In the book, The Tarot: A Strange and Wondrous Thing, there is a section titled, “Mysteries in the Cards.” It addresses small mysteries in the details within the images in the hope that there are people living today whose families loved the cards and passed down information. It would have been extremely dangerous to do this while living under the scrutiny of the Church that resented anything outside of its teachings. Still, it is possible. Please, can you add to the precious and growing legacy of information about the cards?

In card VIII, The Justice, there are two mysteries: In the 1650 Noblet and he 1701 Dodal,  The Justice appears to have  butterfly-like wings. In the Conver card, where the wings have become the sides of her throne, the line pattern is very much like the wings. What I find interesting is that the wide gap in this pattern on the wing behind the sword is also replicated on the left side of the throne. It seems that this curious detail continues to persist, and in some still later cards it is emphasized by a change in color and sometimes it is continued on the right side of the throne.

Also, in the Dodal, but not in the Noblet, the pans of the scale are topped with triangles of light blue, and between them, a larger triangular shape in the Justice’s clothing is also colored light blue. This trinity of triangles is repeated over and over in in many Marseilles-style Tarots.  It has long been observed that her elbow seems to be favoring  merciful judgement. Might the larger blue triangle be showing the desirability of benevolent judgements that favor mercy? Is there some other explanation?

Mysterious Dots: In old Bolognese decks, one often sees soft dots of yellow or red that were apparently added to the images. They often follow the tracery of vines, the shafts of swords, and the tips of flower petals, but are sometimes just scattered in the background. See them in the Lo Scarabeo Antico reproduction of the Giacomo Zoni in Bologna 1780 deck (image at right). They are also in the 18th Century Trieste Tarot and in a 17th Century Bolognaise deck where they have morphed into graceful arabesques of soft cherry red. Moreover, the British Museum holds a 78-card Bolognese Tarot bound in a book, and these cards too, display the mysterious dots. What might have been their purpose?

In card XVII, The Star, the water flowing from the ewer in the maiden’s left hand flows strangely behind and beneath the heel of her right foot. This is evident in almost all Marseilles-style decks going all the way back to the 1650 Jean Noblet Tarot.Could this have been a meaningless detail copied through the years, or did it have a specific meaning?  Even if it was initially meaningless, it might have acquired significance. Can anyone explain it?

If you have had a personal inspiration or can contribute a possible interpretation, I’d love to hear it. Whatever the case, you may remain anonymous OR be given credit as you choose—your first name, city and state—your full name—other. Don’t be shy! Please email:    ###