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Exploring Myth, Divination and the Western Mysteries.

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Wednesday 31 January 2018



Reading with a Minchiate Deck is not something many tarot readers frequently get to do, but I have a collection of them, and I so love this 1655 Francois de Poilly Minchiate, also called the Minchiate Francesi, that I thought I would share a reading with you. It is a French 97 card pack that Louis XIV or Madame de Montespan might have played with at Versailles.

Francois de Poilly Astrological Trumps with Star, Moon, Sun and Renown
As you can see, the trumps betray what will strange images to many: 5 Classical Gods, with Momus, god of satire for the Fool; the customary cardinal virtue cards of Strength, Temperance, Justice and Fortune; the 3 theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity;12 astrological cards for the months; 5 cards for the senses; 4 cards for the ages of man, and the four elements; and finally Sun, Star, Moon World and Renown, with their characteristic red backgrounds, making a massive 41card deck of trumps.

Francois de Poilly Trumps
The remaining 56 cards are French suited and include the Honours from the four continents known at the time: Spades (Swords) for Africa, Hearts (Cups) for Europe, Clubs (Batons) for the Americas, and Diamonds (Coins) for Asia. The Honours imagine the American and African courts with improbably upholstered interiors, while the Asian court is recognizably oriental. In short, it is a European imagining of the world, but still has its own unique charm.
Francois de Poilly Honours and Pips
The Minchiate arose in the late 15th century-early 16th century in Italy and was used, like all tarots then, for playing games with, not divination. So, learning how to divine with it today is a challenge for the modern reader, but I love the charm and elegance of these cards and often pick them up in the evening, so we have become well acquainted with each other.


So, here, as January comes to its close, I am about to sign a contract for a book, and my question concerns how this book will work out. It is one I've been in process with for three years, and as the book will not appear for yet another year, that makes a total of four anxious years before it comes to the bookshops from inception! All books are like children to their authors but, where adult parents get to take their child home and raise it, authors have to give their child up for another nine months or more, before it can be officially recognized as yours.  Many mishaps can befall it: in this case, it has been beleaguered by a series of unfortunate accidents, so my anxiety about it is heightened.

Here, I have trump cards that have come from sequences of gods (Bacchus), the five senses (Sense of Smell), and the ages of man (Adolescence.)

9 Clubs (Batons), Ace Clubs (Batons), 4 Spades (Swords), Fortune, Moon
     Sense of Smell, 3 Hearts (Cups), Adolescence

This ninefold shape was suggested by the nature of the Minchiate cards themselves with their many sequences: a double V of cards in flight, with a tail-end Charlie who comes behind. The top five show me the initial story:

The book is graduating finally (9 Clubs) with this contract (Ace Clubs) after a long imprisonment (4 Spades), and it is now passes from the vicissitudes of Fortune's wheel into the keeping of the Moon, where it will spend its gestation leading to publication.

The middle three cards show me the next stage: in the hands of a sensitive publisher the little newborn book can grow up properly.

The last card, Bacchus, reminds me of the Dionysian myth of his birth, whereby he was sewn safely into the thigh of Zeus after his mother Semele's untimely death. He was born to be the patron of abundance, and in this depiction, which has the nearest that passes for a chariot in this chariot-less minchiate, the book can finally make progress.

Reading down the centre column vertically, it confirms that this imprisoned child (4 Spades + 3 Cups) makes it out finally out of its confinement, into freedom. 

Here I have used my own cartomantic understanding of reading pips, which you will find in my forthcoming book, Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots, which explores the practical ways in which pre-20th century tarots with pip or number cards can be read, drawing upon the older cartomantic art of blending cards, rather than reading each from a predetermined list of meanings. Older tarots like the Tarot de Marseilles are currently enjoying a great renaissance, but they are like an untold story that everyone has forgotten, because they require card-reading skills of a different era. 

In Untold Tarot, readers will learn to read their untold story for themselves. It gives older methods of reading with cards from directional and cartomantic methods used in Italy and France.  I just want to assure you that this is not just another trumps-led book, but also gives equal weight to reading the pips. Skills of directional and cartomantic reading are given, as well as some historic methods from Bolognese Tarot. 

It is due June 2018 from Schiffer. To check the book's progress, see my  latest newsletter http://www.hallowquest.org.uk/resources/imbolc18.pdf


In case you were wondering, there has been no commercially available edition of this Francis de Poilly for many years.  NOTE: I warn you that the edition advertised on both Etsy and Gamecrafter is just that, merely an advert: the unscrupulous advertiser is a maker who takes people’s money and never delivers a deck – the same person who ripped off many Lenormand users, myself included, back in 2013 to the tune of thousands of pounds - so you are warned not to go there! She has been reported by me to both Etsy and Gamecrafter, but they have not removed her adverts, so do be warned!

My own Francois de Poilly Minchiate was a custom pack, made for me by the excellent and professional Tag Jorrit, who might be persuaded to make one for you, if you ask nicely! (Contact her at http://thecartomancer.bigcartel.com/ )The smaller size of these cards makes them perfect for shuffling, as there are few Minchiate packs that can be shuffled at all, as 97 cards makes for a bit of a handful!


  1. Injust looked up on Game crafter and it aays that you can't buy it anymore. So that is good news.

  2. Thank you for letting us know, Majken! That is good news.