Bolognese Tarot Divination

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Three sources are available:

General Characteristics

Bologna has a tradition of cartomancy with tarot cards that goes back at least 300 years. Printed accounts began to appear only in 2000, but manuscript evidence shows that the tradition has been propagated orally during the whole time of its existence.

This form of cartomancy has been historically limited to the city of Bologna, Italy. It is independent of the French cartomantic tradition, and is first attested earlier than 1750.

  • 45 cards of the pack are used (typically).
  • There are no special meanings for reversed cards.
  • There are no correspondences of cards with esoteric doctrines (in the available sources).
  • Divinatory meanings are based on a single keyword and its associations (i.e. they are simple rather than complex (invoking correspondences with other divinatory or esoteric systems)).

Until 2000, the Bolognese tradition seems to have been a purely oral tradition, sometimes attested in manuscript, but never published. Card readers therefore did not rely on any printed sources, but were trained by a representative of the tradition directly. Although no survey has been taken, we may therefore expect there to be numerous "schools" in Bologna. This seems to be borne out by the slightly different meanings assigned to certain cards, the different pips used in the manuscript sources, as well as the different layouts which are to be found in the manuscript and printed sources. Yet the overall homogeneity of this tradition, spanning at least three centuries, is remarkable.

The dominant style of Bolognese cartomancy for over two centuries has used only 45 cards of the 62-card Tarocco Bolognese pack, although not always using the same pip cards.

However, the earliest record of Bolognese cartomancy known, a manuscript from before 1750, apparently assigned meanings to only 35 cards; while Ingallati's 2000 book introduced a method using 50 cards. These kinds of variations are consonant with a living oral tradition, although it is clear from the publications of 2000 and 2005 that printed sources have begun to affect the tradition.

Therefore, an oral tradition of great antiquity is fast becoming a codified and literary tradition.

Divinatory Meanings of the Bolognese Tarocchi

Because all of the published sources make reference to the manuscript sources in addition to the oral tradition, the divinatory meanings of the four known manuscript sources is given in tabular form below.

These sources are the following:

  • A manuscript from before 1750, discovered and published by Franco Pratesi.
  • Meanings handwritten on a pack of Tarocco Bolognese printed in the 1820s, with additions and "corrections" in a late 20th century hand ("c. 1825" in the chart below).
  • Meanings handwritten on a pack of Tarocco Bolognese made between 1862 and 1874 ("c. 1870").
  • Meanings handwritten on a pack of Tarocco Bolognese printed in 1920 ("c. 1925").

An empty box indicates that this card is not used by the source.

Explanatory notes and observations follow the table of meanings.

Four Witnesses to the Tradition
Carte Manuscript,
early 18th c.
Card pack,
c. 1825
Card pack,
c. 1870
Card pack,
c. 1925
Angelo Wedding and settlement Angel Of the Angel Angel
Mondo Long journey For the world For the world World
Sole Day Day Time of day (or: daytime) Day
Luna Night Evening time Time of evening/of night Evening
Stella Gift Possession Possession Possession
Saetta - Sacrifice - His thunderbolt
Diavolo Anger Devilry Devilry Deception
Morte Death Mortification Mortification Death
Traditore Betrayal Betrayal - Betrayal
Vecchio Old Man Obstacle Imperfection Old things
Ruota - Wheel of Fortune Turning of the Wheel Wheel
Forza Violence Strong lady Novelty Strength
Giusta - Adjustment Justly Justice
Tempra Time The passage of time Vettinparla or Vettimparla;
("last words"?)
Carro Journey Triumph In tempo di letto
("bed time"?)
Amore Love Love Love Love
(Papi 2) - Foreigness Confirmation or proof -
(Papi 1) - Marriage Marriage Melancholy
Bégato Married man Chatter (idle) Playing about Chatter
Matto Madness Deeds of a fool Madness Fool
Re An unmarried gentleman Batons in person Him Young man (Uomo gi.)
Regina Whore Queen/her Her Lady
Cavallo Door-knocker Thought/Thought of the Queen Thought of himself Man of batons
Fante Thought of the Lady Batons in mind
("Lady" added in 20th
century hand)
His thought Man
Dieci (-) - - Voyage
Nove (-) - The street -
Otto (-) - - -
Sette (-) - - -
Sei (-) The street Make a voyage -
Asso Noble
Make noble
Fa baronate
Re An old man A cup Gentleman P. (Galantuomo p.) Man
Regina Married Lady A "little cup" (girlfriend?)
Graceful Lady Queen of Cups
Cavallo Settlement Agreement Accomodation Man of Cups
Fante The Lady A coppina Young lady Man
Asso The House Bed Own house Knock on the door
Sei (-) - - Under the cups
Sette (-) - On the roof -
Otto (-) - - -
Nove (-) Cups of the house - -
Dieci Roof tiles Happiness Happiness May it flourish!
Che fiorisse
Re Evil tongue Dagger Youth King of Swords
Regina (-) Affliction Sad lady Queen of Swords
Cavallo (-) Evil tongue /
Thought of dagger
Evil tongue Man
Fante (-) Embassy - Evil tongue
Dieci Tears - - Flowering
Nove (-) - - -
Otto (-) - - -
Sette (-) - - -
Sei (-) - Passion -
Asso Letter At the door Knock at the door Note
Carte scritta
Re The Man Good news Gentleman King of Denari
Regina Truth Of confirmed truth Letter Queen of Denari
Cavallo Thought of the Man Letter Alla forza
("With force"?)
Man of money
Fante Young lady Bill/ticket
Chatter Man
Asso Table Table-time Table-time Outside of the table
Fuora di tavola
Sei (-) Tears Peace Money
Sette (-) - Tears -
Otto (-) - Money -
Nove (-) - - -
Dieci Money Money - Tears