tarocco scrittore

About the Tarocco Scrittore (Writer’s Tarot)

The idea for the Tarocco Scrittore came about because I am a giant geek. Specifically, I geek out over symbols and the written language is made up of nothing but. It gives me great pleasure to to read text that dances across the page, aided by thoughtful use of punctuation and typography. These markings are the symbols that govern the symbols, telling them when to stop and when to go; when to slow down and when to react. Somewhere in all this geekery, the idea floated up to compare punctuation with the tarot.

I scribbled a few ideas down, noting the most immediate associations that came to mind. I learned that there are only 14 official punctuation marks in the English language; the rest are borrowed from short-hand, typography, editing or Mathematics. Hmm, okay, expand the concept. Next, I hit up Google, which dashed my dreams by delivering The Punctuated Tarot. Well, POOP. POOP ON YOU. Once the gnashing of teeth and renting of hair was done, I saw that my deck was a different animal and shared only two marks with the Punctuated: Death and The Star. I can live with that.

Creating a deck from scratch would take have taken too long for a concept I had to execute right now. I needed something with simple images – a Marseilles style deck -, preferably in black and white. The Rolla Nordic fit the bill perfectly and the rendering of the images is wonderful in addition. As this is a deck I have created for personal use only, from images that are readily available, of a deck that is out of print (WAAAAH! I want one :() and do not intend to profit from it in any way (as per U.S. Games’ agreement for personal image use), I can honestly say that no copyright infringement is intended. Should I be informed differently by the copyright holder, this page will be removed immediately.

The most amazing part of creating the images for this deck was how seamlessly the markings I chose to represent the cards – as well as the font I chose – matched up with the lines on the original artwork. I had many “No. Friggin. Way.” moments. A prime example of this is the curve of the pilcrow in Judgement matching *exactly* the curve of the angel’s trumpet. That just happened. As well, the curve of the brackets in the Empress and Emperor didn’t have to be adjusted at all to fit the original art, not to mention that they both face the appropriate direction! There were moments of absolute giddy delight as the pieces fell into place so seamlessly.

Writing the LWB was the most difficult. I wanted to share so much of the reasoning behind my choices – how marvelously well the markings suit the cards in both their function, form and symbolism – but it was necessary to hold back and explain only briefly (as it is, it’s still too heavy-handed for my liking…) A deck that is wholly and completely defined is of no use; the reader has to be able to make their own associations. I hope at least to inspire a little of the utter excitement and joy I felt at discovering the connections and encourage you to do your own research into the punctuation and typographic markings used.

LWB part i
LWB part ii

Instructions for how to fold the LWB

(Please gently overlook any typos – I’m sure I missed a few.)


Ideas for Constructing a Deck

  • If you’ll be laminating the deck, print onto photo paper to reduce the final thickness of each card. If you choose another way of sealing the cards, printing onto cardstock is preferable (use paper for the card backs, regardless).
  • Use brown paper to back the cards to add to the “antique” feel of the deck. Brown paper can be cut to size and run through a printer (be sure to feed each piece manually) if you want printed card backs.
  • Glue the card sheet to the backing sheet before cutting out the individual cards. Spread a thin, even layer of white glue over the entire card sheet before carefully laying it on the backing, starting from one side and smoothing it across to prevent air pockets. Allow to dry partially before pressing under a heavy object to minimise warping.
  • Laminate, or
  • Seal the front and back with Mod Podge (or watered down white glue, like we used to do in theatre school) in your preferred finish (gloss, satin or matte). Mod Podge dries quickly; multiple thin layers of application is preferable to one thick coat.
  • Cut the cards by hand using long, slow cuts – or use a rotary cutter or guillotine-type cutter for perfectly straight edges – and round the corners if you like. To “antique” the deck, use fine grit sandpaper (or even an emory board) to distress the edges. Use Mod Podge to seal the card edges.
  • The edges (and card surface) can also be gilded using an artist’s leafing pen, a gilding inkpad or liquid leaf. This should be done prior to sealing the edges with Mod Podge.


Download the Deck

Right-click on the images and select “Save link as…” – easy!

The files are presented in PDF format, at 150dpi (300dpi is preferable for as-close-to lossless printing, but this resulted in files that were 14MB in size!) Download Adobe PDF Reader for free here.

If you would like to print card backs, there are 3 to choose from: an “antique” version that matches the front of the cards and a repeating pattern in either black or “watermarked” (light grey).

Download the LWB in PDF format, or WordPad (can be read by NeoOffice for Mac as well). This is a 2-page document that can be folded and joined to form a neat booklet, the same size as the deck. Clear instructions for folding can be found here. The text for the LWB is included on this page as well, underneath the relevant cards.

I have included a tuck box, designed to match the look of the deck. If you prefer to design your own, use this handy dandy tuck box generator.


Card Back Options

antique finish card back (2MB)

Black and white reversible repeat print card back (350KB)

Watermark reversible repeat print card back (280KB)


The Cards

Tuckbox – Fool (3.6MB)

[0] The Fool – Space

The SPACE. Anything can happen in it. Fill it, leave it open, give it a friend or four, fill a whole page with it if that’s what makes you happy! White space is a very important concept in design, including the design of the written word. It allows the eyes – and the mind receiving the information from them – to rest.

The space holds unspoken, limitless potential and The Fool steps boldly into this, not knowing what to expect and not letting that deter him. He lays the past to rest and embraces the massive space that lies ahead of him.

Magician – High Priestess – Empress (2MB)

[1] The Magician – Exclamation Mark

The EXCLAMATION MARK is a “BAM!” This is the attitude of Le Bateleur, the modern day equivalent of whom would be the “As Seen On TV” presenter hocking snake oil in various guises. The Magician is a show-off: Fireworks, prancing ponies, confetti showers and sequinned assistants – these are the tools of the Magician.

Who brings the drama? The Magician brings the drama! Allow yourself to be stunned and amazed, while remembering that there is a generous amount of sleight-of-hand being applied.

[2] The High Priestess – Question Mark

Inherent in the QUESTION MARK is a sense of mystery, something The High Priestess knows all about (but she isn’t going to tell you.) She is the sphinx at the centre of your inner labyrinth who counters your questions with more questions, koans, rhymes and riddles. A master of subtle rhetoric, she knows the student must solve their own questions if they are to truly learn.

The answers are all there, waiting. Perhaps you aren’t asking the right questions.

[3] The Empress – Left Bracket & [4] The Emperor (see card below) – Right Bracket

The Empress and The Emperor are a matched pair, like the LEFT and RIGHT BRACKET (parentheses). This choice of mark is symbolic, rather than functional.

The brackets symbolise opening and (en)closing: The Empress is the embodiment of opening to the many and varied pleasures of life; The Emperor sets laws, rules and regulations to mark (close) the boundaries. Often depicted as pregnant, The Empress encloses new life within her body. The Emporer – the father – encloses his empire under his protective rule. However, taken to extremes, protection and safety can turn into smothering and authoritarianism. At the same time, one without the other leads to nonsense; they are a necessary pairing.

Emperor – Hierophant – Lovers (2MB)

[5] The Hierophant – Quotation Marks

QUOTATION MARKS indicate that someone is speaking; in this case, it is The Hierophant. He is teaching, bringing down the Word of God to the people. He is a channel for divine inspiration, using dialogue to create a common ground for the meeting of heaven and earth. Quotations also remind us of theatre dialogue, one of the main ways in which early religion was communicated to the “common man”. Similarly, the oral tradition of passing down history is a very theatrical one.

The Hierophant isn’t afraid of spelling things out; he’ll even draw you a picture and do a little dance if that’s what it takes to get the message across.

[6] The Lovers – Hyphen

The HYPHEN joins two separate words together to form a new whole, as well as functioning as a modifier. A prime example of this as expressed by The Lovers would be the hyphenation of last names when partners marry, implying a taking-on of the other’s family, history and even personal qualities (Numerologically speaking). Alternately, it can break words into parts ie. syllables for clarification of meaning or pronunciation. A word may also be hyphenated to allow for more effective use of available space on a page to aid the flow of reading.

The Lovers remind you that, in order to form a cohesive whole, it is imperative to understand how your individual parts work in conjunction with each other. Sometimes a separation is preferable to a joining.

Chariot – Strength – Hermit (2MB)

[7] The Chariot – Semicolon

The SEMICOLON joins two separate, but related clauses. Conversely, it separates inter-dependant concepts. This is very much reflected in the dual pull of The Chariot: Will vs. Imagination. These forces originate from the same source, but they often want to go in different directions at different speeds. Too many full stops – Will – and there is no flow. Too many words – Imagination – and the story becomes unruly. The semi-colon is the clutch, reigning them in. With no means of control, these forces will bite at each other until you land up in the ditch.

The Chariot as semicolon is a hint that some critical editing might help smooth your forward progress.

[8] Strength – Apostrophe

The APOSTROPHE is used to indicate possession, as well as contraction. Does the woman in the Strength card hold the lion’s jaws open with force, or is she using the gentle application of her strength to close them? The apostrophe urges you to examine the strengths you possess and see where you, too, can use your them to calm the beast. Beware though of becoming the beast to get the upper hand – it might be easier to use animal force, but what delicate nuances are lost in the process? Examine the difference in effect between the words “do not,” calmly stated, and an abruptly sharp “don’t”.

What strengths do you possess? What excess can be excluded?

[9] The Hermit – Em Dash

The EM DASH creates a temporary separation, indicating a break in thought or pause for explanation, much as The Hermit separates himself from society for a period of time to examine his inner world and how it relates to the outer in which he physically resides. This is an abrupt change; not as permanent or forceful as the period, but not as temporary as the comma. The em dash is also used to show an interruption in dialogue, indicating that sometimes a state of hermit-like withdrawal is imposed, rather than chosen e.g. ill health.

As with the correct usage of the em dash, the desire to retreat is often met with confusion and misunderstanding. It is necessary though for proper examination of the self.

Wheel of Fortune – Justice – Hanged Man (2MB)

[10] Wheel of Fortune – Comma

The functions of the COMMA are many and varied, like the nuances of fortune we experience in life. A comma indicates a brief pause before continuing with an idea; the Wheel of Fortune pauses too – sometimes unexpectedly! – before continuing on its way. As the comma separates items in a list, so are stages of life, vagaries of fortune and changes in station, separate points on the Wheel. No stop on the Wheel is permanent though; it keeps turning in an endless cycle of ups and downs.

The shape of the comma is reminiscent of the ticker on the game show wheel – what prize does Fate have in store for you today?

[11] Justice – Forward Slash

The SLASH is commonly used to indicate an either-or choice between options. In life, as in law, sides must be weighed and choices made. In order for the scales to remain balanced, there must be give and take, following on from the ups and downs of the Wheel of Fortune. Oddly enough, the slash can also be used to indicate a refusal to take a definite position, comparative to the “blindness” of Justice. The shape of the slash calls to mind the downward slash of a sword or the bar in the “%” sign, reminiscent of the balance scales of Lady Justice.

Do you choose to slash through your options, or stay blind to maintain the staus quo?

[12] The Hanged Man – Colon

The COLON informs the reader that the following proves, explains or simply provides elements of what is referred to before. It is: what it is. It introduces the logical consequence, or effect, of a fact stated before, mirroring the position the Hanged Man finds himself in. The colon is also used to clarify the elements of a set; this allows the Hanged Man to reflect on and describe the choices, paths, twists and turns that led to his position. Finally, the use of the colon in digital time readouts is a reminder that The Hanged Man is on a “time-out”.

The colon is a highly functional mark, without overt emphasis or emotion attached to it. The Hanged Man knows that his position is an oportunity; struggling will only make it worse.

Death – Temperance – Devil (2MB)

[13] Death – Ellipsis

The ELLIPSIS indicates a trailing off into silence and symbolises the 3 Fates governing the past, present and future. Much like Death, it possesses a natural air of melancholy. There is also an uncertainty left in the wake of the ellipsis – will the story continue, and, if so, what follows? We don’t know until we get there. Often, the ellipsis appears just at the point where the story is reaching a climax; the hero is about to make his daring escape; the villain has just revealed his dastardly plan; the engines have failed! But you’ll have to wait ’til next week to find out more.

The appearance of Death can lead to anxiety over not knowing and not being in control, but the central dot (the present) over Death’s eye reminds us that there is only now.

[14] Temperance – Ampersand

The AMPERSAND joins two things and is itself a glyphic rendering of “et”, meaning “and”. Unlike the hyphen though, these two things remain separate and unique, forming a partnership, rather than the union of The Lovers. It’s a subtle difference, but there is a sense that the Lovers implies a dissolution – like teenagers who get completely lost in each other – while Temperance is a more mature relationship, where the parties involved blend together, while maintaining their individuality. Give-and-take, versus all-or-nothing.

Arguably the most visually poetic punctuation mark, the ampersand depicts the beautiful flow that Temperance brings.

[15] The Devil – Underscore

The UNDERSCORE is heavy. Apart from its original function of underlining typed text, it is now most often used to show emphasis when emotion must be conveyed through written words, rather than spoken. This form is so prolific that an underscore placed at the beginning and end of a word is automatically converted to italic script by word processors. Chaining words together with an underscore – as opposed to leaving spaces between them – is a common naming convention in programming languages.

What is weighing you down? What emotions are you trying desperately to express? What chains of convention are preventing you from moving around in your personal space?

Tower – Star – Moon (2MB)

[16] The Tower – Interrobang

The INTERROBANG is a new addition to punctuation, offering a less unwieldy option than the “?!” combination. It is the “OMGWTFBBQ” of punctuation marks, indicating outrageous disbelief. The Tower indicates nothing if not a “OMGWTFBBQ” state of events. Shock! Awe! Horror! It isn’t always a bad thing. This is the moment where you either reject what has happened and walk away in disgust, or realise that there is so much more going on under the surface than you ever imagined and (OMGWTFBBQ) you want more!

It might not be pretty, it might not be easy, but it is definitely exciting.

[17] The Star – Asterisk

The seven-armed ASTERISK was originally invented as a mark to indicate date-of-birth when printing family trees. Many of these records have been destroyed over the centuries, often burning up in parish fires (the tally of village births and deaths generally being kept by the church). While this means that many of us don’t know our ancestral heritage, it also affords us the opportunity to make a new start; write our own history. This mimics the fire and destruction of the House of God (The Tower) followed by The Star.

The modern usage of the asterisk includes the “wildcard” function. The Star is something of a wildcard too – just when you think the blackest night will never end, The Star shines anew. It is the unexpected blessing that can indicate new hope or even a re-birth of consciousness.

[18] The Moon – Inverted Question Mark

The INVERTED QUESTION MARK forms part of Spanish grammar. Here, it is used to symbolise the topsy-turvy landscape of The Moon. When you go down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass, everything is backwards and upside-down; a sometimes nightmare world filled with all your darkest fears. This is the world of the subconscious and is related to the High Priestess through her connection with the moon. It is the sea that exists just barely visible behind her curtain, wherein you can swim or drown.

You’ve discovered the illusion of “answers” and now you have to re-evaluate your internal landscape before crossing back over the threshold of reality.

Sun – Judgement – World (2MB)

[19] The Sun – Full Stop

The FULL STOP is a more defined break than the comma found in the Wheel of Fortune (the cross-sum of The Sun). It puts an end to an idea just as The Sun puts an end to the confusion of The Moon. There is simply no arguing with a full STOP! Dreams and nightmares, fears and illusions are left behind to welcome a fresh new day filled with light and clarity.

The Sun offers a mini vacation, allowing you to step away, take a breath and continue when you are ready.

[20] Judgement – Pilcrow

The PILCROW indicates the beginning of a new paragraph and was first used in the Middle Ages, making it a fitting companion to the depiction of redemption and spiritual rebirth shown in the traditional Judgement card. The pilcrow marks the end to a stream of thought; prior to its implementation, text was an endless stream of words without break.

Judgement takes the stop offered by The Sun as an opportunity to distance itself from what has gone before and begin a new way of thinking, being and living: A new chapter.

[21] The World – Lemniscate

The LEMNISCATE is more commonly known as the symbol for “infinity” and is a Mathematical glyph, rather than a punctuation mark. So why choose it here? The World dances outside of the borders of everyday perception; she has escaped the Wheel and has found never-ending freedom in the Mathematical foundations of the universe. She unites word with meaning, symbol with function. Where she moves, poetry becomes equation, equation becomes music and music becomes light.

World without beginning; world without end.


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