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Tarot picture
No. 19

Tarot 19

La Luna, the Moon
The Moon, from Agrell, p 149

The old tarot pictures of La Luna, The Moon, do not contain two canines and a lobster. What is in old pictures is a half-moon, and two astrologers who talk with one another. A flowery field is nearby.

Hence, old Italian tarot designs show completely different scenes than those depicted to the left. In the Bolognese tarot picture are two astronomers, apparently debating beneath a moonlit sky that also features several stars. One holds a compass and globe, the other a T-square. Further, in the Minchiate of Florence, an astronomer with compass gazes upward, while sitting with a massive disk that bears the Roman numerals 1 through 12. It may be taken to illustrate both a sundial or clock and a reference to the twelve signs of the zodiac. In many cases, depicted Italian astronomers and compasses of some old decks were icons of astronomy or astrology, which can demand many calculations.

The maiden symbolises the Moon in Renaissance art. Also, an engraved 1665 deck shows Greek Diana with her hunting dogs. The Visconti-Sforza triumph cards show a modestly clothed maiden holding the Moon in her hand. And in the Tarocco Siciliano, a woman stands gesturing toward a man lying sleeping beneath a tree, a discarded club by his side. [Little; Huson 139-42]

In the Marseille decks, in the foreground there is a pool with a lobster or crab arising from the waters. The lobster is supposed to represent the astrological sign of Cancer, the Crab. In the middle distance, two dogs (or a dog and a wolf) stand howling up at the moon, which is shown both in its full and crescent form, somehow relatable to flux and reflux. In the distance, two hills are topped with towers. The Moon shines on the scene, and is in some pictures partly obscured by clouds.

An uncut sheet of cards (the Cary sheet) from Milan in the early 1500s shows a very similar design; lacking only the dogs.

In the Waite-Smith deck, the design of the Moon picture is much as in the centuries-old Tarot de Marseille pattern, and close to the Milan Cary sheet also.

The early decks speak about recognising and calculating patterns relating to the heavens, celestial pattern-recognition. And the moon is said to influence emotions. However, you can avoid being controlled by them. [Hollander 97-100]


In the present, simple arrangement of trump pictures, the luminaries come in an order that shows how much light they give. Viewed from the earth, the Sun (previous picture) is brighter than the Moon, and the Moon is brighter than the Star (next picture).


Tarot study, Literature  


Agrell, Sigurd. Die pergamenische Zauberscheibe und das Tarochspiel. Lund: The University of Lund, (Sweden), 1936:151-52.

Alexander, Skye. The Only Tarot Book You'll Ever Need: Interpret the Cards That Hold Your Future. Ill ed. Cincinnati, OH: Adams Media, 2008:91-92. Online at Google Books (limited view)

Farley, Helen. A Cultural History of Tarot: From Entertainment to Esotericism. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009. ⍽▢⍽ Helen Farley is Lecturer in Studies in Religion and Esotericism at the University of Queensland. Her book is a researched and well written study of tarot symbolism and the changing imagery in the cards. She explores ways in which the tarot reflects aspects of European culture from Medieval Italy until our times.

Hollander, P. Scott. Tarot for Beginners: An Easy Guide to Understanding and Interpreting the Tarot. Illustrated ed. Woodbury MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 1995. Online at Google Books (limited view).

Huson, Paul. Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage. Rochester, VM: Inner Traditions / Bear and Company, 2004:129-39. Online at Google Books (limited view).

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