I love old Tarot decks. Sola Busca is reportedly one of the oldest and the first to include the Minor Arcana cards using more than just symbols. I also have the Visconti-Sforza deck which at least has a small handbook available to have some idea what the creator was thinking about when designing the cards. Not so with the Sola Busca tarot deck. Although I’ve found some information online, the Major Arcana appears to be less about soul archetypes and more about rulers and military leaders in ancient Rome and Greece. Without a full history on each individual, determining how or if each card’s interpretation corresponds with traditional decks is challenging.
Still, after looking at the entire deck, I had to do a reading anyway. The cards are so beautiful with traditional Wands becoming Batons or Clubs, Discs for Pentacles or Coins, Amphorae for Cups, and Swords remaining Swords. Some scholars have been able to relate some of the cards to traditional decks but I’ll see how it all unfolds as I begin to use this deck.
I chose a three-card spread and drew the 6 of Cups or Amphorae, the 5 of Cups, and Metelo, the 15th card of the Sola Busca Major Arcana. Although Metelo corresponds numerically with the Devil card in traditional decks, scholars believe instead it represents The Emperor so I’ll use that interpretation for this reading. No clue how I’ll handle the other Majors. The other thing I noticed is that each of the Majors includes only men in their depictions reflecting the patriarchy that was in full swing in those days. And Alexander the Great along with his family appear prominently in the Court cards.
With Cups predominating, our emotional presence is influencing with an overall numerology of 8 or strength, discipline, and structure. And with that, let’s look at the cards.
Atop a blue platform or foundation, three cherubs crawl all over a large amphora with five more affixed to its front. The 6 of Cups represents emotional balance and fulfillment. Our cups are full and our happiness is assured.
In the 5 of Cups, A farmer walks along a rocky path carrying a handful of wheat in one hand over his shoulder along with five amphorae in the other while a small dog nips at a red cloth wrapped around his heel. The amphorae are in disarray while the man’s focus seems to be on something before him. He may be going to market or perhaps traveling back home with his goods. Traditional interpretations include disappointment and grief and typically the cups are overturned and empty. The path he travels appears difficult and without a clear focus, he may lose all that he’s worked for.
Metelo represents The Emperor to some scholars and that may be the case here. A man of royal stature, reportedly Caecilius Metellus Numidicus, sits on a throne with a shield to his right. His head is adorned with what looks like either a helmet made in the shape of a dragon or snail. Metelo holds what appears to be a wand in his right hand, his mouth open as if speaking or chanting. A column stands before him with a globe as its top. Flames appear to be breaking out of the globe, perhaps invoked by the man leading me to ask if this card could represent an alchemist, corresponding to the Magician card in traditional decks. The Emperor certainly has a catalytic effect on his kingdom so as I indicated previously, I’ll focus there.
Structure, authority, and pragmatic leadership are represented by Metelo. He creates his own successes and accomplishments providing stability for his kingdom. He balances order and discipline with ambition, never losing sight of his greater responsibilities. If I consider influences from the Magician, then active will becomes part of this card’s interpretation, particularly as he invokes fire from the globe. Metelo is performing magick. So the Emperor is a Magician? Many Royals were both witches and magicians so it works for me.
To sum up, we begin in balance but appear to lose some of that balance along the way, our focus on everything but the task at hand. But then, like Metelo, we gather our will and cast our intention to restore our balance. We persevere, irrespective of the challenges we face because we have responsibilities that prevent us from doing any less.
I wanted to include some pictures of the Major Arcana cards because they’re so interesting and beautiful. I’ll continue to work with the deck and post it as I do.