Mantegna Tarot with EXSTATICA: The Best Tarot for Self Development?

By Frank Ra

Frank Ra guides us through his new book, EXSTATICA Self-Help Essentials: Unleash the Transformative Sparkles of the Renaissance Mantegna Tarot, sharing some self help and personal development highlights along the way

Why the Mantegna Tarot, and why EXSTATICA?

I feel there is shared need for a Renaissance. A renewed awareness of the importance and responsibilities that come with being humans. The Italian Renaissance can give us some important pointers and practical approaches. However, to understand the literary sources from that historic period is no easy task. Even when it comes to the Renaissance art – it has a strong aesthetic appeal, however many layers of interpretations are lost to us due to an ever changing cultural context.

So, what can help us?

The Mantegna Tarot cards were engraved in the Renaissance and are a visual, immediate, portable bridge to the Renaissance. And, even more important, a doorway to our inner world. They can be used right away. That’s why I incorporated them into EXSTATICA. Ironically enough, they were not drawn by Mantegna, nor they were meant to be cards. They reached us under this guise and label (“Tarocchi del Mantegna” in Italian), that makes them easy to use. The approach offered by EXSTATICA can be used also with other Tarot decks. From the historic Visconti Sforza Tarot, Sola Busca Tarot, to the more recent Tarot of Marseille, Rider-Waite Tarot, Thoth Tarot.

Your book mentions Four Spheres of reality. What are they? How does the Renaissance Mantegna Tarot Deck help us with them?

The Four Spheres are Meaning, Cognition, Emotion, Behaviour. They are separated from each other. When we live in harmony, they are nested like a Russian doll. With the Sphere of Meaning being the widest, and the one of Behaviour being the most inner Sphere. The Mantegna Tarot consists of 50 cards. The Sphere of Meaning is represented by the cards from 31 to 50. The Sphere of Cognition, from 21 to 30. The Sphere of Emotion from 11 to 20. And, as you may guess, the Sphere of Behaviour from 1 to 10, representing human conditions.

Why Four, and not three? Why Four, and not five?

One could say four is an arbitrary number. In reality, it is consistent through several spiritual traditions and confirmed by how we function, psychologically speaking. The reason to avoid subdividing into too many sphere – these are just reference points to help us map reality. When one creates a system with too many levels and subcategories, intellectually it becomes easy to confuse the map with the territory. Plus, if one wants to provide a map as detailed as Google Map, well better make it as accurate as Google Map… And we know all the maps of the intangible are just working models, to make reflection and communication possible. If we would aggregate the spheres into less than four, then they would become too wide and quite vague. Four happens to be a balanced classification.

How did your puppy help you to write this book?

Shanti contributed to this book at least as much as I did. Probably more. Initially, I was writing the book as a quite dry survey of Renaissance topics. Thanks to Shanti, I understood that approach would not have really helped people. The instant wisdom and presence I witnessed and experienced with her guided me in tossing away the previous format I had in mind and writing EXSTATICA again from scratch. I would have never imagined it, but my puppy has been my “teacher”. Thanks to all the amazing joy that, like every puppy, she brought. All the unique feelings and thoughts that she ignited, thanks to her unique authenticity plus special moments that transcend what can be described in words – experiences that my wife and I will treasure for a lifetime, all thanks to Shanti.

What’s the spheric symbol found in your book?

You are probably referring to the “Pentagram of Venus”, also known as Petals of Venus or Rose of Venus. It shows the movement of Venus, as seen from Earth. It forms five petals and, after eight years, it restarts the pattern. A reminder of the Feminine Principle, in the cultural terms of how we see Venus in mythology. A reminder of diversity within continuity, from an astronomical point of view.

Tarot and future telling… Any insights you can share about what awaits us?

How we live today – that’s a key way to tell our own future. As humanity, we are likely a few hours away from a big party, once the pandemic is over. A collective, unconscious cathartic exorcism of all the fear, loss, grief we are enduring. Then, once the party ends, we will remember there was both joy and sorrow before the pandemic. And that will be a lifting of the veil.

My invitation: take the myriad of lights that brought us the Renaissance. Be inspired by them. Then let your own light shine, paint your own masterpiece with the colors of your life. For the benefit and enjoyment of all beings – including yourself of course, but not only for yourself.

The Renaissance was made possible by very innovative, inspired people. Does your book talk about them?

Indeed, what made the Renaissance possible are people. Like the reader of this post – you and me. People who dared to be. To take big steps, to make a difference. Based on what we know about their lives, they were very far from being superheroes. But they aimed very high.

There are several historic personalities mentioned in the book, such as Georgius Gemistus Pletho, Marsilio Ficino and Francesco Del Cossa.

However, EXSTATICA has been written to be actionable. As mentioned, it is not a historical analysis of the Renaissance. So these innovators are mentioned in appendix. The core part of the book is about building a daily routine that supports wider personal awareness, inspired by the Renaissance.

What does Watkins Books mean for you?
I am very grateful to the team at Watkins Books. Independent bookstores are vital parts of our communities. It is important to support them, especially now, because we want them to stay with us. I had the pleasure of giving a talk at Watkins in 2016, about my previous book BioHarmonizing, and also Abulafia’s techniques (that will be included in the next EXSTATICA book, covering the High Renaissance and how we/Transpersonal Psychology can benefit from it). I am thankful for that opportunity, and for the kind hospitality on the blog.

Find out more:

Do you want to use EXSTATICA Self-Help Essentials: Unleash the Transformative Sparkles of the Renaissance Mantegna Tarot to turn your life into a masterpiece? Then, please feel free to order you copy from Watkins Books online or in person.

EXSTATICA is brought to you by Shanti. A lovely, “forever puppy” Coton de Tulear. And Frank Ra. Their website is

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