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Tarot Readings for Self-Help:
the Renaissance Mantegna Tarot

“EXSTATICA Self-Help Essentials — Unleash the
Transformative Sparkles of the Renaissance Mantegna Tarot”

is brought to you by Shanti and Frank

The creative power of the Renaissance can help us to live a more meaningful life, today. There are many ways to tap into that energy: art, literature, philosophy, etc. As we do in EXSTATICA, this post shows you first how to use the Renaissance Tarot (known as “Mantegna Tarot”), for self-help and personal development. Then, it offers you a concise historic overview of how this deck reached us through the centuries.

The Structure of the Mantegna Tarot

Even if there are visual/thematic similarities with other Renaissance Tarot decks (Visconti Sforza Tarot, Sola Busca Tarot) and the more recent ones (Tarot of Marseille, Rider-Waite Tarot, Thoth Tarot), the structure of the Mantegna Tarot deck is unique. It consist of 50 engravings. Each has a name, Roman number, Arabic number. There are no card suits, but five groups, identified from A to E, with ten cards each...

  • Group E (cards 1-10) covers the hierarchy of society, from Beggar (Misero), through Gentleman, to Pope (Papa).
  • Group D (11-20) consists of the nine Muses and Apollo.
  • The seven liberal arts and Philosophy, Poetry, Theology form the Group C (21-30).
  • Group B (31-40) includes the Genius of the Sun (Iliaco), Genius of Time (Chronic), Genius of the world (Cosmic), and the Seven Virtues.
  • Group A (41-50) brings us the Sun, Moon, five traditional planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), the Eighth Sphere (Octava Spera) of the fixed stars, the Primo Mobile, and Prima Causa.

Personal Growth with the Mantegna Tarot

EXSTATICA shows a way we can use the Mantegna Tarot to gain more insights about the Four Spheres of life: Behavior, Emotions, Cognition, Meaning. So we can align them, and live a fully meaningful life. Ensuring what we do, feel, think is in line with our life calling. As outlined above, the Mantegna Tarot cards are divided in five groups. We merged A (ultimate principles) and B (ethical principles) into the Sphere of Meaning. We use Group C to explore the Sphere of Cognition. Group D for Emotions. Group E for Behavior.

One way to read the Mantegna Tarot is with a Triangle spread:


You can divide the deck in four groups: A/B, C, D, E, based on the letters that each card carries. Then, at the top of the triangle, you place one card from the A/B group (Meaning). Then, you draw another card from the same group, and place it on the second line. Next to it, you place one card from the C group (Cognition). For the third row, you draw one card from the C group, and then two cards from the D group (Emotions). At bottom, you place one card from the D group, and three cards from the E group (Behavior).

Then you interpret them as a whole, inspired by how these cards relate to your life. You can do this intuitively, by looking at the images. Using the meanings offered in EXSTATICA. Or even better, with a mix of both. You can start by doing this once per week, on a specific day, like every Friday. Then you can make it a once a month practice, if you like keeping a short diary to see how your journey of personal discovery unfolds.

The History of the Mantegna Tarot

The Mantegna Tarot was not designed by Mantegna, nor it was meant to be a tarot deck. It likely started as an educational book, drawn in a style similar to the school of Francesco Del Cossa, a painter active in Ferrara and Bologna. You can check his work at Palazzo Schifanoia and see the similarities.

Several Mantegna Tarot cards are inspired by the literary work of Martianus Capella. He was a Latin-language writer of the 5th century, author of De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii (The Nuptials of Mercury with Philology). Even if his writing style is not considered sophisticated, the way he presented the Liberal Arts turned his book into a scholarly work used to organize the humanistic studies of the Medieval and Renaissance times. The overall humanistic environment where the Mantegna Tarot came to be, was deeply influenced by Georgius Gemistus Pletho (Pletone), a Byzantine philosopher, who helped to bring Plato’s philosophy back to the West, while visiting Ferrara and Florence on a state visit. And Marsilio Ficino who translated Plato’s work in Latin.

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