Ace of Coins Sola-Busca

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Sola Busca - Ace of Coins

Sola Busca Tarot


The image represents an allegory with three little angels (putti).

The three angels seem to have an emblematic nature. This is particular evident for the left and the central angel.

The angel on the left seems to be melancholic. The Latin motto unpon his head (Trahor Fatis) means "I am drawn by Fate". A figure holding his (or her) head with an hand is the conventional representation of Melancholy, or Accidia (Sloth). This can be seen in the famous Melancolia by Duerer, but many more examples can be found (see Images of Melancholy). The comet was in ancient times a sign of bad omen, and the Latin motto also points to a situation in which an individual does not manage to build his own fate. Melancholy is a word of Greek origin meaning black (melan) bile (chole).

On the contrary, the central angel look triumphant . He holds a huge disc. The Italian motto reads "Servir. Chi persevera infin otiene" ("To serve. If you persist you obtain [your goal] in the end"). At the top of the card, just above the central angel and the huge disc, there is a bucranium, the skull of an ox. The bucranium was a symbol of hard work, in line with the persistence suggested by the Italian motto on the disc. It seems reasonable to assume that the Disc is made of gold. Coins on XV Century Tarot cards used to be golden coins. Even today, the common Italian name for the suite of Diamonds is "ori" (gold pieces).

We can take the left "melancholic" angel as a symbol of nigredo (Blackening), the first stage in the alchemical transmutation. The central angel can be seen as a symbol of rubedo (Reddening), the third and last stage in the great work. In this interpretation, the right angel should fill the second stage, the albedo or Whitening.

Sofia Di Vincenzo, in her "Sola Busca Tarot" book (US Games, 1998), gives a description of the central angel that is in line with the one proposed above. The disk, the solar symbol par excellence, is often depicted, and not only in the occident, as a luminous halo over the heads of saints and mystics. In alchemical symbolism, it is equivalent to the "squaring of the circle" the realization of the Great Opera.

Albrecht Duerer - Melencolia I, 1514

Textual references

Simone da Cascina

"Chi persevera infine al fine, costui sarà salvo" - Simone da Cascina

"He who keeps trying until the end, he will be saved".

Matthew 24:12-13

12 And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4B.C.-A.D.65) in Natural Questions

No man is so utterly dull, with head so bent on Earth, as never to lift himself up and rise with all his soul to the contemplation of the starry heavens, especially when some fresh wonder shows a beacon-light in the sky. As long as ordinary course of heaven runs on, custom robs it of its real size. Such is our constitution that objects of daily occurrence pass us unnoticed even when most worthy of our admiration. On the other hand, the sight even of trifling things is attractive if their appearance is unusual... So natural is to admire what is strange than what is great. The same thing holds in regard to comets. If one of these frequent fires of unusual shape have made its appearance, everybody is eager to know what it is. Blind to all the other celestial bodies, each asks about the newcomer; one is not quite sure whether to admire or fear it. Persons there are who seek to inspire terror by forecasting its grave import. And so people keep asking and wishing to know whether it is a portent or a star.

Pliny Natural History - Book II

The Greeks name these stars comets ; we name them Crinitæ, as if shaggy with bloody locks, and surrounded with bristles like hair. Those stars, which have a mane hanging down from their lower part, like a long beard, are named Pogoniæ.


Comets are never seen in the western part of the heavens. It is generally regarded as a terrific star, and one not easily expiated; as was the case with the civil commotions in the consulship of Octavius, and also in the war of Pompey and Cæsar . And in our own age, about the time when Claudius Cæsar was poisoned and left the Empire to Domitius Nero, and afterwards, while the latter was Emperor , there was one which was almost constantly seen and was very frightful. It is thought important to notice towards what part it darts its beams, or from what star it receives its influence, what it resembles, and in what places it shines.

The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton, 1621

Democritus Junior to the Reader

A mere spectator of other men's fortunes and adventures, and how they act their parts, which methinks are diversely presented unto me, as from a common theatre or scene. I hear new news every day, and those ordinary rumours of war, plagues, fires, inundations, thefts, murders, massacres, meteors, comets, spectrums, prodigies, apparitions, of towns taken, cities besieged in France, Germany, Turkey, Persia, Poland, &c., daily musters and preparations, and such like, which these tempestuous times afford, battles fought, so many men slain, monomachies, shipwrecks, piracies and sea-fights; peace, leagues, stratagems, and fresh alarms.

Instrumental Causes of our Infirmities

Now the instrumental causes of these our infirmities, are as diverse as the infirmities themselves; stars, heavens, elements, &c. And all those creatures which God hath made, are armed against sinners. They were indeed once good in themselves, and that they are now many of them pernicious unto us, is not in their nature, but our corruption, which hath caused it. For from the fall of our first parent Adam, they have been changed, the earth accursed, the influence of stars, altered, the four elements, beasts, birds, plants, are now ready to offend us. "The principal things for the use of man, are water, fire, iron, salt, meal, wheat, honey, milk, oil, wine, clothing, good to the godly, to the sinners turned to evil," Ecclus. xxxix. 26. "Fire, and hail, and famine, and dearth, all these are created for vengeance," Ecclus. xxxix. 29. The heavens threaten us with their comets, stars, planets, with their great conjunctions, eclipses, oppositions, quartiles, and such unfriendly aspects. The air with his meteors, thunder and lightning, intemperate heat and cold, mighty winds, tempests, unseasonable weather; from which proceed dearth, famine, plague, and all sorts of epidemical diseases, consuming infinite myriads of men.

Image references


The angel on the left is somehow similar to the angel of the famous engraving by Albrecht Duerer. Also the star and the banner look similar. In Duerer, you read on the banner the title of the engraving ("Melancolia I"). On the banner in the card we read the motto "Trahor Fatis". Both banners are close to a comet.

Bocchi, Achille, Symbolicarum quaestionum, 1574 [SM1257]


The Bucranium (the skull of an ox) appears in emblems as a symbol of work. So it can be connected to the motto we read on the disc. Achille Bocchi associates the image of a Bucranium (with the palm leaves of victory) to the motto "VICTORIA EX LABORE HONESTA, ET UTILIS." The Victory you gain by your work is honest and useful.

External links

  • [1] Bucranium emblem by Achille Bocchi
  • [2] Pliny (Plinius) Book II
  • [3] The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton

Images of Melancholy

  • [4] Albrecht Duerer - Melencolia - 1514
  • [5] Melancolia by Domenico Feti
  • [6] The Anatomy of Melancholy (illustration)
  • [7] 'Saturn as Melancholy,' engraving by Zacharias Dolendo, after a design by Jacques de Gheyn, ca. 1595/6.
  • [8] "Acidia vestita di nero" - Sloth dressed in black - Carracci