Dissertation Title:

The Female Image in the Sola Busca Tarot


Lisa Skura

Date, Time & Place:

November 16, 2021 at 11:00 am


The Sola Busca tarot, composed of mostly male images, is based on thousands of years of Western androcentric philosophy and mythology. This has resulted in the tarot journey being viewed as a spiritual journey of individuation and transcendence for men, with females as the guides to men. Furthermore, the female figures found in most traditional tarot decks, which have roots in the Renaissance, represent what systems of ancient classical Western philosophy and religion suggest about women: that they are defective males prone to evil, and are a commodity for exploitation. In this light, the “texts” of tarot decks can be viewed as carriers of negative androcentric propaganda inherited from the ancient Greeks and Romans and revived in Renaissance Italy. It follows that the female images in the tarot are split into ambivalent passive guides—such as Athena, Helen, Polyxena, and Olympias—or monstrous demonized underworld females who must be defeated—such as Hekate and Medusa. The control or defeat of the female image represents having authority over death and fate, as well as the appropriation of nature and life-giving powers. Scholars such as Adams and Di Vincenzo agree that the Sola Busca tarot is a Hermetic alchemical treatise, but most of the focus has been placed on the alchemical symbolism of the male cards. The few female cards in this deck, with their more subtle symbolism, are either ignored or stereotypically dismissed as symbolic of the earth and nature. All the female images in this deck are either powerful goddesses or powerful women of pagan religions that are defeated and suppressed. The female cards in this deck not only symbolize the female or androgynous element of mercury but also individually symbolize the different stages of the alchemical opus. Each female card will be interpreted in the context of the original intent of the Renaissance creators of this tarot, while giving additional attention to their powerful prehistoric identities as they transform through time. Attention will also be given to symbols that suggest the use of entheagens/entheogens in sacred rituals of mystery religions that has also been suppressed and hidden by subsequent religions.

  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies, E, 2014
  • Chair: Dr. Evan Lansing Smith
  • Reader: Dr. Elizabeth Fergus-Jean
  • External Reader: Dr. Janis M. Maxwell
  • Keywords: Women’s Studies, Art History, Folk Lore, Tarot, Renaissance