Me, cards and divination

My grandmother Elizza (1869 to 1956)Was a Manoush Gypsy and used to read Tarot with her original Soprafino deck. Remembering seeing this deck when I was a little girl and looking at the old worn out frayed cards together with my mother and her cousin, my “Aunty”is ultimately, what later brought me to Tarot.

Read more about that part here:

However, I grew up in the shamanic worldview of my father’s Siberian ancestry where divination was an integral part of working with clients, but divination cards were not used. One had Sheep’s knuckles and Horse hairs of different length and colours and a bag with small divinatory items, each having a specific meaning and being a tangible mnemonic of a shamanic teaching or tribal lore.

So that is, what I had. Then I went to university and became a member of a Peyote lodge of the Native American Church and divination was set into relation with things and events on “saw” in visions and trance journeys and of course meaningful coincidences in and with Nature, especially Animals Birds, Plants, clouds and rocks.

Then there was a time of travelling, where my then boyfriend – now hubby of 30 years – travelled in our VW bus around North America visiting sights and our Native friends, made jewellery on the road and sold it on markets and fairs….

I still vividly remembering the Tarot reader “Solaya” in Key West’s Mallory Square reading with , what i then assumed were the “wrong” cards. It was a standard RWS deck – but I did not know, that I did not know that….:(

Then there was “die GrÄfin” = the Countess, a lady, who was very snub-nosed and knew everything much better than everyone else… She read with a Thoth deck…

This is, how I learned, that there are different “modern” decks!

When we settled in Canada and our log home was all ready, I wanted a Tarot deck to honor my Grandma Elizza’s memory and heritage and to create a bit more balance in my life. I had in all these years always followed the shamanic path of my Father’s clan, and not paid much heed to my maternal Ancestors and their teachings.

And there was the conundrum: All the old decks, Marseille and what else I saw were, in terms of their imagery with the characters and the attire they wore, soooo very alien and removed from my inner life and my world view. I had felt that as a teen and it was the same now. I had a few Oracle decks and stuck to those for readings for self and others. They were all Nature and Animal related.

But then for Solstice, my hubby gave me the Native American Tarot from Maria Gonzales. OUPS!! :bugeyed:

I connected with the images, but there also were quite a few, that were stereotypical and “politically problematic”.

But for me the search was on. That was also made so much more fun, when Peter got a Computer! 🙂

Over the next few years I drifted through quite a few decks, working with each for about a year, always on the look out for the “right one”, but when it came to just reading I could use any deck and the “soul of the querent opened” .

I also made the observation, that some people, liked to come for a consultation and “input”, but were a bit scarrrred of my drums, Owl feathers and shamanic chants and found me reading “the Cards” for them less “strange” and it helped them to get to know me a little. And then, eventually they asked, if I could drum and chant for them and call my Animal Spirits and try to “see” …. whatever was wrong…..

Then I read the cards for a friend and subsequently taught her to read. She went on line, found AT and signed herself up and a year later signed me up too.

In spite of being on dial up my world exploded with Tarot decks 🙂

I think, that is so for most of us. Since then I have the habit of picking a new deck and working with it for a month or 2 and seeing, what it can teach me, what I can absorb form it that deepens my Tarot understanding.

I also gave teachings – about shamanism here in AT and then someone from here gave me a Geenwood deck as a Solstice present 🙂

That was The deck I had wanted to get, since first finding out about it.

It now is my main reading deck for clients and for personal readings.

See the Greenwood images and book here on this site:

Then of course there is my hand painted Ironwing deck.

Ironwing Spirit GuidesE size

It combines shamanism, art, Nature and metal smithing, the 4 mainstays of my life in 78 images 🙂



A layout for readings with the Soprafino Tarot:

Soprafino Readings in our Family:
The layout we would use:

Soprafino Layout pattern
I have never seen this layout anywhere on AT or anywhere else, so I do not know, if you all know it or if it was only used in the old times or only used by the people of my mom’s (Gypsy) clan for duckereing.
First you have to find out the Draba = the Star the whole spread stands under:
So you have your freshly shuffled deck and you turn over cards, one after the other,
until either
1. the Mariage (=Lovers- Gli Amanti)
or 2. the Dance of Love (the Khee’l – Il Sole)
or 3. the Beng (the Devil – Il Diavolo)
or 4. Mullo, the Skeleton (no name Death)
or 5. the Water Angel ( La Temperana )shows up.
This card will be the Significator – the star of the reading:

Here it does not matter, if the card is upside down or right side up, just which one appears first.

Number 1 and 2 = Marriage or the Dance signify Kushto Bok = a good outcome, the situation is under a good star.
3 and 4 signify Waasto Bok = an unfavourable outcome that needs to be “duckered” = mettled with/ tweaked, influenced…
if 5 = Temperance shows up, we are looking at a situation with a stalemate = neither good or bad and maybe could be duckered.
Ifffff any of these mentioned cards show up in the rest of the reading they are being read just like any other card.

So you put this card in the top centre.
Then you go sunwise in a circle:
next card is Puri Dai = your grandmother’s wisdom = for something you know, but may not take heed of.
Then next card is something you do not know but it is important.
Then there is Raklie, the girl = nurturing influences upon the situation = These may not always be positive, it can, for example be “something that nurtures the thoughts of getting a divorce – or positive, what nurtures the marriage
Then in the middle below your Stat is “tuti” = you = or better, the querant, the one you read for.
Next comes Chav = the boy = influences, that are active, driving the situation forward. These too have to be read positive and negative = helping or hindering whatever the client desires.
Then comes the inevitable “Reinard”(also called the red tail) the Fox card, a danger to watch out for and avoid.
Then last there is Drom = the way into the future.
One card will be read extensively, = like the others in the reading
then you fan out the next 12 cards from there.
These cards symbolize the next 12 moons = so you have the 13 moons of the year.
But you only count, speak, tell, read loud the VERY FIRST 1 sentence that comes into your mind, when you turn over any one of these cards. (in lieu of all you meanwhile learned about the situation and the querant) Anything coming up may happen at any time during that year…..

Soprafino La Papessa la Luce

This is one of my most cherished memories 🙂
The story about “Papessa la Luce” = the “female Pope  of Light” is also quite “controversial” because I always suspected, that this is not just a meaning “made up”among the Gypsy readers of my Gran’s time, but is based on historical facts and also, of how the deck creator and Gumpenberg press meant this image to be seen.
Because of this, I asked a few of my friends here, to help do some research on it. today now, I received some confirmation that I very well may be right with my assumptions 🙂

But, first here my memory of the story of “La Papessa de Luce”


What I remember about “Papessa la Luce”
She was/ is the daughter of the Pope. She is very smart, but was married to a bad man. So the Pope cut the marriage linen and Lucia came back into the Pope’s palace. When he was out or at war, she was reigning in/ on his behalf. She sat on the golden throne of god and kept up the book of numbers, where all the many cardinals’ sins were written down. Therefore they did not dare to say anything.
She knows the secrets of the ??? (there was a special word for that ) 4 winds (elements) and all the plants and potions to be made from them…..and they are hidden in the pin she wears over her heart.
She has a list of everyone’s sin, but she will say nothing, if you do not anger her. If you do, she may mix a cup of poisonous wine for you.
……………………………………………. ………………………………………….. ………………………………………….. ……….
For me this card was the very one by which I was able to identify the deck, that I had last seen as a child of ~~8 as the one, that Gran had, and that also my mother’s niece read with and taught me, by telling these stories about the cards. When all the years later I looked through historical decks, it is the Papessa with the square pin over the heart and the book that has the lines of writing going vertical, like you would write numbers.
……………………………………………. ………………………………………….. ………………………………………….. ………

Historically I personally am convinced that the story of her refers all the way back the Lucretia Borgia.
The “la Luce” or Lucia how she was called also points to that. She at one point sat on her father’s papal chair ( Pope Alexander VI ) and she also had a baby, Giovanni of whom nobody really knew, who the father was.
Reading through her story I even found a painting showing her as the Papessa:

Lucretia Borgia reigns in the Vatican in the absence of her father
There is lots and lots to read about her and I think she was a good female leader in northern Italy at her time.

More on Lucretia Borgia :

Empress Sissy of Austria in the Soprafino Tarot?

I am continuing with writing down,what I remember from the stories and
allegories that went with the cards of the Soprafino Tarot deck- according to my Grandmother and other readers of her time.

As I said, these meanings, that the common readers used, were quite removed from what the deck creators intended or wrote on pamphlets that only few people could read…..
They rather followed archetypes and their traits…..

Reg di Spade

The Reg. Di Spade,

the Queen of Swords most likely ended up being the Empress Sissy archetype,( in my Gran’s times) because she held her hand to her chest in a gesture of empathy. Empress Elisabeth of Austria was very beloved and everyone knew, that she knew sorrow and hardship and pain, having lost a baby, being in looooove with King Ludwig and married to the Emperor Franz Joseph and harassed by his mother. But through it all she carried herself with regal grace. In a way, that is how we see the Queen of Swords today…

More infos about the Empress Sissy of Austria:

Colubus in the Soprafino Tarot Deck

Here I am continuing with putting into the www, what I remember from the stories and
allegories that went with the Soprafino Tarot deck- according to my Grandmother and other readers of her time. These also went with the Courts, who also were seen as
archetypes from stories/ history everyone back then had heard about.

The Fan Di Spade was “Don Colon” = Christopher Columbus who discovered the New World and when you had him and the World card in a reading, that foretold very good outcomes and riches and new things to come…..

That does not fit at all with how the readers and Tarot history scholars of today see and interpret this card.

Fan di Spade
I think for the readers of my Gran’s time, it depended largely on how the person on the cards was depicted/ looked like, that inspired the corresponding stories and thereby how the card was interpreted by the reader. as far as my memory tells me, the large hat was the main attribute, why this card ended up being seen and read as Don Colon. And yes, he looms large over pristine land, wielding a formidable sword….
The Fan Di Spade of another deck was maybe someone else, because he looked different.Oh,I soooo wish, that there was someone “out there” that could come here and tell us….

Soprafino Tarot: La Giustizia VIII

La Giustizia VIII:

What I remember having been taught about this card went somewhat like this:
Justice rules not from seeing the world and all its ugliness but from her inner eye.
She is supposed to be a beautiful innocent angel of a girl, dressed in white to attest to her purity.
BUT her toenails being painted red and “just so” showing out underneath her robe tell us that not all is, as it should be! Back then only ladies of a “certain reputation” = lasciviousness had their toe nails painted. THIS was a sign that advertised their “services”.
So in other words, Justice’s eye on her dress looks out at you, Because looking at this eye you can not help seeing her “fine female curves” underneath her tight dress.
She is weighing your desire and what else is hidden in your soul against the thoughts of every other man. She warns women to hold the balance between being a temptress and a pious lady.The fact that Justice has painted toenails also allures to the sad fact, that, for the right price, Justice is “for sale” and the poor man is out of luck.

La Giustizia VIII

Soprafino Tarot: From Fool to Cobbler

Sadly I am remembering only a few of all the hidden meanings/ allegories that go with the Soprafino deck My memories come from the stories of my mother, when we looked at the cards and she reminisced about the stories Grandma Elizza had told her about certain cards and from what her niece – my “Aunty” told me.
Please keep in mind, that this is/ was the going interpretation my Granand readers like her used in HER time and with Her background as a Manoushe Gypsy reader between ~ ~ 1893 and the time she was interred in concentration camp Bergen Belsen.
Here are a few examples:

Il Matto

Il Matto, the Fool

Il Matto has only one shoe. He is a tender foot, a newbee just starting out. His right foot may get hurt if he puts it forward, so he has to walk left foot first = intuition first. His shoe is red, because it is a new path he is on and he walks into the red dawn of morning.
Matto’s sack is on his back because he wants to make a million (Reichs)marks and will have a million experiences while trying.

His dog has a yellow collar because it is his job to warn him away from danger……..
With only one shoe Matto will have to go find the cobbler to gamble him out of a new pair of shoes for his journey. Right now he has no money and so has to resort to trickery – which made him a favourite among the Gypsy readers. He was pennyless and fancy free and so much like them. Recently I heard someone say, that he was also a Kalo = a black (haired) one = true Gupsy
But now, back to our deck:

Il Matto sets out to find the cobbler/ shoe maker. Instead of tricking the cobbler,out of new shoes,  he will apprentice with him and so learn to make the new shoes himself. = become sufficient and have a trade, with which he can make mark(s) = money anywhere on the road.
From then on it is “trick or trade” for him…….

So the next card of the deck shows us

Il Bagattel –and may be either Matto a little later in life, better dressed and with some wine – come into riches through his new trade – or his teacher of “tricks of the trade”, the cobbler himself. Was he / is he a former Fool?

The table he has there is not one of the “foldaway” tables vaudeville jugglers use, but is quite stable and permanent. There also is no “outdoorsy” background, suggesting that this takes place inside – but also, that, when learning a trade, background is not important, just your skill and the willingness to learn more.

IL  Bagattel