Review by Bonnie Cehovet
As always with Brian Williams work - I was
transported into a totally "other" world by the Minchiate
Tarot. The "triple threat" that this gentleman poses -
author, illustrator, Renaissance historian, shines through
in both the deck and the accompanying book. The
wisdom that he carries shows itself in a clear but gentle
manner. Ones feels as if they are sitting with a group of
friends, of an evening, sharing drinks and thoughts and
wandering into brave new worlds.
In the Minchiate Tarot
Brian returns to the world of the Italian Renaissance.
When most of us think of the Renaissance in relation to
the Tarot, we think of Marseilles, and the Tarot de
Marseille. Florence produced its own version, a highly
elaborate deck called the Minchiate of Florence. It included
what we now know as the Tarot, but also included the
twelve astrological signs, the four elements (Fire,
Water, Air and Earth), and four additional virtues
(Prudence, Faith, Hope and Charity). The High Priestess was
removed, and the Pope (Hierophant) was replaced with the
Brian has taken the concept of the
Minchiate Tarot and redesigned the drawings to reflect the
current times - times that are easier for us to relate to.
The resulting images are both calming and profound,
without using a great deal of esoteric symbology.
Knights are presented as Centaur-types - the Knight of
Coins being half lion/half man; the Knight of Swords and
the Knight of Staves being half horse/half man; the
Knight of Cups being part man/part lion/part fish - and
wearing wings! The Four of Cups shows a urn type cup at
each of the four corners, with a monkey in the middle,
holding a hand mirror and looking into it. Prudence shows
a female, seated, with a snake in her right hand and
a mirror held up in her left hand, into which she
The Tower is an absolutely amazing card. It shows a
female figure, running from a door filled with flames. As
she looks back, a devil reaches forward to grab hold
of her. It is clear that the devil in the flames has
no hold on her, and it is also interesting to me to
note that the face of the devil seems to be the face of
the female figure running from it.
Air shows a
wonderful pastoral scene, with the sun coming up over the
hills, and a dog at rest in the meadow as birds fly
freely in the sky.
It is also interesting to compare the
Eastern and Western Emperors. They are both featured in a
seated position, with the Eastern Emperor looking to the
left of the card, and the Western Emperor looking
straight out from the card. The Eastern Emperor holds his
scepter in his right hand and his globe in his left hand;
the Western Emperor holds his scepter in his left hand
and his globe in his right hand. The Western
Emperor also features a griffin seated to the right of his
chair, at his feet. Both emperors are mature but young
The people in this deck are worthy of comment - not
only because of the warm manner in which they are
presented, but because the same male and female figure appear
consistently, with some variation. In other words - one male and
one female model appear to have been used, to very
good effect. Those that have viewed this deck will
instantly recognize where the models - at least the male
model - originated.
The pips in this deck are largely
symbols of the suits, rather than pictures of any kind.
Some of the pips show small vignettes at the bottom of
the card (the Two through Six and Eight of Swords, and
the Two of Staves), with the suit of Coins showing
male and female faces within the suit symbol. The Three
and Four of Cups, and the Four of Coins all show
animals in the middle of the card.
The cards themselves
are 3" by 5" , on good quality, glossy card stock.
They are slick, and a bit hard to handle for smaller
hands. The back of the cards show a white background,
with a thin blue outer border, followed by 1/4" white
border and a 1/4" blue and white borders. The center of
the card shows a golden background, upon which we see
an angelic form, with arms held out to their sides
and wings. They appear to be standing on the skull of
an animal with curved horns. To the left of the horns
we see the letters MIN in black. To the right of the
horns we see the letters NVO in black. In very small
letters under the angel we see INV - Brian Williams.
face of the cards carries a white border, with color
coded borders and backgrounds for the suits - Cups are
blue, Coins are red, Swords are yellow and Staves are
green. The card title appears in large letters under the
card, with smaller letters under that showing the
Italian name. The Majors show the English name, under
which appears the number, with the Italian name for the
card appearing under that.
The accompanying book is a
gold mine of information! Aside from the amazing
Renaissance line drawings and references That Brian WIlliams
has become noted for, there is a truly interesting
study of the elemental attributions for Fire and Air -
as someone who strongly falls in the Wands=Fire,
Swords=Air category, this is the first time that I have seen
an argument for Wands=Air, Swords=Fire that came
close to changing my mind.
At the end of the book Brian
presents his version of three basic Tarot spreads - the
Celtic Cross, the Twelve Houses (aka Astrological
spread), and the Tetraktys. The latter spread is highly
esoteric, and is presented by Tarot Historian Tom Tadfor
Little. I have to say - it took my breath away!
himself states in the accompanying book - the Minchiate
Tarot is and isn't a Tarot deck. It is, because it
follows the historical foundations of Tarot and Tarot
archetypes, and it isn't because he has reinserted the core of
the Minchiate lineage - the twelve astrological signs,
the four elements and the added four virtues. Taking
these cards out of the deck won't work - because they
are an integral part of its structure, they are not
cards that were slapped on at the end at the whimsy of
the deck creator.
I recommend this deck for those
Tarot students who already have a solid Tarot background
and some background in Tarot history. It is an
excellent reading deck, and a profound deck for meditation
and contemplation. And ... it gives one a whole new
way of looking at the Tarot, at its foundation and at
all that it can be.
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.