Tarocchi di Alan (1910)

This exuberant deck, created in Trieste by Alan Orell (1884-1942) has one foot in the exotic and Orientalist world of Art Nouveau and the other in the sleek, angular, ocean liner world of Art Deco. It is rare among tarock decks in that it was actually created  – in the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – as a deck for divination. However, as the accompanying booklet is entirely in Italian,  its appeal has perhaps been somewhat limited in the English speaking world. Trieste at the time was the Empire’s gateway with the East, which explains some of the favoured themes and imagery in the deck, a kind of opulent, pseudo-Oriental paradise, with gypsy, tango and Egyptian themes thrown into the mix. I love this deck, love the images, the cardstock, the atmosphere, the sheer verve and campy elegance of it. I have translated the meanings given, both upright and reversed (RX). I love these kind of gypsy style divinatory meanings which come from a vanished world when concepts of “self help”, “New Age” and “empowerment” were mere distant blots sullying the cartomantic horizon. If James Joyce had – let us imagine  –  sought out a reading whilst sketching out preliminary ideas for Ulysses during his stay in Trieste (1904-1915 or thereabouts), this is the deck which would have been laid out on the café tabletops. A first edition can be seen here (courtesy of Christie’s).  It was republished in 1981 by Modiano. Rough/keyword translations of the meanings are as follows;

The Majors

0 The Fool; instability, insecurity, apathy, indecisiveness, irrationality, impulsiveness.

(no reverse meaning)

I The Magician; favourable change, new opportunity, overcoming difficulty, force of will.

RX; incapacity to grasp possibilities for improvement.

II Sea Voyage; constancy, determination.

RX; ephemerality, inconstancy, dormancy (?my meaning).

III Empress; ability, positivity, security.

RX; negative aspects of women, intrigues, gossip, frivolity, sensuality.

IV Lady Musician; serenity, great scope for living.

RX; superficiality, knee-jerk reaction, unthinking.

Guardian Dragon; luck, protection, friendship, solidity, satisfaction, interior serenity.

RX; exposure, lack of protection.

VI Sphynx; firmness, security, foundations, something definitive.

RX; fluctuation, choppiness, lack of rapport, adrift.

VII Wrestling Match; entanglement, conflict, stress, need for victory.

RX; calmness, peace, tranquility.

VIII Ballad Singer; impartiality, honesty, sincerity.

RX; severity, negative decision.

IX Sanctuary; circumspection, decadence, going backwards.

RX; temptation.

X; Garden; happiness, pleasure, harmony, interaction.

RX; serpent in the garden! Slumbering danger.

XI Strength; force, determination, energy, success.

RX; adversary, insuccess.

XII Artist; hesitation, inability to realise plans.

RX; doubt, risk, painful rupture.

XIII Night; change, neighbouring cards determine whether for better or worse.

RX; slowness, indecision, querent cannot see something.

XIV Man & Woman; rationality, equilibrium, intelligence, sentiment.

RX; brutality, brutishness, inability to construct.

XV Seduction; falseness, negative influence.

RX; “grotesque imitation”, lack of humanity.

XVI Beast; crisis in love or friendship, epidemic, calamity.

RX; constraint, restrictions, imprisonment.

XVII Exodus; new direction (can mean pregnancy, birth).

RX; hope extinguished, dissatisfaction.

XVIII Fate; deceit, wrongness.

RX; nothing new, nothing satisfying, nothing confirmed.

XIX Parasol; bliss, dream, happiness.

RX; “fish out of water”, dislocation
XX Temple; duty, legality, jurisdiction.

RX; frivolity, incoherence.

XXI Dance; gratificiation, partnership, news.

RX; partner limits freedom of movement, delusion, renunciation.


Ace of Diamonds; economic success, important change, contacts

Two; listlessnes, indolence, lack of concentration

Three; unexpected expenses

Four; need for renewal in the professional field, illness, bed

Five; fear, insecurity, stubbornness leading to error

Six; initiative, courage, disdain for danger

Seven; atmosphere of speculation, drawing up of a contract, legal cause

Eight; period of relaxation, happy & serene company

Nine; doubt, anxiety, favourable delay

Ten; indecision, illusory ease (?)

Page; ambiguous male figure, not much trust

Knight; transformation, evolution, difficult changes

Queen; rival, lover, female enemy, insidiousness, gossip

King; prelate, judge, man of law, man in uniform

Clubs (“Bastoni”)

Ace of Clubs; happiness, success, engagement.

Two; obstacles, temporary rupture in love or work.

Three; difficult path but ending in success, delay in outcome.

Four; satisfaction, achievement of objectives, birth.

Five; favourable answer, declaration of love, gratuity.

Six; the female sensibility, love for those close by, maternalism.

Seven; contract, soldier, promises.

Eight; avarice, calculating, easy earnings, exploitation.

Nine; theft, losing a game, loss, confusion, vendetta.

Ten; advancement, elevated position, great career.

Page;  dark-haired youth
Knight;  investment, economic foresight which bears fruit.

Queen; dark-haired lady, wife or daughter.

King; jovial man, friendly, cheerful, dark-haired man, husband or priest.

Hearts (Coppe)

Ace of Hearts; Love, happiness, peaceful family life, engagement.

Two; good friendship/ relationship, sensuality.

Three; success in love & business, improved health, changes.

Four; good new friendship, unexpected news.

Five; minor, short-lived sadness, dissatisfaction.

Six; a short period of joy and then pain.

Seven; new, positive idea, silence, need for meditation/ introspection.

Eight; new acquaintance, happy & unexpected, renewal of rapport.

Nine; need for truth, brief halt professionally and emotionally.

Ten; moving house, movement, successful voyage.

Page; fair-haired youth.

Knight; arrival of an agreeable man, reconciliation with someone dear to the querent.
Queen; fair-haired/woman with light brown hair, loyal, fiancée, wife, daughter.

King; male consultant, light brown/fair hair, honest, loyal, husband.


Ace of Spades;  great misfortune, illness, envy, sadness.

Two;  rift in friendship, acquaintance or family, disloyalty.

Three;  divergence of ideas, litigation, obstacles.

Four;  operation, physical and moral suffering.

Five;  involvement in something suspicious, ruin, detention.

Six;  exhibitionism, libertinism, loose morals.

Seven;  delay, mistrust, apprehension.

Eight;  insecurity, cowardice, lack of clarity.

Nine;  negative attitude to work, sudden change, lack of consideration.

Ten;  anguish, sadness, physical and mental exhaustion.

Page;  unrestrained man, who abuses and spoils, likes the “easy life”

Knight;  aggressive man, decisive, violent, arguments, unabashed enemy.

Queen;  woman without scruples, immoral, widow, spinsterhood

King; elderly man of weak health, grandfather, man lacking in economic means.


About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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2 Responses to Tarocchi di Alan (1910)

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your translation! I’ve had this deck for awhile (1981 Modiano version) and I wondered what the little booklet said. The deck is so exquisitely beautiful. The only problem with it is it’s so lovely (and rare) that I’m reluctant to handle it, making it difficult to to read with…

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