Marianne Costa she laughs at the nickname with which she is presented in Buenos Aires: “the most famous tarologist in the world”. “I am famous in Argentina, a little in Italy, moderately in France”, she clarifies, in the apartment of a friend who has a flower shop and where she spent the last days surrounded by plants. The place where he sleeps is outside: a beautiful dome in the heart of the city. That dome represents for her the arcanum XVIII, the Moon. This 56-year-old Frenchwoman, who lives between Paris and Ibiza, started throwing cards at 17. For a time he left the practice until in 1997 he met Alejandro Jodorowsky, who threw the cards at him in a bar and was his partner. So, she picked up the arcana and never let go of them again. But she is much more than tarologist. She is a singer, an actress, she has written poetry books, she knows several languages -speaks perfect Spanish-, has a master’s degree in French and comparative literature.
In its conception, tarot is an “art”. She exercises it and teaches it. He has published, after the best seller The Way of the Tarot –written in conjunction with Jodorowsky- the highly valued tarot step by step (Grijalbo). Several reasons brought her to Buenos Aires (her visit had been postponed due to the pandemic): the presentation of a little oracle of marseille at the Book Fair and the realization of a seminar and one tarot tango evening. The night of the Tango Tarot it’s called the show, and it’s this Sunday at 8 pm at Tasso (Defense 1575). Costa sings and dances tango and has also created, together with the Argentine Ana Groch, a deck linked to the genre.
Fresh, cheerful, she offers strong coffee and shows off the shoes she bought from Buenos Aires artisans to dance. She regrets having caught a virus that prevented her from enjoying more milonga nights. She sits on the floor, on a black cushion. “39 years ago my mother was divorcing my old man, she was in a bad way, she needed a tarologist at home. She bought me a cheap little book to read poker cards. I had a fascination with languages and alphabets, and when I realized that the cards I played with could be a language I got excited. I started collecting tarot cards. It all ended very badly: my parents separated; It was the worst divorce of the century. I lived the delirium of the ego. Many people asked me for readings, I began to invent spreads and I began to have nightmares, hallucinations, to feel that The Devil (one of the major arcana of the 78-card deck) was in my room and I threw all the tarots. Between the ages of 20 and 29, I didn’t even want to cut the deck: I had understood that this was a force that surpassed me”, he recalls.
In those years he devoted himself, among other things, to the study of I Chingancient Chinese oracular text.
In ’97 a friend took her to a Parisian cafe where Jodorosky read the letters. “There was in him an intelligence, a clarity, a kindness… and something half chanta. Jodo always had that: he was a Latin American in Paris, he came with his two sons, like a mafia… he was like the guys who come to the tango with a white jacket and slicked-back hair but they dance well. It was a time when he was very committed to what he called ‘The Way of Kindness’. He wanted to imitate holiness. A son had died a couple of years before; I was at a time when doing good to the other was fundamental. That resonated with me,” he says. He gets very excited when talking about his next book: The Tarot to livean “operative, playful, interactive” text, which, like the small oracle –beautiful object– seeks to “empower” the curious.
“I consider Tarot reading as an art. Neither science nor prediction nor therapy. We could say magic to the extent that tango is magic too. It takes us to the right hemisphere, which is not the hemisphere of articulated thought but the one that lights up when we are meditating, the one that is needed to raise children, feel the body, any form of art, receive information from your garden,” he defines. And adds : “We observe forms and they begin to speak to us. It happens when we observe the plants, the clouds, the movement of the water, how the fire dances. We bet that these images are a coherent language, we decree that the deck is an alphabet, a kind of hieroglyph to decipher. The Tarot has an iconology very anchored in the Middle Ages, in the Renaissance world, connected with Christian mysticism, Italian painting of the fifteenth century, etc. A cultural, lexical richness, a very interesting numerology. All of this plays out, but in the end we are looking at images and asking for a form that inspires an oracular response. The oracle is the mouth that speaks the divine word. We look for an image to be the threshold, the window, the locker where we have an appointment with what we most long for. It’s a game with meaning. Do you have scientific foundations? No. Can it be checked? No. Can someone who is skeptical be convinced? No. You’re not going to convince someone to dance tango either…”
-How did you get to tango?
-I met “El Indio” Pedro Benavente by chance. He and his wife wanted to exchange a session for a tango course. He made me walk first by pushing him, with my hand on his chest, and then hugging, and that was it. And he kind of showed me how to pivot and bye. That it went to my bones. It is not a test: it is an experience. the tarot is the same: it comes to you by experience, because it opens your heart and mind, because you love its beauty.
-The renewed interest that is seen in the Tarot is opposed by strong skepticism, even rejection. Is this because many people still associate it with fortune telling?
-The 19th century took over a board game, which was the Tarot and which is still played in France, and common cards and turned them into mancias. I have the hypothesis that cartomancy comes from two sources. The women played patience. Playing alone the person projected her worries on the cards. Many times when you play solitaire with your phone you bet something: “If I can win three games in a row, something will happen to me”. On the other hand, the industrial RevolutionAlthough it obviously had many benefits, it was overwhelming. He was in Europe with a super narrow bourgeoisie, a tremendous male chauvinism. From poverty, the Americas were populated with people who hoped to take advantage of those territories. I believe a lot in the physics law of action and reaction. I believe in this on a collective level. That impulse to create new machines, develop medicine, build cities, has a secondary effect. A kind of almost delusional aspiration for the invisible and spiritualitywhich cannot be congealed in Christianity because in the 19th century it totally became a political thing. The 19th century reads everything: coffee, rat poop, candles. It is not that the Tarot is predictive. The 19th century is, as a reaction to that enormous technological and scientific wave. When philosophers and esotericists rediscover the Tarot throughout the nineteenth century, they see it as a object of contemplation and philosophical speculation, as an endorsement of all Masonic philosophy, and there are no predictions there. But the street is in full prediction. That brings us to the 20th century, when surreal they become addicted to all the things that have fallen into the trash and fall in love with psychoanalysis and the Tarot. The people who say that the Tarot is predictive have stayed before 1925because already the surrealists say very clearly that it is a map of the unconscious, in Freudian terms. Italo Calvino wrote a novel in the sixties based on the Tarot as a structure, throwing cards at random that served to create the narrative. He relied on a thesis that says that cartomancy, predictive or not, is a narrative form. The Tarot is a language. There are people who with great candour will want to exercise a power grab. The fortune-teller who takes his consultants as if they were dolls is childish.
– And what is the current interest in the Tarot due to?
–We are living in a time of image addiction. And the Tarot are images. It goes with the fashion of the tattoo, the tremendous importance of personal image. When I was 15 years old we used to dress up as the rockstars we liked, but everyone had a fat ass, they were small, they were tall, small… self-image was not that important. Our current time is a dictatorship of the image, and the Tarot comes to play a role there. But I think that people feel that from this board game a much more essential one can be put together. Receive a life lesson from a seemingly humble tool. I don’t know why it creates so much ego delusion. One of the things I teach for is to try to stop a little the egotic delusions that it triggers, as dangerous as predictive fortune telling. I speak a little Spanish and a little lunfardo. But I’m not going to start beating my chest because I know how to say “cool”! (laughs).
-How are the Tarot and the tango connected? And how is the show?
-There are several ways to put them together. This weekend it is likely that each table will be represented by one of the major arcana, and we are going to play so that people have a sung response or interpretation. I love the idea that there can be a response to a roll that is a bid. In the song is the narration and it is a living oracle. By spinning the Tarot with songs, with a well-known repertoire, polysemy is even more apparent. “Oblivion”, by Piazzolla, which has a beautiful text in French, sung by Milva, is a story of rupture like there are 50,000, but it has a metatext that is to talk about the bridge between continents, about the resilience of tango, which is essentially Argentine. Tango falls in love with France because it lacks that dimension. Here people suck every ray of sunshine they can, in a situation that is a hundred thousand times worse than ours. Mirroring Tarot and tango is a way of revealing the oracular dimension of tango, which is an exorcism, or rather a catharsis, or rather a word of wisdom. It goes from nostalgia to invocation, which breaks a second later with a very street tango or a very mischievous milonga. That it is very Tarot: it presents you with terrifying figures, the second something sublime, the next something burlesque. They have very much in common the dimension of the path of life and the theme of the couple. The Tarot is organized in pairs or complementary pairs. The danced tango is a matter of encounter between one who plays to lead and another who plays to follow.