Tarot of Marseilles

Tarot of Marseilles – Interpretation of Mysterious Drawings

What is a Marseille Tarot deck?

The Tarot of Marseilles is a classic deck of cards that is suitable for everyone who decided to get acquainted with the world of esotericism and fortune-telling. The name is due to the fact that the deck goes back to the cards printed in the city of Marseille centuries ago.

The Tarot of Marseilles belongs to the old type of classic Italian decks, because it has Italian suit signs, Roman numbering system, a special historical type of drawing and, probably, Italian roots. This is not a specific deck, but a collective name for the design of Tarot cards.


Traditions: Marseille
Numbering: Fool 0 Strength 11 Judgment 8
Minor Arcana: suit symbols
Suits: wands, cups, swords, pentacles
Court Cards: Page, Knight, Queen, King
Deck type: Beginner, Historical


For the first time the name “Tarot of Marseilles” was used in print by Papus in the book “Gypsy Tarot” (1889). But for a long time after that, European occultists called this design “Italian”, because it featured Italian color signs and it most likely comes from Italy. In France, these card have been produced since the 17th century, not only in Marseille, but also in other cities. Paul Marteau finally introduced the name “Tarot of Marseilles” into common use. He published the Ancient Tarot of Marseilles deck in 1930, based on the version of Nicolas Convers. In 1949, Marteau published the Tarot of Marseilles, in which he described the symbolic meanings of all 78 cards. This deck is the most old of the decks, which has a traditional structure for us (i.e. card numbering).


The Marseille type decks are specific to the French School. Do not confuse the fact that it has an Italian design with the fact that it belongs to the French Tarot system.

The symbolism of the Major Arcana has remained unchanged since the days of the first decks drawn back in the 18th century.
The Tarot of Marseilles denies symmetry – the left side of the card is never identical to the right. It is very interesting that in the depiction of the characters of the Major Arcana of the Tarot of Marseilles, there are “mistakes” that take on a special meaning, judging by their repetitions. So, the Fool, the central character of the Lovers card, the characters depicted on the cards Chariot, Judgment, Hermit, Devil, Sun, the character of the XIII Arcana, as well as people falling out of the Falling Tower, have only 4 fingers drawn on both hands or on one of the hands.

In the Tarot of Marseilles “Justice” is the VIII Arcana, and “Strength” is the XI Arcana. This often confuses the minds of beginners, but in reality it is insignificant if it does not go deeper into theory.

The XIII Arcana “Death” in this deck has no name and symbolizes rebirth. The twelve previous Arcana are considered small riddles. But starting on the thirteenth, the next ones are big puzzles. From this point on, cards appear decorated with clouds with angels or heavenly symbols. A higher dimension intervenes. All initiations go through the death-rebirth phase. In an esoteric sense, it means a profound change that transforms the person during initiation. Unless he dies as an imperfect being, he cannot be reborn.

The Minor Arcana decks have four suits and are not equipped with character images. On the number cards, ranging from Two to Ten, numbers are indicated that correspond to its value, and the symbols of the suit, located decoratively and decorated with floral designs.

The figure cards of the Minor Arcana contain images of the Page, Knight, Queen and King, as in ordinary playing cards.


The deck of the Tarot of Marseilles is based on engravings by the French artist and printer Claude Bourdelle from 1751. The artist’s initials are placed on the cards “Chariot” and on the Two of Cups.

Simple and understandable images of the deck are due to the printing technique that existed at that distant time. To obtain a printed image, it was necessary to first cut the drawing on special wooden stamps. The excellent quality Bourdelle stamps, which have been used by printers for two centuries using different combinations of paper and colors, have made it possible to accurately reproduce the old Tarot de Marseille.

In the decks of Marseille, great importance is attached to the colors in which the cards are painted. The color scheme is pleasantly simple, with only 7 colors and contains no shades of black, green, white, blue, red, pink and yellow. Some decks use beige as the background. Colors are never mixed!


At the time of the birth of this type of Tarot decks, the largest cartographic firms were concentrated in Marseilles. These firms thrived on the fact that they made Tarot of very high quality and were able to export them at extremely low prices that Italian manufacturers could not compete with. It is logical that the name “Tarot of Marseilles” has become synonymous with the quality and the entire topology of divination cards of this type. Currently, the Tarot of Marseilles, regardless of the place of its manufacture, be it France or Italy, is used both for playing and for predictions.

The Tarot of Marseilles synthesizes other decks in itself and is a reference point in the world of Tarot, allows you to better understand the Tarot cards and organize your knowledge about them. In a sense, the drawings of the Tarot of Marseilles go back to even more ancient decks of the Renaissance and are the basis of Tarot divination and the starting point of all Tarot decks and cards that exist today. Indeed, all symbolic and esoteric decks of the 19th century, as well as all artistic and intuitive decks of the 20th century, owe their origin to the Tarot of Marseilles.

The Tarot of Marseilles is not the name of a separate deck, it would be more correct to say that this is the definition of a whole system, tradition. The classic Tarot of Marseilles is performed in a certain style, which corresponds to all the canons of symbolism, the location of the image on the cards. Such a system is considered one of the most ancient ones. Such decks were known back in the 15th century.

Tarot of Marseilles is a simple, affordable deck that everyone will love. Working with it will bring pleasure to both an experienced magician and a beginner.

4 thoughts on “Tarot of Marseilles – Interpretation of Mysterious Drawings”

  1. This article really opened my eyes to the rich history and unique features of this iconic Tarot deck! It’s fascinating to learn about its origins in 15th-century Europe and how it’s evolved over the centuries. I appreciate how the article breaks down the distinctive characteristics of the Tarot of Marseille, from its minimalist artwork to its emphasis on geometric shapes and primary colors. It’s clear that this deck holds a special place in the world of Tarot, serving as a timeless and powerful tool for divination and self-discovery. I can’t wait to explore this deck further and deepen my understanding of its symbolism and meaning.

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