The Game of Saturnis a full-length study of the Sola-Busca tarot, a deck whose extraordinaary imagery ranges from the obscure to the grotesque, with scenes of homoeroticism, wounding, immolation and decapitation.. This book reproduces the cards in large format and full colour, all the better to reveal their alluring and haunting scenes.

 Adams outlines the historical context for the deck's creation, which is set against the background of tense Ferrarese-Venetian diplomatic intrigue and espionage. Additionally, and controversially, he author proposes a bold theory, namely that the deck shows the existence of a secret pagan ritual tradition active among Italy's Renaissance elite at the time the cards were painted. Much of his text is dedicated to showing how this group, and its ideas, is encoded within the deck. He sees a Plethon-derived secret society who worshipped the Gnostic demiurge in the form of a serpent-dragon, Baal Hammon, also known as Kronos and Saturn. 

 Whether or not Adams' theory proves sustainable, his work on bringing the deck to the modern eye is an important one.  There is no doubt that the deck's iconography is dark, compelling and that it raises many questions. 

London: Scarlet Imprint, 2017. Softcover, 320 pages. New.

The Game of Saturn - Peter Mark Adams (PB)