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The Bruegel Tarot

by Guido Zibordi Marchesi

The Bruegel Tarot
Price: $19.95

Number of cards in deck: 78

Measurements: 2.6 x 4.7 inches, or 66 x 120 mm.

Back of card: Based on Major Arcana 19, the Sun. The image of the man & woman is given both right-side up, and upside down. Printed in gray-green. May be inverted.

Booklet included: Yes, 64 pages, 2.58 x 4.75 inches, or 65 x 120 mm. Instructions in English, Italian, Spanish, French & German.

Publisher: Lo Scarabeo. Printed in Italy.

Comments: The Reformation set off an artistic crisis in northern Europe. Hard on the heels of the glories of Renaissance art, came a religious movement that forbade art in churches. (It still does. Lutheran churches in Germany are dreadfully dull places.) Artists lost lucrative commissions for altar pieces, triptychs, frescoes, gory renditions of a man bleeding to death on a cross, etc. Unfortunately, 16th century Europe wasn't yet rich enough for a merchant class that could offer lucrative artistic commissions. So, for the most part, artists survived (where they survived at all) by painting portraits. In the Netherlands a style of "genre painting" developed, depicting nature & daily life. Among those artists, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1569) was one of the masters. This deck is based on his paintings of peasant life. He was influenced by the Flemish painter, Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516) (See the Bosch Tarot.)

In this deck, Swords represent spring, Wands summer, Pentacles autumn, and Chalices winter. Taking a hint from one of Bruegel's paintings, Netherlandish Proverbs (aka The Topsy-Turvy World), each card in this deck has a proverb associated with it. For the eight cards above, they are:

Magician: He who paints a flower does not give it a scent.
Two of Swords: Man is known by three things: His anger, his purse, and his booze.
Queen of Pentacles: Greed is the place where grain is always seed.
Ace of Chalices: The smoke from my house is worth more than the roast in yours.

The Hanged Man: Doubt is the father of knowledge.
The Sun: Everyone plants their own happiness, everyone sows their own joy, everyone holds their own destiny.
Ten of Wands: Every wood has its worms.
Nine of Swords: Every man has his cross to bear.

(I edited the second, third & fourth proverbs, above, for clarity.)

I like the idea of proverbs with tarot. I'm not sure the proverbs with this deck work with what's shown on the cards. For example, I picked the Hanged Man to show from this deck, because he's suspended from a wheel, which was an instrument of torture & execution in medieval Europe. The victim was staked out on the ground, the wheel itself (heavy & made of iron) was repeatedly smashed into his arms & legs until they were all broken into many pieces. The wheel was then placed flat on the ground, the man put on it & his broken limbs wrapped around the rim. It was then hoisted up on a pole, as you see on the card. As the person was not mortally injured, he often survived for days. One observer described such unfortunates as helpless screaming puppets. Such is the background to this card.

On the Ten of Wands we find Christ seated in the center, surely an amusing worm. Christ is sometimes seen (or implied) on the Seven of Cups, though not here. (That card shows a castle in the air.) It is interesting to see him on the Ten of Wands. There is much to discover on this card, but the proverb is little use.

Overall, I liked this deck. I think it will repay study. And the proverbs, by themselves, are equally interesting.

The Astrology Center of America

207 Victory Lane, Bel Air, MD 21014
Tel: 410-638-7761; Fax:410-638-5154; Toll-free (orders only): 800-475-2272

Tarot Home Tarot Decks Tarot Books Join our tarot mailing list Astrology Home E-Mail: Dave

Established 1993, The Astrology Center of America is owned & operated by David Roell. Except where noted, this entire site ( & its contents are Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by William R. Roell. All rights reserved. Tarot card images are Copyright © by the copyright holder (generally the publisher).