Tango and tarot: alchemy

Three months ago I had the joy of alchemizing two of my passions, the sacred language of the Tarot and the initiatory journey of return to the body that Tango represents in my life, in an interview with Marianne Costa, Priestess and Oracle of both universes. Today I share with you what we talked about and co-created in those days.

I thank my Tarot Masters María del Carmen Carreira (entreplanetasnavegarr@gmail.com) and Karina Fantin (@_astropsi), wise and generous women, who assisted me to take the leap and start the alchemist adventure. To Lauri Fraga for her loving initiation to the Mystery.

Thanks to all my dear Tango teachers: Nati for the first abrazos in Siranush, Cami and Mati, Euge and Colo. Thank you Giuliano. Thank you Ariel. Thank you Cristian. Thanks Dani. Thanks Juli and Beto. Thanks Caro. Thank you Rafa for your amazing classes to “finely tune the instrument” – I just shot it to you. 😉

Thank you Mariana Chami, Maestra del Alma, for so much.

Questions to Marianne


Maria del Carmen: Do you think it is necessary to reach a consensus among tarotists for the Tarot to reach another status, to have another perception in the world? I think so in relation to the place of recognition that Astrology has today.

Marianne: For the consensus among tarotists, I think it is a little late for that because, in reality, the conception of the Tarot as a tool of psychological research and of research connected with the path of the soul has existed for quite a long time. Italo Calvino already said that cartomancy is a form of narration, of storytelling. But especially in Latin America, this awareness, this other way of seeing the Tarot developed a lot after the publication of the book I co-wrote with Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Way of the Tarot, in 2005 or 2006. So, there are already many people who use the Tarot in another way, and I tend to respect the popular arts as they are. For me, one of the things that deeply connects Tarot with Tango is that there are thousands of ways [of approaching them] and starting to establish a common criterion is a bit like the Tango world championships: the risk is to create a form that loses the connection with the popular.

I don’t read the future, as you know, I don’t make predictions but I don’t refuse to think that there are people who have a talent for that. And what is “the dirt of the Tarot” seems to me also very interesting because it is a testimony of people’s discomfort and their request for solutions. So I think that fair forms are justifying themselves. I, for example, dance tango preferably on a shared axis. I am not at all interested in showing off on the dance floor, nor in throwing my heels in the air. I am already fifty-five years old and I am not in a position to compete with the thirty-year-old goddesses who are classically trained. I do the same thing with the Tarot, I do the form that is right for me, that is intimate, that is deep. I bet on this form and I realized that this form survives and imposes itself. So, I believe that the important thing is that each one works in the Tarot in the way that he or she feels is the fairest. Let the information be available that there is a way of reading the Tarot that is closer to coaching, to psychology, to certain aspects of the spiritual path and then, within this immense world supermarket that is the networks, the bookstores, the TV, the cinema, all the media, the world can make its choices, but I no longer have the ambition to spread the truth with a capital V. I am content to spend beautiful moments with the Tarot, but I do not have the ambition to spread the truth with a capital V. I am content to spend beautiful moments with the Tarot, but I do not have the ambition to spread the truth. I am content to spend beautiful moments doing what I do.

Karina: What is the scope of Tarot today?

Marianne: I have been surprised for the last 10 years because people ask me and ask me, ask me about the Tarot and I realize that there are always more people (from very different horizons and from different countries) who want to know something about it. So, on the one hand, there is the whole world of historians, of collectors. I am very connected with the association ASECOIN [Asociación Española del Coleccionismo e Investigación del Naipe] and I love to be among historians. But I also hear from people who are in the business and coaching world and who use the Tarot as a tool, artists write to me. I think Tarot is becoming more of a discipline that is at the crossroads between the psychological, the spiritual and the artistic. With visual culture, it has entered Europe in all fields. My doctor of reference, for example, is one of my students from Tarot courses 5, 6 years ago in Paris. Scientific people, very intellectual people, artistic people, very popular people. I believe that the Tarot is like a fresh water that infiltrates all layers of society.

Laura: What decks of cards do you have left to explore?

Marianne: You know, I think there are about 5000 versions of the Tarot as such, that is, a 78-card deck with 22 major Arcana. So it would be crazy to try to explore them all. In the Tarot world, I’m content with the Marseilles Tarot because it’s the language that resonates with me. Just as I told you about Tango, there are people who dance tango, salsa, Brazilian dances, but I am very faithful to one form, right?
But what I am very interested in exploring are the developments of the Tarot de Marseille, for example, the work on the possibility or the proposal of a queer Tarot because the Tarot de Marseille is not binary, it includes cards that are asexual, intersex. Like for example, the Angel of Temperance, which is only called Temperance without an article or like The Devil who is an intersex, who has breasts and a penis. So, the Tarot de Marseille is based on a medieval Renaissance binary view of reality, female and male, with some exceptions. I would be very interested in working with a collective of artists to define what could be new archetypes purely queer, purely from diversity. This would be like an extension of the Tarot de Marseille. And apart from this, I started to be very interested in an oracular use of the Mexican lottery, the Lotería del Gallo, so I am interested in popular games such as the game of the Goose and its interpretations. I am also very interested in the idea of continuing to create oracles within fields, for example, the pantheon of India or other pantheons. It is rather that idea of the card game as a loose book, for example. This calls me more than researching the Rider Waite Tarot, I respect it a lot but it doesn’t call me. Like dancing salsa doesn’t call me [laughs] I’m very lazy.

Belen: What does tarot mean in your life?

Marianne: Well, tarot is in my life as if we were an old couple, old in the sense that we’ve been married for 20 years, right? So for me it’s a little bit like a long-term couple. There are moments when you don’t pay any attention to him at all, from a background of total respect and dormant adoration, let’s say. And there are moments when this relationship is activated, when I ask the tarot a question for myself or suddenly I hang a card in large format on the wall of my desk, of my sleeping room, and I start to contemplate it. But I would say that above all, the tarot in my life is a force of blessing, it has brought me many, many beautiful gifts. Then, there is “my tarot”, which would be like my partner, like the person you are with. It is simply a human being but this human being, like my tarot, is a kind of threshold or window open to something much more vast which would be, in the case of the tarot, the spirit of the tarot; or if you are with a man, the Divine masculine or with a woman, the Divine feminine or with a person who has no definition of gender, the absolute that is incarnated in a human body. So there is this almost mystical dimension where my tarot, my relationship with the tarot, the tarot in my life is also a threshold towards a mysterious dimension that never ceases to amaze me, even if sometimes I do not pay enough attention to it. I can go fifteen days without touching a tarot deck, but after fifteen days, in general, there is someone who comes and returns me to my relationship with it, asking me for a reading or asking me a question about an arcane or talking to me about tarot in general. So yes, he is a very faithful companion.

Belén: How did tango come into your life?

Marianne: I think in a way, I was born with tango in a little bit paradoxical way. I am from Corsica, and Corsica has an island of Corsica within France has a very particular relationship with tango, among other things, because Tino Rossi (who was the best known singer of Corsican origin) was from Ajaccio, like Napoleon and like me, he even worked with the Canaro Orchestra in the 40’s. So I remember that when I was a child the neighbor in front of the village, where we had the family house in Corsica, sang in French washing the dishes. She sang [Marianne sings in French the first verses of Tomo y Obligo, by Carlos Gardel ]… do you realize? It’s Tomo y Obligo, by Gardel and it’s very rare because that French version doesn’t exist anywhere. I even looked for it in the authors’ society and I couldn’t find it. And I grew up listening to the neighbor across the street singing Gardel a capella, you know what I mean?

And then in the 80s we lived in Paris and my parents had many Argentine friends, among whom, at the time I was very close to Juan Carlos Cáceres and his first wife, Alicia, and then I remember that those Argentines came and made fun of my father the Corsican, who knew the very basic tango chun chun pum pum, in the French way. And they would say “No, but you don’t know what tango is”and they would start playing piano in the house destroying the piano playing milongas. But the truth is that I was always a bit distant from all this.

In the 90s when Chicho Frumboli was revolutionizing tango in France, I was close to people who went to the Balaju to learn with him and to dance and it always seemed to me an unreachable world, inaccessible.

So the truth is that tango came into my life thanks to Argentina because I went there for the first time invited by Sandra Guida, who is a great friend, a fantastic woman, she is my soul sister and Sandra brought me to the milonga Grisel. I went there in boots because I was afraid of being invited to dance. We went there to eat empanadas and have a glass of wine and when I saw the dance floor I had an electric shock. It was something I will never forget in all my life. And there I still resisted until in 2014, returning to Buenos Aires (I was going to Buenos Aires twice a year at that time) a friend took me to eat vegetarian at La Catedral del Tango and there I saw Pedro Benavente, El Indio, dancing with his life and dance partner, Marisol Blanco and I was blown away. I said out loud: Ah, I wish they put a chip in my brain so I could dance like that. And then the Indio came up to me and said “Well, my wife and I are interested in your work with the tarot, I don’t know what. Do you want to make an exchange?” and I said: “Yes, yes, yes, yes” and then I spent a week freaking out with anguish. I went to Suipacha to buy a pair of shitty shoes but with which I danced for a long time.

And it was the Indio and Marisol who initiated me in tango and when I returned to Paris I was desperate because I thought I would never find someone to dance like them. I knew a little bit of the tango vibe in Paris in those years, 2010-2015, I saw people dancing on the banks of the Seine. Paris loves a very demonstrative tango with legs in the air, with separate axis and such. And I wanted to find again that sensation of…. I don’t know, that a hurricane comes over you, that you connect with the milongueros of the 40s through the body of someone who danced with them.

And it was the Indio who connected me with Sol and Mariana Bustelo, who really create such a beautiful movement in France with their way of teaching tango. And from then on I followed the advice of the Indio who told me, in a very solemn voice: “Wherever you travel you will wear tango shoes and dance all over the world. And remember that every man you dance with will teach you something”. And he didn’t say it to me in a macho way, I took it to mean that the receptiveness of the follower’s role is to receive the leader as he is. Even if the leader is a beginner, dancing with a beginner who lacks maybe rhythm and such, teaches you to take care of your axis, for example, it teaches you to be able to be elegant even though you are dancing with someone who does not yet have the ability to make you fly. So I always kept these words and this milonguera philosophy. And through the Bustelo sisters I met many beautiful people that they brought to France, among them, for example, Jorge Firpo and all the “family” of dance, of tango, of milonga. These are people with whom I resonate very deeply. And of course in Buenos Aires there are also my great friends, Ana Bocutti and Dani de Yira Yira, who were always very generous with me. And so I returned to Grisel because now Yira Yira is in Grisel. So even if it’s the New Grisel, this mythical dance floor that first charmed me, that’s where I go to dance. I go to Grisel when I go dancing on Fridays in Buenos Aires.

Belén: What are your favorite tangos?

Marianne:The favorite tangos is an issue because there are several ways to have favorite tangos, right? For dancing… I’m very tall, I have an important rhythmic sense, I’m still a little bit shy to dance the melody and to do a lot of firulete and a lot of langor because I always feel that I take up a lot of space when I dance. So I have a preference for rhythmic tango, for D’arienzo, for milongas. When the tanda de milonga starts if you see a big girl standing up with a spinning light on her head looking everywhere, it’s me. I always have to dance the tanda de milongas. I love it.

Then there are my favorite tangos to sing, which at the moment are Malena, when I sing Malena it always reminds me of Sandra Guida and, obviously, Nelly Omar, who is my reference singer in tango. And also Oblivion because the French version of Oblivion, popularized by Milva, I deeply integrated it and it is one of the few tangos that is sung in French and it is very tango-like. French is complicated to sing tangos and of course, I don’t pretend to sing as if I were a typical [orchestra] singer or as if I were a very suburban woman who grew up in the neighborhood. I mean, I have to find my way as a singer. So, to splash some tangos in French or Italian is a modality that suits me well. And of all the tangos in French that I am putting together, with Oblivion I really feel very comfortable singing it.

And then I have some obsessive tangos. Every three months, suddenly I get a tango that asks me to sing it driving the car, that obsesses me. And at this moment it is, for quite a long time now, well, since June of this year it is Che, bandoneón. I am obsessed with Che, bandoneón, but it is already leaving me alone and I will probably get another obsessive tango. But the obsessive tangos come to me without my choosing them. There was a whole period, for two years I had as an obsessive tango Los pájaros perdidos, by Piazzolla and later it was Baldosa floja which in fact is a milonga, then it was Nostalgias which I don’t even sing. I integrated the others to my repertoire, but I have not integrated Nostalgias for the time being. I’m still looking for a way to turn it around. Then there was Sur. Then there was Desde del alma, which I still don’t sing it either.

I find myself possessed by some tangos that do not leave me alone, that I am singing them all the time and I feel that at this moment. I feel that at this moment Che, bandoneón is leaving the place for Al compás del corazón but this is a decree of tango itself, they are things that I do not choose, they are possessions.

Belen: From your point of view, what points of contact are there between tarot and tango?

Marianne: The reality is that it was a miracle about the tango tarot, you know? Because I had already been, pufffrrrrrr, maybe five years with the feeling that tarot and tango had a lot to do with each other. For example, Sol Bustelo, my root teacher from Paris, came to my tarot course as a guest because I wanted my long-term students at that time to have the experience of walking hugging, hugging and hugging so that later they could do tarot readings in a different way. Already with El Indio, with Pedro Benavente, we are thinking of inventing how the tarot couples danced. I am talking about the year 2014, 2015, which was when we had these conversations, after that it was not possible to put it together, but I do not despair of having at some point a space with him and Marisol to invent that.

The points of contact are very strong because tarot is a popular game and tango is, fundamentally, a popular form. But the tarot was recovered by leading artists such as Dalí or Xul Solar, or by great spiritual masters such as Osho. It was also interpreted by great artists in the same way that many great dancers, of the highest level, are now dancing tango. The other day in Ibiza I saw Eugenia Padilla, a hell of a dancer, who does things with her body, with her legs and with her being that no one else can do. She does not do it in a demonstrative way, she does it expressing an essence of tango from a mastery that is hers. So there is the tension between, on the one hand, a totally popular art and a popular and social occupation where people gather around something that can be very basic, even very dirty (in quotation marks), very apparently low level and, on the other hand, an appropriation and an elevation by the university, the high level artists. I will even tell you, for me, the deepest connection is that tarot and tango, in their own way both disciplines, are a total expression of what is the spiritual path of the human being. For me the milonga is a space that has all the most tremendous passions of the human being, but also all the protocol and all the possibility of the absolute sublimation of the relationship between human beings and the sublimation of the understanding that one, one has of one’s presence on earth. This is also like a kind of tributary of the spiritual life. I love the idea that a fun activity, an activity of encounter with others, has this capacity to resonate (by its structure, by its protocol, by the length of its history) within us as a kind of summary or mandala of the spiritual path of the human being.

Another point of the connection between tarot and tango, which for me is something very strong, is that after practicing… It happens to me, as it happens to everyone else, that I feel like a total shit, I kick myself in the ass and I go to the milonga and when I come back I am regenerated. I don’t even know why, not only for the hugs, not only for the music, but for penetrating into a ceremonial world, you see? And to give to the milonga the possibility of breaking all my preconceptions and the same happens with the tarot. That is to say, sometimes it is very difficult for me to do a tarot session with someone because it is a lot of concentration but there is something that comes and erases, in a certain way, all the grossness of the individual ego, of the previous worries. So, both disciplines are baths that rejuvenate me.