Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tarot cards inspired by cities or places are magical for the way they bring Tarot archetypes and images off the page and into the world. I'm thinking specifically of Craig Conley's Trump L'Oeil Tarot, inspired by the Welsh village of Portmeirion, and the Tarot of Prague by Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov. My choice for a city-themed Tarot is Naples, the most soulful city in Italy. Naples has all the elements required for a deck: an ancient history, beautiful art and architecture, a vibrant religious sensibility, and natural beauty.

Founded as a Greek colony which later became a part of the Roman Empire, the city was ruled by a succession of rulers who left their imprint on its art, architecture, and culture. In addition, it features an abundance of beautiful and historic churches. In selecting images for the Major Arcana, I would make some changes that reflect the city's natural and religious heritage.

In place of the Tower, I would substitute Vesuvius. Turner's painting of Vesuvius in Eruption, shown above, perfectly captures the destructive power and terrible beauty of Naples' most famous natural landmark. All the ideas of catastrophe, ruin, and devastation symbolized by the Tower are contained in this volcano.
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In place of the Pope, I would put in the city's beloved patron saint, Saint Januarius, or San Gennaro. He was a Bishop in Benevento in the 4th century who was martyred. While substituting San Gennaro would mean demoting this card, not giving him a place of honor in the deck would not do justice to a Neapolitan Tarot.
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Going through the city's historic center in search of appropriate images for the rest of the Trumps would be a challenging and rewarding project. For the minor arcana, I would use a deck of Neapolitan playing cards. The end result would be a visually and historically rich deck, and a lovely tribute to a remarkable city.

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