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Musings on the The Cloisters by Katy Hays

Musings on the The Cloisters by Katy Hays

As a Tarot enthusiast, The Cloisters by Katy Hays has an irresistible premise. The story is set in New York where Ann Stilwell arrives from her unextraordinary life in Washington State to be a summer intern at the Metropolitan Museum, only to find that the position is no longer available. Through a "twist of fate", she ends up assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum renowned for its medieval art collection and gardens. Ann is a septic of her co-researchers’ pet project to rewrite Tarot history to prove that, in the early Renaissance, Tarot cards - which at that time were used for card games - were also used for divination and revealing one’s fate. Ann's skepticism wanes when a previously hidden 15th century deck of Tarot cards is discovered. She begins to use to the cards to understand her difficult past and catches glimpses of her and others’ futures. She and her co-workers become obsessed with the cards and in turn, their darker traits and motivations are slowly revealed and consume them.

The story is fantastical, far-fetched and a delicious guilty pleasure. But readers beware. At its core, this book reads as a cautionary tale about greed, power, and unbridled academic ambition. As Tarot Lover, we know that Tarot can be a powerful tool for self-reflection, discovery and a cathartic awakening - that is not this story. It can be disjointing to follow the authors’ narrative where the discovery of an unknown Tarot leads the researchers to a dark place. Of course, it's not necessary for a tale to be warm-hearted to be persuasive. Recall the Grimms' Fairy Tales that were often repellent in their original forms but prove potent in their ability to inspire us from a cautionary point of view. Readers who are willing to adopt this point of view will find The Cloisters a compelling read.

However, as compelling as a fiction can be, the recent real-life re-discovery of a presumed long lost Tarot is far more exciting.  And this tale ends well.  

Until very recently, only two incomplete copies of a Tarot deck by Joseph Feautrier were known, one preserved in the Musée du Vieux Marseille, the other in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Recently, Thierry Depaulis, a French historian specializing in playing cards, informed Tarot de Marseilles Heritage of the existence of a tucked-away third original copy, to this day the only complete one known in the world. Thanks to the mediation of Wilfried Houdouin, author of the Tarot of Marseille Millennium Edition, with Alfredo Mazzara, Italian tarotologist and filmmaker, and Tarot Historian Yves Renaud rights were granted to produce a new Edition, thus offering to the public for the first time this faithful reprint of a very rare authentic Marseille Tarot deck.

The excellent Video below by Alfredo Mazzara tells the tale well and captures the excitement of this rare discovery.

The Video is in Italian but users can adjust the YouTube subtitles in the settings area (1) Turn on auto generated subtitles (2) Enable auto translate and select your preferred language.


Tarot Arts is proud to stock  decks from Tarot de Marseilles Heritage including the recently published complete Joseph Feautrier Deck.

Next article The Moon Card as an Integral Map. Pre-personal, personal and transpersonal development in the Tarot

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