Saturday, August 12, 2017

Day 8B, July 30, Niki de Saint Phalle's Tarot Garden

All week long, Richard had been promising a surprise, and like a kid at Christmas, he couldn't contain himself and told us Thursday evening that we were going to The Tarot Garden after the beach. Oh my gosh, I didn't even know there was such a thing and I was so excited.

We got back on the bus and left the beach and Raniero drove us to The Garden near Fiorentio, Italy in Tuscany.  The drive was lovely - just getting to see a little more of Italy.  Then we began to catch glimpses of  The Garden from quite a distance. We began to imagine just how big all of the exibits were.

Beautiful Tuscany

Glimpses of The Garden

Greeted by The Wheel of Fortune

The 10th Arcana of the Tarot is The Wheel of Fortune, an age old symbol of the wheel of life...what goes up must come down.

The Empress

The Empress is the Great Goddess, Queen of the Sky, Mother, Sacred Magic and Civilization. This is where Phalle lived while the park was being built: the bedroom and bath in one boob and the living and dining area in the other. The whole inside is a mozaic of mirrors. I think I would go crazy if I was in there very long...maybe she did just a little.

The Sun

The Sun, Card # 19, the life force that makes everything grow. The sun lifts our spirits and gives us life.

22 Steps, 22 Arcana

The Hierophant

The Hierophant, or Priest Arcana, card #5 gives us knowledge of the sacred, for some a teacher, a guru, a prophet, or Pope. This card/arcana can represent a shaman, a rabbi, a holy man or a holy woman.


The Great Mystery of Life, Death, the 13th arcana, allows new blossoms to grow. This is a card of renewal.

The Devil

The Devil is the 14th arcana and its card represents magnetism, energy, and sex. It also represents the loss of any personal freedom through addiction.

The World

Arcana #21, The World, represents the splendor of the interior life. It's the last of the Major Arcana. Within this card lies the mystery of the World.

The Fool

The 0 card, no number, but still a number. This card represents the person on a spiritual quest, not knowing where they're going, but being led and ready for discovery, the hero of the fairy tale, a little dim witted, but able to find "treasure" where others have failed. (S)he has few possessions and travels light.

Nancy and Tonya standing on the 10th step, underneath The Sun

The Hanged Man - the base

The Hanged Man is the 12th card. This was one of my favorite pieces. It was all black and white on once side, then boldy brightly colored on the other. And the tiles on the black and white side had stuff written all over them. I could have stayed there for a while.

The Hanged Man on the top

Moving around The Hanged Man to the color side

One of the first mandalas I ever "received" was a black and white mandala. That's how I used to see the world - everything was either/or. It was all black and white. My daddy used to say that if it wasn't black and white, something would be gray, but he was wrong. To stop seeing in black and white is to begin to see in color, bright, vivid color. The world becomes beautiful and colorful, full and diverse!

Jodi peeking inside and seeing the "hanged man"

The Hanged Man

The "Hanged Man" hangs suspended by one foot, upside down. So...what does that mean? To hang upside down is to begin to get a different point of view.  As a side note, the caterpiller hangs upside down before it becomes a butterfly. In order to stop seeing everything as black/white, either/or, one has to "hang upside down", get a different perspective, and lo and behold, the world is now full of color! No longer either/or, but both/and!

From black and white to full-blown color

Perhaps I love this one so much because I feel like it's "my story". I've been there/here. I had my black and white world totally blown to bits a few years ago, and I'm so grateful for the time I spent "hanging upside down", wondering what the heck is going on? It was a confusing time, but one that I'm so very grateful for.


Lady Justice, Card #8, in order to aquire the ability to judge oneself, we have to come to terms with our dark side. It's only then that we can begin to judge others with compassion. Real justice isn't blind, but brings a vision of universality.

The wheels of Justice move slowly

The Emperor - we'll talk about him later.

The Choice (the Lovers)

Card 9, Adam and Eve, the first couple made the first choice. The card implies there is a "wrong way" and a "right way". A choice has to be made, but making a mistake can bring one closer to the truth of ourselves. I've learned not to fear mistakes. The freedom to choose is huge for me, both politically and spiritually. Without the freedom of choice, we cannot become fully who we are, nor can we be expected to be responsible for our actions. Freedom to choose is vital - it has been from the very beginning.

The Hermit

Card #9, an experienced wanderer, searching for spiritual treasure. This card implies tha tthe most important lessons are learned through the heart.

Me taking a selfie looking through all the broken mirrors


The Oracle, the female version of the Hermit.
Step inside and listen to her message. She has important things to say.

The cat, Richard!

Headed to The Emperor

The Emperor is HUGE! Card 4, represents masculine power, for good or for mad. He is a symbol of organization and aggression. He has brought us U.S. Science and medicine, but also weapons of war. He represents the Patriarch or the Male Protector. The desires control. As an aside, there are thousands of "penises" on this thing - all little sharp round protruding pieces...crazy.

They were everywhere -VERY important, you know.

Woops, Jodi found one!

We both laughed a lot! Just kind of got her when
 she backed up to have her picture made.

Years ago, when Jim and I first married and were planning what kind of home we wanted, he always teased me about having a little boy peeing in the fountain - in fact, he said, we could have a bunch of them up either side of the driveway - lots of little boys peeing in a fountain. So, THIS is my response to that!

Couldn't pass it up - don't have a clue who they are, but...

Tonya, trying to take it all in - it was a bit much!
Kathy and Jodi making their way down


Nancy and Tonya
From the Emporer to The Empress

I'm a big lover of the Black Madonna, and I love the fact that Phalle chose to make the Goddess black. The Empress is the 3rd Arcana, card #3. It still amazes me that Phalle lived inside those big boob for nearly 2 years.

Kathy inside the Emperess, in the dining area.

Feminine energy

The kitchen

The Chariot

The Chariot, card 7, represents victory. It is the card of triumpy over adversaries and over problems. An inherent danger in victory? One has to be vigilant, because whe one if triumphant, one is most fragile.

The bathroom

What a tub!

Her bedroom


Temperance, card 14, sometimes seems the opposite of passion, but I think it's more closely aligned with "balance". It's not a middle-of-the-road, lukewarm response, but a balanced response.

You DO know that the snake is a symbol of the Feminine.
I love that she's just flat not afraid to take her place right here!


Strength, Card 11, the picture of a "frail maiden" leading a ferocious dragon by an invisible thread. The Monster she must tame is insider herself, her own inner demons. Yep, been there - I revisit her daily.

So, THAT'S The Tarot Garden! I've never seen anything quite like it. For most of my life, the Tarot has been a mystery - well, closer to a "sin". I was warned about tarot cards from a very early age, and avoided them until I got into my 50's. It's another one of those things that I just finally realized  I needed to debunk for myself. I spent quite a long time a number of years ago ploughing my way through Meditations on the Tarot, by Valentin Tomberg, because one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Cynthia Bourgeault, recommended it. It took me a long time to read, and much longer to even begin to get a handle on. It's a really dense book, but the best thing that happened is room was made for me to think about the Tarot without all my hangups - one of those "Monstors" I had to fight. I even bought my own Tarot cards, and I've had readings done a few times. I found it quite a task to do my own readings because there was so much to learn, but one of the other little gifts of this trip to Italy is that my new friend Sarah has been reading her cards for nearly 30 years. She showed me a very simple way to read them, and I've done it a few times since I've been home. I find it strangely validating. I learned a very long time ago that Love really, REALLY wants us free, and Divine Love really, really wants to communicate with us, and just flat isn't at all intimidated by our beliefs about what's "safe" or "Christian" or not.

The enegy of The Gardens was crazy ADHD type energy, and it left most of us worn out and feeling a littel frazzled, YET (both/and!), it was one of most favorite adventures. I'm so glad we went. I've never seen anything like it, and may never again. Thank you Richard!

A nice quiet dinner at La Romita when we got back. Dinner with friends - it's a good way to ground all that crazy energy.

The explanation of each of the cards/arcana came from Niki de Saint Phalle's book on The Tarot Garden.