give a shit about The Company – why should we? They don’t give a shit about us. Fuck them. We work because we don’t have a choice, other than homelessness.

And when we get home, we still have as much housework staring us in the face as a postwar housewife. We just don’t have the time or energy to do it as well as Mom did. (My generation’s moms used to iron sheets. SHEETS. I barely get to iron anything.)

I would certainly hope that everyone cares about their family much more than they care about some sociopathic corporation with no ethics, that just wants to work them down to a crippled up pile of nothing and throw them away like garbage.

Trust old Stella – it’s better to be nice to your kids than your supervisor. And never, ever assume that the Important Things have evaporated just because we’ve been forced into the workplace!

GOBSMACKED! The Ensslin, Schaiblin/Reutlingen Lenormand

The deck is a little wonky, but profoundly stunning. It’s easily one of the most aesthetically pleasing Lenormands I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen scads!) Is it one of those pretty but unreadable things? Not at all. Let me explain:

The numbering is not standard. That’s not an issue for most of us.

There is no Cross card, but there is a Cat card. Since Cat meanings in cartomancy are identical to Fox meanings, having a Cat in the deck is like having two Fox cards. So, for myself, I use Cross meanings. Why? It balances the deck, and “full stop, burdens, suffering, illness” fits the ferals we see every day.
(YES, my town needs TNR.) That’s my take. Do as you see fit.

Perfectly round insets, crazy sigils, lovely linework and tints. Feast your eyes a bit.

The Esslin is available HERE

And while we’re on the subject, Lauren is talking about doing a Wirth. A good, working, no glitter one! Put me down for several copies – imagine a side of these Wirth majors with your Lenormand! ❤