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Review Tarot de Marseille

DATASHEET
Name : Tarot de Marseille
Author : Camoin - Jodorowsky
Publisher : Editions Camoin
Tradition : Tarot de Marseille type II
Packaging : Soft cardboard box / 8.3 x 4.5 x 2.7 cm
Deck : 78 cards / laminated, glossy cards / 7.7 cm x 4.1 cm
Size : NORMAL and MINI
Handbook : No booklet provided in the MINI version
Reverse side : Yes, the backs of the cards are reversible.
Switch of 8/11 : No
Universe : Medieval / Renaissance
Use : Prediction , Personal development
alternative
WARNING
Please note: this review is based on material in French. This does not change the content of the review in any way, as the material is identical in both languages. Sorry I can't systematically offer me my tarot cards and books in both languages (I don't receive any gifts from the publishers) ! ^_^

Le matériel

Le matériel

WARNING: This is the MINI version of the game that is the subject of this review. Of course there is a standard size version. This choice is motivated by the fact that there are very few MINI versions of Tarot de Marseille or Rider-Waite-Smith traditions. Regarding the Tarot de Marseille, to my knowledge there are only two MINI versions available on the market :

  • Tarot de Marseille from Camoin - Jodorowsky
  • L'Ancien Tarot de Marseille from Paul Marteau (Grimaud)

The 78 cards are delivered in a small flexible cardboard box. The cards are really small, this MINI format has the advantage of being able to fit anywhere, in your satchel or your pocket. In fact, I always have it with me. It allows me to do an initiation to tarot reading anywhere and anytime. The size of the cards is not a problem, the images remain perfectly readable. The cards are printed on thick cardboard and are of good quality.

The Authors

Alexandro Jodorowsky

Alexandro Jodorowsky is best known as a comic book writer. He has notably scripted the series L'Incal, La Caste des Méta-Barons, Les Technopères and many others. He wrote plays and novels. He also directed a few films at the beginning of his career. In short, he is a prolific author. His Wikipedia page will inform you more about his biography.

Since the early 1980s, Alexandro Jodorowsky has given numerous lectures about Tarot reading. His approach has been to popularize and above all demystify the Tarot de Marseille through a psychological approach to card reading, far from the occultism and esotericism that can still be observed today. Finally, he met Philippe Camoin with whom he recreated a Tarot de Marseille.

Philippe Camoin

Philippe Camoin claims to be the heir to the tradition of the last Marseille Master Cartiers. Indeed, his family owned a card game factory in Marseille. His ancestors bought the Conver company in 1863. But the Camoin publishing house definitively ceased its activity in 1970. He seems to be legitimate as a cardmaker, that is to say, to have all the expertise necessary to create a Tarot de Marseille in the respect of tradition.

However Philippe Camoin has a controversial personality. Indeed, on his website fr.camoin.com he develops rather curious and very debatable theories. For example, he argues the idea that the Tarot describes a path to the constellation of Sirius. He even adds that the Tarot de Marseille would have been created by Marie-Madeleine (Mary of Magdala) in the first century AD. Her theories are in total contradiction with historical elements and the chronology established by recognized historians such as Michael Dummett or Thierry Depaulis. I am not here to judge man but rather his creation. That said, Camoin's philosophy has largely influenced the conception of his game, it seems to me.

Special aspects of the game

The authenticity of the game

Special aspects of the game

Jodorowsky and Camoin specify in the card notice of the deck that they have restored the Tarot de Marseille "as it was originally". Camoin specifies that he redesigned the tarot using computer technology, based on Nicolas Conver's canonical form, adding details from other Besançon tarot cards among others. He also modernized the colors. However, this version of the Tarot de Marseille cannot be the most authentic or as it was originally because :

  • The 1760 canonical form of the Conver is not the original form of the Tarot de Marseille. One could say that the oldest version is the Noblet version of 1650.
  • The colors used in the Jodorowsky-Camoin version are not found in the historical tarot cards
  • Some details of the Jodorowsky-Camoin version are specific and previously unpublished

The colors

The colors

Historical tarot cards usually have a palette of 5 colors, no more, indeed the cards were expensive to sell because stencil painting was very time consuming, each color requiring the application of a stencil and a coat of paint with drying.

With digital printing, the range of possible colors is now virtually limitless. During my study of the Jodorowsky-Camoin tarot I found no less than 8 colors used. This gives this Tarot de Marseille a unique appearance compared to traditional tarot cards.

The presence of copyright

The presence of copyright

Finally a copyright is present on all the cards (as shown opposite). This copyright is more discreet than the one on the Grimaud tarot, which is much more invasive. But the result is the same, namely that I am not sure that it prevents the untimely use of the images, to observe how much the images of the Jodorowsky-Camoin are taken up and used on the Internet. But above all I find that copyright makes the object ultimately "commercial" for what is supposed to be a cultural object, not to say a divinatory tool.

The cards I like

II La Papesse

The cards I like

I appreciate the presence of the white egg visible under the left sleeve of the woman. Again, I had to read the book "La Voie du Tarot" by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa to understand that this crossed-out spherical shape could be an egg.

However, the symbol is appropriate since this card speaks to us of gestation, of germination. The woman could have had a round belly to signify that she was pregnant the meaning would have been similar.

III L'Impératrice

III L'Impératrice

The eagle appearing on the coat of arms worn by the woman has a malformed wing. Without any other form of explanation, we could believe in a handicap put forward. Here again, the book "La Voie du Tarot" gives us a precious indication, and explains that the eagle is still in training and that its wing is not finished, so all is well for him !

Just like the white egg, fortunately the book is there to explain to us the true meaning of the details of the images. I find it a shame to have to read Jodorowsky-Costa's book to understand the symbolism of this tarot. It is even indispensable as we will see in the following cards.

Cards I don't like so much

Le Mat

Cards I don't like so much

A tiny detail is present on the image of the MAT : the 3 points at the top of the walking stick of the character. It is difficult to guess what this detail may refer to. Again, Jodorowsky's book gives us the answer. We must see the Christian trinity or the first 3 sephirots of the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah, or the 3 fundamental processes of existence : creation, conservation and dissolution. Those who have been following Jodorowsky for a long time and love the whole of his work, will find in his tarot his very cerebral approach to Art, his metaphysical considerations on spirituality, and above all his abundance of ideas and connections in his creations.

These 3 tiny triangle-shaped points at the end of the stick are thus emblematic of the richness and profusion of meaning that Alexandro Jodorowsky integrates in his works. These 3 points also demonstrate the limits of this overflowing creativity. Because for me, these 3 triangular points could be the 3 holes of a bowling ball, the 3 eyes of a coconut, etc.. Finally, we can see what we want. Some will applaud and think it's great, others will be confused about the meaning and usefulness of these 3 points. I'm one of those.

XI Force

XI Force

The woman has 6 fingers on her foot. The lion has 6 teeth. And there are 6 spikes on the hat. These details are voluntary, and the book tells us about the female figure that "we can see the mark of an exceptional strength that allows it to be firmly anchored in the ground. We can also deduce that it is rooted in beauty, the most sublime of pleasures". The author undoubtedly refers to the meaning of the number 6 which is according to him "the richness of the affective union between human beings". I naturally hear his conception of the graphic design of the FORCE. However, a misguided mind, or simply teasing, could be much more down to earth, and think that the 3 numbers 6, give 666 the number of the beast in the Apocalypse, and that this lion could be its evocation. I often observe that unbridled and boundless imagination is the ally of esotericists.

XII Le Pendu

XII Le Pendu

The character's jacket buttons are different from each other. The book "La Voie du Tarot" teaches us that these buttons symbolize the sephirots of the Tree of Life. Here again, I deplore once again that the French authors themselves have not ceased to establish correlations between the original symbolism of the Tarot de Marseille and the symbolism of the Kabbalah. The symbolism of the Tarot de Marseille is sufficiently rich and dense in itself that there is no need to associate it with any other spiritual tradition, however wise and ancient it may be. What really saddens me is that even people like Alexandro Jodorowsky, who has advanced the cause of the psychological Tarot in France, is not able to recognize the profane nature of the Tarot de Marseille. Certainly one can naturally debate the influence of Christian morality or belief, for example, in the JUGMENT card. But placed in the historical context of its creation, the Tarot de Marseille appears as a tradition disconnected from any religious or elitist influence. It is a popular game created by the people (the cardmakers masters) for the people (the card players).

XV Le Diable

XV Le Diable

I like that the feet of the 2 characters can be rooted in the ground, as if they were bogged down, victim of a situation of hold that the Devil directs on them.

However, the card has surprising graphic details. The woman has 5 fingers at her feet just like the Devil's right foot (on the woman's side). The man has 4 fingers at his feet just like the Devil's left foot (on the man's side). Jodorowsky reveals in his book that this card "reveals the active dimension of the feminine and the passive dimension of the masculine, the two energies uniting in the center to create the hermaphrodite devil who wears breasts and a penis on his body".

Of course Jodorowsky and Camoin could go as far in interpreting the Devil's message. For my part, I remain on a simpler but perhaps more concrete interpretation as well. The Devil's card is not only about the fusion of genres but above all about alienation. At the time, the characterization of an individual's alienation could be shown as simply as making him become half human half animal. That the Devil himself is an alienated being since he is half human half animal. He is even half-man half-woman, meaning also that anyone can dominate. A man can naturally dominate his wife and even beat her. But a woman can also become a real witch to her husband, holding him by the purses and a real stepmother to her children. Manipulation can take any face and vice any form. This is the primary message of the card, it seems to me.

XVI La Maison Dieu

XVI La Maison Dieu

The two authors added 3 steps at the foot of the tower and a door. Jodorowsky explains this addition because he says "in old alchemical engravings and on Masonic documents, we find this tower with a door and these 3 steps" which are the 3 initiatory steps. I do not adhere to this association between the tradition of the tarot and the Masonic tradition, as if the tarot had inherited or borrowed elements of Masonic practice.

Freemasonry was born in the United Kingdom and then spread to France, while the tarot arrived through the Italian ports and perhaps also the Spanish ports by importing Mamluk games. The first tarot cards were Italian. The doctrine of Freemasonry and the Tarot initiatory message were already well established when the two traditions crossed in France. But did they really meet ? I'm not at all sure. Freemasonry brought together above all the aristocratic elite, where the men spent a good time performing occult and esoteric rituals, while the ladies played games of money in the salons (especially by playing with cards with French signs: Clover, Spades, Heart, Diamonds). On the other side, cardmakers masters, above all craftsmen and to a lesser extent merchants, had a hard time making a fortune from their trade. How could aristocrats meet with artisans to discuss the Tarot's initiatory message ? The tarot being a card game either discredited or unknown by this same elite ... How could cardmakers not initiated to the rites and customs of the freemasons have integrated elements of this secret society ?

XVI Le Monde

XVI Le Monde

Just as a white egg is hidden in the throne of the papacy, a white egg is hidden at the foot of the mandorla. In the text, Jodoroswky deliberately draws a parallel between the two eggs. The egg of LE MONDE is a reminder of the egg of LA PAPESSE. If I found the introduction of an egg in the card of LA PAPESSE perfectly justified, I confess that I am much less convinced of the presence of this same symbol in the card of LE MONDE. Indeed, LE MONDE speaks of realization, of fulfillment. It is no longer time for gestation, brooding or hatching. And even to recall the existence of LA PAPESSE's egg is awkward. The young woman of LE MONDE no longer looks back to the past. No matter what has been, she now lives fully in the present moment. The bird has hatched, it has grown, it has flown away and now it is flying on its own wings. Why keep talking about its egg ?

GALLERY
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My opinion on Tarot de Marseille

The Jodorowsky-Camoin Tarot is very esoteric on close observation. Fortunately all the esoteric elements are subtle, and can be perfectly ignored when reading the cards. These additions in no way affect the canonical form of the Tarot de Marseille. The cohabitation between the creativity of the authors and the respect of the standard is perfectly successful.

Concerning these new elements brought by the two authors, I find that they bring little to the divinatory use of the cards. In my opinion, they complement above all the initiatory message of the Major Arcana. But I am not sure that these additions do not lead to complexity and confusion during the study, since they refer to traditions outside the Tarot such as Kabbalah, Freemasonry, or others. And as I have said before, I believe that the Tarot is self-sufficient, its message is already so rich and wise that it is useless or even counterproductive to mix it with other philosophical schools.

The medieval imagery of this tarot is certainly modernized with a palette enriched with 8 colors with rather pastel tones. The images are pleasant to look at. Beyond the great popularity of this tarot (most certainly due to Jodorowsky's aura), the beginner may however prefer a Tarot de Marseille with a renewed and modern design like Fournier's (which I review here) or Bruno de Nys's (my review here). The advantage of Fournier's Tarot is that it respects the canonical form of the Conver, without any additions, with modern colors. And the advantage of Bruno de Nys's tarot is to offer new scenes.

The advanced practitioner will undoubtedly seek more authenticity. He will avoid the Jodorowky-Camoin tarot that the authors declare as "as it was originally" whereas it is false! And he will distance himself from Philippe Camoin's far-fetched theories on the origins and meaning of the Tarot de Marseille. Also in search of true authenticity, he will no doubt prefer historical facsimile tarot cards (such as the Heron, reviewed here) or restored ones (such as the Flornoy tarot cards: the Dodal here and the Noblet here ).

"An esoteric Tarot de Marseille" Tweet
TYPE OF USE
  • Prediction
  • Personal development
PROS
  • Modern colors for a Tarot de Marseille
CONS
  • Respect of the canonical form of Marseille
  • Profusion of symbols, all relevant ?
MATERIAL QUALITY RATINGS
2
/5
Quality
Packaging
3
/5
Quality
cards
3
/5
Rating
Artistic
EASE OF INTERPRETATION RATINGS
4
/5
Richness
of symbolism
5
/5
Legibility
of cards
5
/5
Structure
level
EASY-TO-USE RATINGS
2
/5
Ease
of use
1
/5
Accessible
to children
2
/5
Interest
in the study
OVERALL RATING
3.0 / 5
WHERE TO FIND IT ?

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