Minchiate decks are an important part of the history of cartomancy. Similar to a Tarot but with the addition of a few more cards, a Minchiate deck can give a very nuanced reading. In addition, whether used for study or divination it brings a sense of history and mystery. The art is charming and often surprisingly whimsical. If you want to experience Minchiate, this edition, with its short book, is an excellent choice.
This Minchiate deck is a reproduction of an Etruruia deck from Florence during the 18th century. The art itself is charming and printed in such a way that it feels as though there is the patina of time and mystery over each card, making for a more magical experience.
There are 97 cards in a Minchiate deck. The Minchiate deck is made up of twenty-one of the Majors from the Tarot…the High Priestess is missing altogether, although some say she is there in the form of Faith, one of the four virtues. Also, I would argue that the Empress is also missing, although some say she is there in the guise of “The Grand Duke,” but I’m not buying that one, even if he does look a bit feminine. Added to these cards are the twelve signs of the zodiac, the four cardinal virtues, and the four elements. So we have a total here of forty-one.
The other fifty-six cards are the same as from the Minor Arcana of a Tarot deck…four suits each with an Ace—10 plus four court cards. The court cards are equivilant to the Tarot. All the knights are centaurs and other half human, half animal creatures. The Knaves (Pages) of Chalices and Pentacles are both female, probably because those suits are considered passive or feminine.
The Major cards are noted with a Roman numeral only…no names are on these cards. Also, they do not follow the same order as a Tarot deck.
The Minor arcana cards have no names or numbers on them at all. The numbered cards are not illustrated as in the Rider-Waite-Smith. Instead they are simply pip cards, like a Marseille deck.
Here is a listing of the Major Cards in the Minchiate; the names in parentheses are the Tarot equivalents):
- The Fool
I Juggler (The Magician)
II Grand Duke (Empress)
III Emperor of the West (The Emperor)
IV Emperor of the East (The Hierophant)
IX The Wheel of Fortune
X The Chariot
XI The Hermit
XII The Hanged Man
XIV The Devil
XV House of God (Tower)
XXXVI The Star
XXXVII The Moon
XXXVIII The Sun
IXL The World
XL Trumpets (Judgement)
XVIII Faith (some say this is the High Priestess)
The meanings in the booklet are short, giving only two simple messages for each card, one positive and one negative. The booklet explains that no single card is either all good or all bad, and that the decision for which interpretation to use depends on context. For example, for Prudence we read “Acting cautiously. Acting rashly.” These are two opposite meanings, but no further advice is given as to how to determine which one to use. If you read with reversals, the choice would be simple. As with many of the Lo Scarabeo decks, you are given a little information, but part of the joy is exploring on your own and discovering through practice and experimentation how a deck works.
Using so many cards might seem confusing, but the divination method given makes good use of the natural divisions in the deck and provides a well-rounded reading.
To me, the biggest challenge with this deck are the Marseille pips…they are gaining in popularity in the States, though. Many people find them superior to illustrated Minors. Give them a try and see which work best for you.
For those who already know or are interested in astrology, this would be an excellent deck to explore. The virtues and elements are not really very difficult to understand, so the only real learning curve is the astrological cards (and perhaps the Marseille pips).
Name of deck: Minchiate
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Number of pages ofbooklet: 126 pages; 20 in English
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes
If yes, are there extras in the kit?: No
Magical Uses: none
Reading Uses: General
Ethnic Focus: Italian
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Minchiate-style Tarot
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: No
Does it have extra cards? If yes, what are they?: Yes, see above
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: If yes, what are they?: See above.
Why was deck created?: to provide readers with a copy of the historical Minchiate Tarot