Showing posts with label Symbolism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Symbolism. Show all posts

Tarot, Mysticism, Divination and Traditions

The poet's pathology says that "the undevout astronomer is mad"; the very simple man's pathology says that "the genius is mad"; and the sovereign justification takes the place of a moderator and does what it can between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand comparable excesses. I do not believe that the pathology of occult dedications persists, but no one should doubt their extravagances, and it is not less painful than ungrateful to act as a moderator about them. In comparison, if it existed, the pathology would presumably be an empiricism rather than a diagnosis and would not give any requirements.

Now, occultism is not like mystic faculty, and it rather rarely operates in conjunction either with business aptitude in the things of everyday life or with a knowledge of the canons of facts of its own domain. I know that for the high art of ribaldry there are few things more boring than the critique which maintains that a thesis is untrue, and cannot understand that it is decorative. I also know that it is often refreshing, in the field of this craft, to deal with what is clearly deception or at least utter unreason after a long deal with questionable doctrine or with challenging science.

But, as seen through the prism of occultism, the forces of history are not, as a rule, decorative and have little refreshing gifts to repair the lacerations they cause on the rational perception. In the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, it almost takes a Frater Sapiens dominabitur astris to have the patience that is not lacking among clouds of stupidity when the Tarot's consideration is conducted in compliance with the higher rule of symbolism.

Symbolism is the real Tarot; it knows no other language and does not give any other indications. They become a kind of alphabet, provided the inner significance of its emblems, which is capable of indefinite variations and makes true sense in everything. It gives a "Key" To The Mysteries on the highest plane, in a way that is not subjective and has not been read in. But it has been told the wrong symbolic stories about it, and in any published work that has so far dealt with the topic, the wrong history has been given.

Two or three authors have intimated that this is inevitably the case, at least in terms of definitions, since few are familiar with them, while these few keep pledges through transmission and will not compromise their trust. On the surface, the suggestion is brilliant, because there seems to be a certain anti-climax in the proposition that a specific meaning of fortune-telling should be reserved for Sons of the Doctrine, I'art de tirer les cartes.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that there is a sacred custom surrounding the Tarot, and since there is always the possibility that a small arcane of the Mysteries may be made public with a flourish of trumpets, it may also be appropriate to go before the event and to alert those who are interested in such matters that any discovery will contain only a third of the earth and sea and a third of the earth and a third of the moon.

This is for the simple explanation that no more has been put into writing in either root-matter or creation, so after every pretended unveiling, more will remain to be said. Therefore, the guards of those initiation temples who hold watch over the secrets of this order have no reason for concern. As far as the series of larger symbols is concerned, their ultimate and highest meaning lies deeper than the typical image or hieroglyphic language. Many that have received any portion of the Hidden Custom will recognize this.

They are meant to set aside the follies and impostures of past attributions, to place those who have the gift of wisdom on the right path, and to take note, within the limits of my possibilities, that they are the reality as far as they go, as regards the linguistic meanings assigned here to the more relevant Trump Cards.

In many ways, it is regrettable that I have to admit to such doubts, but there is a matter of honor at issue. In comparison, between the follies on the one side of those who know little of the practice, but are, in their own view, the exponents of something called occult science and philosophy, and on the other side of the make-believe of a few writers who have earned part of the tradition and believe that it constitutes a legitimate title to scatter dust in the eyes of the outside world.

We shall see in due course that the history of Tarot cards is mostly of the derogatory kind, and that, when the problems are cleared by the dissipation of reveries and gratuitous speculations articulated in the terms of certitude, there is in effect no history prior to the fourteenth century. The deceit and self-deception about their roots in Egypt, India or China put the first expositors' mouths in a lying spirit, and the later occult authors did nothing more than replicate the first false testimony in the good faith of an intellect that was unawakened to the research problems.

All exhibits have operated within a very limited spectrum, as it happens, and owe little, relatively speaking, to the imaginative faculty. At least one genius chance was lost, for it has not occurred to anybody so far that the Tarot might have done duty and perhaps emerged as the Albigensian sects' secret symbolic tongue. In the tradition of Gabriele Rossetti and Eugene Aroux, I commend this recommendation to the linear heirs, to Mr. Harold Bayley as another New Light on the Revival, and at least as a taper in the gloom that may be helpful to Mrs. Cooper-zealous Oakley's and all-searching mind with great reverence.

Think only about what the supposed testimony of watermarks on paper could obtain from the Pope's or Hierophant's Tarot Card in connection with the notion of an Albigensian secret patriarch that Mr. Bayley finds so much information for his intent in these same watermarks. Think of the High Priestess' card as portraying the Albigensian church itself for just a moment; and think of the Tower struck by Lightning as representing the desired ruin of Papal Rome, the city on the seven hills, with the pontiff and his temporal force thrown down from the sacred edifice as it is demolished by God's wrath (Nature).

The possibilities are so various and convincing that one of the elect vwho has invented them almost deceives in their speech.

But there is much more to it, even though I barely dare to quote it. When the time came for the Tarot cards to be the topic of their first systematic description, some of their most notable emblems were replicated by the archaeologist Court de Gebelin, and, if I might name it, the codex he used, by his carved plates, as a reference basis for many subsequently released collections. The figures are rather primitive and, as such, vary from the cards of Etteilla, the Tarot of Marseilles, and those which are still present in France.

In such things, I am not a strong judge, but the fact that each of the Trumps Majors may have replied for watermark purposes is shown by the cases I have cited and by one of the most impressive examples of the Ace of Cups.

In the manner of a ciborium, I should call it a eucharistic symbol, but this does not mean at this time. The argument is that in his New Light On The Renaissance, Mr. Harold Bayley offers six analogous instruments, which are watermarks on seventeenth-century parchment, which he says to be of Albigensian origin and to represent sacramental and grail emblems. Had he only read of the Tarot, had he learned that these divination cards, the cards of fate, the cards of all the vagabond arts, were perhaps present in the South of France at that time, I assume that his enchanting, but all too fantastic, theory would have dilated even more in the atmosphere of his imagination.

No doubt we should have had a vision of Christian Gnosticism, Manichseanism, and all the true primal Gospel knows, sparkling behind the images. I do not look through those lenses, and at a later stage I can only commend the topic to his attention; it is said here that I will add the marvels of arbitrary speculation as to the past of the cards with an unheard-of wonder.

It should scarcely be useful to enumerate them with regard to their type and number, since they must be almost universally recognised.

Tarot through History

Our immediate consideration here is to talk about the cards in their history so that, as intimated elsewhere, the speculations and reveries that have been perpetuated and compounded in the schools of occult science can be disposed of once and for all.

At the beginning of this step, let it be known that there are many sets or sequences of ancient cards that are only part of our interest. Papus' Tarot Of The Bohemians, revising the incomplete rendering, has some valuable details in this regard, and it will serve the general reader's intent, except for omitting dates and other evidence of the archaeological context.

I do not propose to extend it in any way that can be considered considerable in the present position, but such additions are ideal and so is a separate style of presentation as well.

There are, first of all, those of Baldini among the ancient cards mentioned in connection with the Tarot, which are the celebrated collection credited by tradition to Andrea Mantegna, although this view is now widely denied. Their origin is estimated to be around 1470, and it is assumed that in Europe there are no more than four sets. Probably similarly unusual is a duplication or duplication alluded to in 1485. Fifty numbers, divided into five denaries or sequences of ten cards each, form a full set. There appears to be no record that they were used, whether by chance or talent, for the purposes of a game; they could scarcely have lent themselves to divination or some sort of fortune-telling; although it would be more than idle to impute to their apparent emblematic designs a profound symbolic significance.

The first denary embodies Conditions of Life, as follows: 

(1) TheBeggar, (2) the Knave, (3) the Artisan, (4) the Merchant, (5) the Noble, (6) the Knight, (7) the Doge, (8) the King, (9) the Emperor, (10) the Pope. 

The second contains the Muses and their Divine Leader: 

(11) Calliope, (12) Urania, (13) Terpsichore, (14) Erato, (15) Polyhymnia, (16) Thalia, (17) Melpomene, (18) Euterpe, (19) Clio, (20) Apollo. 

The third combines part of the Liberal Arts and Sciences with other departments of human learning, as follows: 

(21) Grammar, (22) Logic, (23) Rhetoric, (24) Geometry, (25) Arithmetic, (26) Music, (27) Poetry, (28) Philosophy, (29) Astrology, (30) Theology. 

The fourth denary completes the Liberal Arts and enumerates the Virtues: 

(31) Astronomy, (32) Chronology, (S3) Cosmology, (34) Temperance, (35) Prudence, (36) Strength, (37) Justice, (38) Charity, (39) Hope, (40) Faith.

The fifth and last denary presents the System of the Heavens: 

(41) Moon, (42) Mercury, (43) Venus, (44) Sun, (45) Mars, (46) Jupiter, (47) Saturn, (48) Eighth Sphere, (49) Primtim Mobile, (50) First Cause.

We must refrain from suggesting, for instance, that the Conditions of Life refer to the Trumps Major, the Muses to Pentacles, the Arts and Sciences to Cups, the Virtues, etc., to Scepters, and the Conditions of Life to Swords. The fantastic attempts to derive full Tarot sequences from these denaries. A method of mental contortion may do this sort of thing, but it has no place in reality. Around the same time, it is not probable that such, and even striking, analogies should not be displayed on individual cards. The respective court cards of the Minor Arcana are indicated by the Baldini King, Knight and Knave. For the Mantegna and Trumps Major of every Tarot pack, the Ruler, Pope, Temperance, Power, Fairness, Moon and Sun are popular.

The Beggar and the Fool, Venus and the Star, Mars and the Chariot, Saturn and the Hermit, even Jupiter, or, alternatively, the First Cause, were all bound to the world's Tarot card through Predisposition. The beggar is essentially nude, and the analogy is that two dogs are present, one of which seems to be flying on his legs. In a canopied chariot, the Mars card shows a sword-bearing knight, to whom, however, no horses are tied. Of note, there is little doubt as to whether the Baldini cards belong to the end of the fifteenth century, as the Tarot was recognized much before that time in Europe.

But in the Mantegna set, the most important characteristics of the Trumps Major are absent, and I do not agree that the ordered sequence in the latter case gave birth to the others, as indicated. Romain Merlin retained this opinion and, at the end of the fourteenth century, positively assigned the Baldini cards.

If it is accepted that, with the exception of unintentionally and sporadically, the emblematic or allegorical pictures of Baldini have only a shadowy and irregular link with Tarot cards, and, whatever their most possible date, that no originating purpose can be given, it follows that we are still searching not only for an origin in location and time for the objects we are dealing with, but for a specific event.

It is now well known that in 1393, when Charles VI of France was in mental ill-health, the painter Charles Gringonneur, who for no cause I can trace was named an occultist and kabalist by one indifferent English scholar, designed and illuminated some kind of cards for the diversion of Charles VI of France, and the question arises whether anything can be ascertained of their existence. The only explanation available is that there are seventeen cards drawn and illuminated on paper in Paris, in the Bibliotheque du Roi. They are very beautiful, antique and priceless; the figures have a background of gold, and are framed in a silver border; but they are accompanied by no inscription and no number.

However, it is clear that they have Tarot Trumps Major, whose list is as follows '. Wheel of Fortune, Temperance, Fortitude, Justice, Moon, Light, Chariot, Hermit, Hanged Man, Burial, Tower and Final Judgment, Idiot, Tyrant, Pope, Lovers, Four Tarot Cards are also sold at Musee Carrer, Venice, and five more elsewhere, making nine in total. They contain two pages, three Kings and two Queens, or Knaves, thereby demonstrating the Arcane Minor. Both these sets were associated with the set created by Gringonneur, but the ascription was contested as far back as 1848, and even those who are eager to make the antiquity of the Tarot plain are not evidently put forward at the present time. They are all known to be of Italian descent and others, at least certainly, of Venetian origin.

In this way, we at least have our necessary point of departure in terms of location. It has already been stated with authority that the old and true type, which is the parent of all others, is the Venetian Tarots; but I conclude that the Major and Minor Arcana's full sets belong to far later times. It is assumed that the pack was comprised of seventy-eight cards.

Notwithstanding, however, the preference shown for the Venetian Tarot, it is understood that the time between 1413 and 1418 must be assigned to certain portions of a Minchiate or Florentine collection. They were once in Countess Gonzaga's custody, in Milan. There were ninety-seven cards in a full Minchiate pack and it is considered, widely speaking, as a later invention in terms of these vestiges. Forty-one Trumps Major were present, the additional numbers either borrowed or mirrored from the emblematic Baldini set. The Knights were creatures of the Centaur type in the court cards of the Minor Arcana, while the Knaves were often warriors and sometimes slaves. The dominance of Christian medieval beliefs and the complete lack of any Oriental suggestion is another difference. However, the question persists whether any Tarot cards contain Eastern traces.

We come, all right, to the Bolognese Tarot, often referred to as Venice and complete with the Trumps Major, but numbers 20 and 21 have been transposed. The 2, 3, 4, and 5 small cards in the Minor Arcana are omitted, resulting in sixty-two cards in total. In the representation of the Last Judgment, the termination of the Trumps Major is curious, and a little arresting as a point of symbolism; but this is all that it seems necessary to note about the Bologna pack, except that it is said to have been invented or, more correctly, modified as a Tarot, by an exiled Prince of Pisa resident in the city around the beginning of the fifteenth century.

The reason for which they were used is shown tolerably by the fact that St. Bernardin of Sienna preached against playing cards and other means of gambling in 1423. The importation of cards into England was banned forty years later, the time being that of King Edward IV. This is our country's first certain record of the issue.

It is difficult to consult perfect illustrations of the above-mentioned collections, but it is not difficult to comply with detailed and outlined explanations. If the writer is not always an occultist, I may add that accounts originating from that source are typically incomplete, ambiguous and concerned with factors that cloud the vital problems. Some opinions that have been shared on the Mantegna codex give an example in point, whether I can continue to dignify card sequences with such a word. In occult reverie, as we have seen, it has been ruled that Apollo and the Nine Muses equate with Pentacles, but the comparison is not obtained in a working state of research; and reverie must verge on nightmare until we can associate the suit of Cups with Astronomy, Chronology and Cosmology. The Baldini characters depicting these themes are, like the Tarot, emblems of their time and not symbols.

To finish, I note that there has been a willingness among experts to suggest that the Trumps Major was not initially related to the numbered suits. I do not wish to give a personal view; I am not a specialist in the history of games of chance, and I dislike the profanum vulgus of divinatory devices; but I venture to intimate, under all reserves, that if subsequent study can explain such a leaning, it would be so much the better for the Greater Arcana, save for the good old art of fortune-telling and its tamperings with so-called fate.

As far as what is appropriate for the historical aspects of the Tarot cards is concerned, I will now take up the speculative side of the topic and create the merit test. I noted in my preface to The Tarot Of The Bohemians that the first writer to make the truth of the cards known was the archaeologist Court de Gebelin, who, just before the French Revolution, spent many years writing his Monde Primitif, which stretched to nine-quarter volumes. Before the science of the subject existed, he was a learned man of his age, a high-grade Mason, a member of the historical Lodge of the Philalethes, and a virtuoso with a strong and lifelong curiosity in the debate on universal antiques. His memorials and dissertations, compiled under the title I have cited, are worth possessing even on this day. By an accident of things, when it was very uncommon in Paris, he became acquainted with the Tarot, and at once conceived that it was the remains of an Egyptian text. He made inquiries about it and confirmed that Spain, Italy, Germany and the South of France were in circulation over a large portion of Europe. It was used, after the usual manner of playing cards, as a game of chance or skill; and he further determined how the game was played. But it was also in use for the greater reason of divination or fortune-telling, and he found the meaning assigned to the cards with the aid of a learned acquaintance, along with the method of organization introduced for this purpose. In a word, he made a distinct contribution to our interpretation, and he is indeed a reference point, but it is just on the issue of truth and not on the cherished theory that pure Egyptian theology is found in the Tarot. He established, however, the view that is prevalent to this day throughout the occult schools that the origin of the cards was lost in the mystery and wonder, the strange night of the gods, the unknown tongue and the undeciphered hieroglyphics that symbolized Egypt at the end of the eighteenth century.

So one of France's distinctive literati dreamed, and one can almost understand and sympathize, for the nation of the Delta and the Nile was beginning to loom largely in the concern of educated thought, and omne ignotum pro Mgyptiaco was the way many minds appeared to delude. It was excusable enough then, but the hysteria persisted and now spreads from mouth to mouth inside the charmed circle of the occult sciences. There is no reason for this. Let us see, then, the proof generated by M. In favor of his study, Court de Gebelin, and, if I can deal equally, it shall be outlined in his own terms as far as possible.

I The characters and arrangement of the game are explicitly allegorical; (2) the allegories are in line with the civil, metaphysical and religious doctrine of ancient Egypt; (3) no High Priestess would be included among the Greater Arcana if the cards were modern; (4) the character in question bears the horns of Isis; (5) the card known as the Emperor has a scepter ending in a trip (7) the seventeenth card, or Star, is the dog-star, Sirius, consecrated to Isis and symbolizing the year's opening; (8) the game played with the Tarot is based on the sacred number seven, which in Egypt was of great importance; (9) the word Tarot is pure Egyptian, in which the language Tar = path or path, and Ro = king or royal, thus signifying the Royal Road of Life; (10) Alternatively, it is taken from A = doctrine; Rosh = Mercury — Thoth, and Article T; in short, Tarosh; and so the Tarot is the Book of Thoth, or the Mercury Doctrine Deck.

Such is the evidence, it is understood that I have set aside some casual remarks for which there is no form of excuse. These, thus, are ten pillars supporting the thesis building, and they are pillars of sand the same. Of definition, the Tarot is allegorical, that is to say, meaning, but all countries, nations and times are Catholic allegory and symbol; they are not more Egyptian than Mexican; they are from Europe and Cathay, from Tibet beyond the Himalayas and from the London gutters.

The cards correspond to many kinds of ideas and things as an allegory and symbol; they are universal and not specific; and the fact that they do not respond specifically and peculiarly to Egyptian doctrine, religious, philosophical or civil, is clear from the failure of the Court de Gebelin to go further than the statement.

Among the Trumps Major, the appearance of a High Priestess is more conveniently explained as the memorial of any common superstition, such as the worship of Diana, whose persistence has been traced by Leland with such striking results in modern Italy. We must also note in any cult the universality of the horns, not to mention that of Tibet. As an example of Egyptian symbolism, the triple cross is preposterous; it is the cross of the patriarchal see, both Greek and Latin, of Venice, of Jerusalem, for instance, and it is the method of signing used by the Orthodox Rite priests and laity to this day.

As other occult authors have told us that they are Hebrew Jods, I pass over the idle allusion to the tears of Isis; as far as the seventeenth card is concerned, it is the star Sirius or another, as predisposition pleases; the number seven was definitely important in Egypt and any treatise on numerical mysticism would prove that the same assertion applies everywhere, even though we chose to disregard the seven Christian sacraments.

Lastly, as far as the etymology of the term Tarot is concerned, it is sufficient to remember that it was given before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and when the Egyptian language was not recognized.

Court de Gebelin's work was not permitted to sit undisturbed in the mind of the century, appealing solely by means of a quarto volume to the learned. In Paris, as the core of France and all things French in the world, the Tarot cards created an opening. The suggestion that divination by cards had the unforeseen warrants of ancient secret science behind it, and that the origin of the entire topic was in the wonder and mystery of Egypt, represented almost a religious honor thereon; cartomancy came from the purlieus of mystic rituals into fashion and assumed almost pontifical vestures for the moment.

The illiterate yet zealous explorer, Alliette, was the first to take on the role of bateleur, magician and juggler; the second, as a kind of High Priestess, full of knowledge and discoveries, was Mile. Lenormand, but she belongs to a later period; while Julia Orsini, who is more referring to a queen of cups in the tatters of clairvoyance, finally came. When fate itself was shuffling and cutting cards for the game of global revolution, or for such courts and courtiers as those of Louis XVIII, Charles IX and Louis Philippe, I am not concerned with these persons as tellers of fortune. The transliteration of his name, Alliette, however, under the occult classification of Etteilla, the perruquier took himself with great seriousness and posed more as a priest of occult sciences than as an ordinary specialist in l'art de tirer les cartes. There are people still now, including Dr. Papus, who have managed to rescue some component of his bizarre scheme from oblivion.

In 1782, Le Monde Primitif's lengthy and heterogeneous tale had come to the end of its plot, and in 1783 Etteilla's tracts had started to flood from the newspapers, testifying that he had already spent thirty, nay, almost forty years researching Egyptian sorcery, and that he had discovered the final keys. In fact, they were the Keys of the Tarot, which was the Book of Philosophy and the Book of Thoth, but at the same time it was originally written in the Temple of Fire by the seventeen Magi, on the borders of the Levant, about three leagues from Memphis. It included the theory of the cosmos, and it was extended to astrology, alchemy, and fortune-telling by the Cartomancist, without the least pause or reserve as to the fact that he was performing a trade.

There is really no doubt in my mind that he found it legitimate as a metier, and that he was the first one to persuade himself of his scheme. But the thing we have to note is that the antiquity of the Tarot was usually trumpeted out in this way. Etteilla's little books are positive indications that he did not even know his own language; that even those who think of him tenderly confess that he spoiled his symbolism when he created a reformed Tarot in the course of time; and that he had only the Court de Gebelin as his universal authority with regard to ancient times.

The Carthomancists succeeded one another in the manner I have alluded to, and there were, of course, competing followers of these less than the least mysteries; but the scholarship of the subject, if it can be said to have came into being, rested for more than sixty years at all in the quarto of the Court de Gebelin. There is very little doubt under his authority that anyone who became acquainted with the issue of Tarot cards, by theory or experience, by casual or special interest, acknowledged their Egyptian character. It is said that persons are usually taken for their own worth, and the unsolicited general mind definitely accepts archaeological arguments in the sense of their own bravery and of those who bring them out, pursuing as it does the line of least resistance. The French writer Duchesne was the first who seemed to rethink the topic of some presumptive titles at a trial, but I am obliged to move it on with a mere guide, as well as some fascinating study by Singer in England on the general subject of playing-cards. The latter thought that the oldest European form of card-playing was the old Venetian game called Trappola, that it was of Arab origin, and that the fifty-two cards used for the purpose originated from that area. I do not realize why any meaning was ever added to this vision.

Another English writer, W, followed Duchesne and Singer. A. Chatto, who checked the information available and the storm of uncertainty that had already emerged on the subject. This was in 1848, and his work still has a kind of normal force, but it remains an indifferent and even a bad result despite any allowance for a certain righteousness due to the individual mind. However, it was typical of the coming middle night of the nineteenth century in its manner. Chatto dismissed the Egyptian theory, but as he was in so little distress over it, if the latter had any solid ground under his hypothesis, he would hardly be held to displace Court de Gebelin.

The general issue was taken up in 1854 by another French scholar, Boiteau, who maintained the oriental roots of Tarot cards, but without trying to prove it. I'm not sure, but I think he's the first writer who certainly associated them with the Gipsies; the original Gipsy home for him, though, was in India, and thus Egypt did not join his estimation.

Eliphas Levi emerged in 1860, a brilliant and sublime awakening for whom it is difficult to embrace and with whom it is much more impossible to dispense. Of all the western voices which have declared or represented the science called supernatural and the doctrine called mystical, there was never a mouth proclaiming such great things. I believe that, fundamentally speaking, he cared about the phenomenal aspect as much and as little as I do, but he clarified the phenomenon with the confidence of one who, if used in a correct purpose, openly treated charlatanry as a fantastic means to an end. As a man of considerable wisdom, he never was, and as a revealer to all secrets without having been received into some, he came to his own and his own received him, even at his proper valuation. I do not believe that there has ever been an example of a writer with greater talents, after their peculiar type, who has put them to such indifferent uses. After all, for the second time in the flesh, he was just Etteilla, endowed in his transmutation with a mouth of gold and a larger understanding of chance. Despite this, he has written in every language the most detailed, brilliant, enchanting History Of Magic that has ever been drawn into prose.

He took into his heart of hearts the Tarot and de Gebelin hypothesis, and all occult France and all esoteric Britain, Martinists, half-instructed Kabalists, schools of soi disant theosophy, there, here and everywhere, accepted his judgment on it with the same confidence as his interpretations of those great Kabalist classics he had skimmed rather than read. For him, the Tarot was not only the most perfect instrument of divination and the keystone of mystic study, but it was the primitive book, the ancient Magi's single book, the miraculous volume that influenced all the ancient holy writings. However, Levi was satisfied with approving the creation of the Court de Gebelin in his first job and reproducing the seventh Trump Major with a few Egyptian elements. He was not occupied by the issue of Tarot transmission via the Gipsies, until J. It was proposed in his dissertation on certain wandering tribes by A. Vaillant, a bizarre writer with considerable knowledge of the Romani people. The two writers nearly correlated and thereafter mirrored one another. It remained for Romain Merlin, in 1869, to find out what should have been clear, namely that before the arrival of the Gipsies in or around 1417, cards of some sort were recognized in Europe. However, since this was their arrival at Luneburg, and since their presence can be traced previously, the correction loses a significant part of its strength; it is safer, therefore, to say that the evidence for the use of the Tarot by Romani tribes was not suggested until after the year 1840; the fact that some Gipsies were found using cards before this period is quite clear on the hypothesis not that they brought the tarot to the West but that they discovered the tarot in Europe and added them to their trade.

Now we have shown that there is no confirmation of the Egyptian roots of the Tarot cards. Reaching in other ways, cards of some kind were invented in China around the year A once progressed on native authority. D. A. 1120. In his zeal, Court de Gebelin claimed that he had traced them to a Chinese inscription of great antiquity that was said to refer to the subsidence of the Deluge waters. Seventy-seven compartments contained the characters of the inscription, and this forms the comparison. India also had tablets, either cards or otherwise, and similar slender parallels were indicated by these. But the presence, for instance, of ten suits or types, each of twelve numbers, and the portrayal of Vishnu's avatars, as a fish, a tortoise, a boar, a lion, a monkey, a hatchet, an umbrella, or a bow, as a pig, a boodh, and as a horse in good, will not allow us to render our own Trumps Major, nor do crowns and harps—nor even the presence of possible coins as a synonym of deniers and perhaps as an equivalent of pentacles—do much to elucidate the Lesser Arcana.

If every language and person and environment and time had their cards, if they also philosophized, divined and gambled with them, the truth would be sufficiently fascinating, but if they were Tarot cards, they would only demonstrate the common propensity of man to do the same things in more or less the same way.

I end, thus, the history of this topic by repeating that before the fourteenth century, when the first stories about cards were heard, it had no history. They may have existed for centuries, but this period would be early enough if only people were meant to try their luck at gambling or their luck at seeing the future; on the other hand, if they contain the deep insights of the Secret Doctrine, then the fourteenth century is early enough again, or at least as much as we can get in this respect.

The Magician ~ Meaning and Symbolism


I Saw the Man.
His figure reached from earth to heaven and was clad
in a purple mantle. He stood deep in foliage and flowers
and his head, on which was the head-band of an initiate,
seemed to disappear mysteriously in infinity.
Before him on a cube-shaped altar were four symbols
of magic—the sceptre, the cup, the sword and the

His right hand pointed to heaven, his left to earth.
Under his mantle he wore a white tunic girded with a
serpent swallowing its tail.
His face was luminous and serene, and, when his eyes
met mine, I felt that he saw most intimate recesses of my
soul. I saw myself reflected in him as in a mirror and in
his eyes I seemed to look upon myself.

And I heard a voice saying:
— "Look, this is the Great Magician!"
With his hands he unites heaven and earth, and the
four elements that form the world are controlled by him.
The four symbols before him are the four letters of the
name of God, the signs of the four elements, fire, water, air.

I trembled before the depth of the mysteries I touched...
The words I heard seemed to be uttered by the Great Magician
himself, and it was as though he spoke in me.
I was in deep trepidation and at moments I felt there was
nothing before me except the blue sky; but within me a
window opened through which I could see unearthly things and
hear unearthly words.

The Fool ~ Meaning and Symbolism


And I saw another man.
Tired and lame he dragged himself along the dusty road,
across the deserted plain under the scorching rays of the sun. He
glanced sidelong with foolish, staring eyes, a half smile, half leer
on his face; he knew not where he went, but was absorbed in
his chimerical dreams which ran constantly in the same circle.
His fool's cap was put on wrong side front, his garments were
torn in the back; a wild lynx with glowing eyes sprang upon him
from behind a rock and buried her teeth in his flesh. He
stumbled, nearly fell, but continued to drag himself along, all
the time holding on his shoulder a bag containing useless things,
which he, in his stupidity, carried wherever he went.
Before him a crevice crossed the road and a deep precipice
awaited the foolish wanderer. Then a huge crocodile with open
mouth crawled out of the precipice. And I heard the voice

"Look! This is the same man."
I felt my head whirl.

"What has he in the bag?" I inquired, not knowing
why I asked. And after a long silence the voice replied
"The four magic symbols, the sceptre, the cup, the sword
and the pentacle. The fool always carries them although
he has long since forgotten what they mean Nevertheless
they belong to him, even though he does not know their
use. The symbols have not lost their power, they retain it
in themselves.

The High Priestess ~ Meaning and Symbolism


When I lifted the first veil and entered the outer court
of the Temple of Initiation, I saw in half darkness the
figure of a woman sitting on a high throne between two
pillars of the temple, one white, and one black. Mystery
emanated from her and was about her. Sacred symbols
shone on her green dress; on her head was a golden tiara
surmounted by a two-horned moon; on her knees she
held two crossed keys and an open book. Between the
two pillars behind the woman hung another veil all
embroidered with green leaves and fruit of pomegranate.

And a voice said:

"To enter the Temple one must lift the second veil
and pass between the two pillars. And to pass thus, one
must obtain possession of the keys, read the book and
understand the symbols. Are you able to do this?"

"I would like to be able, " I said.

Then the woman turned her face to me and looked
into my eyes without speaking. And through me passed a
thrill, mysterious and penetrating like a golden wave;
tones vibrated in my brain, a flame was in my
heart, and I understood that she spoke to me, saying
without words:

"This is the Hall of Wisdom. No one can reveal it no
one can hide it. Like a flower it must grow and bloom in
thy soul. If thou wouldst plant the seed of this flower in
thy soul —learn to discern the real from false. Listen only
to the Voice that is soundless... Look only on that which is
invisible, and remember that in thee thyself, is the
Temple and the gate to it and the mystery, and the

The World ~ Meaning and Symbolism


An unexpected vision appeared to me. A circle not
unlike a wreath woven from rainbow and lightnings,
whirled from heaven to earth with a stupendous, velocity,
blinding me by its brilliance. And amidst this light and fire
I heard music and soft singing, thunderclaps and the roar
of a tempest, the rumble of falling mountains and

The circle whirled with a terrifying noise, touching the
sun and the earth, and, in the centre of it I saw the naked,
dancing figure of a beautiful young woman, enveloped by
a light, transparent scarf, in her hand she held a magic

Presently the four apocalyptical beasts began to appear
on the edges of the circle; one with the face of a lion,
another with the face of a man, the third, of an eagle and
the fourth, of a bull.

The vision disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. A
weird silence fell on me. "What does it mean?" I asked in

"It is the image of the world," the voice said, "but it
can be understood only after the Temple has been
entered. This is a vision of the world in the circle of
Time, amidst the four principles. But thou seest
differently because thou seest the world outside thyself
Learn to see it in thyself and thou wilt understand the
infinite essence, hidden in all illusory forms.

Understand that the world which thou knowest is only
one of the aspects of the infinite world, and things and
phenomena are merely hieroglyphics of deeper ideas.

The Empress ~ Meaning and Symbolism


I felt the breath of the spring, and accompanying the
fragrance of violets and lilies-of-the-valley I heard the
tender singing of elves. Rivulets murmured, the tree-tops
rustled, the grasses whispered, innumerable birds sang in
choruses and bees hummed; everywhere I felt the
breathing of joyful, living Nature.

The sun shone tenderly and softly and a little white
cloud hung over the woods.

In the midst of a green meadow where primroses
bloomed, I saw the Empress seated on a throne covered
with ivy and lilacs. A green wreath adorned her golden
hair and, above her head, shone twelve stars. Behind her
rose two snowy wings and in her hands she held a sceptre.

All around, beneath the sweet smile of the Empress,
flowers and buds opened their dewy, green leaves. Her
whole dress was covered with them as though each newly
opened flower were reflected in it or had engraved itself
thereon and thus become part of her garment.
The sign of Venus, the goddess of love, was chiselled
on her marble throne.

"Queen of life," I said, "why is it so bright and joyful all about
you? Do you not know of the grey weary autumn, of the cold,
white winter? Do you not know of death and graveyards with
black graves, damp and cold? How can you smile so joyfully on
the opening flowers, when everything is destined to death, even
that which has not yet been born?"

For answer the Empress looked on me still smiling and, under
the influence of that smile, I suddenly felt a flower of some clear
understanding open in my heart.

Judgement ~ Meaning and Symbolism


I saw an ice plain, and on the horizon, a chain of
snowy mountains. A cloud appeared and began to grow
until it covered a quarter of the sky. Two fiery wings
suddenly expanded in the cloud, and I knew that I beheld
the messenger of the Empress.

He raised a trumpet and blew through it vibrant,
powerful tones. The plain quivered in response to him
and the mountains loudly rolled their echoes. One after
another, graves opened in the plain and out of them came
men and women, old and young, and children. 

They stretched out their arms toward the Messenger of the
Empress to catch the sounds of his trumpet.

And in its tones I felt the smile of the Empress and in
the opening graves I saw the opening flowers whose
fragrance seemed to be wafted by the outstretched arms.
Then I understood the mystery of birth in death.

The Emperor ~ Meaning and Symbolism


After I learned the first three numbers I was given to
understand the Great Law of Four—the alpha and omega
of all.

I saw the Emperor on a lofty stone throne, ornament-
ed by four rams' heads. On his forehead shone a golden
helmet. His white beard fell over a purple mantle. In one
hand he held a sphere, the symbol of his possession, and
in the other, a sceptre in the form of an Egyptian cross—
the sign of his power over birth.

"I am The Great Law," the Emperor said. 

"I am the
name of God. The four letters of his name are in me and
I am in all.

"I am in the four principles. I am in the four elements
I am in the four seasons. I am in the four cardinal points I
am in the four signs of the Tarot.

"I am the beginning; I am action; I am completion I
am the result.

"For him who knows how to see me there are no
mysteries on earth.
"I am the great Pentacle.

"As the earth encloses in itself fire, water and air;
as the fourth letter of the Name encloses in itself the first
three and becomes itself the first, so my sceptre encloses
the complete triangle and bears in itself the seed of a new

"I am the Logos in the full aspect and the beginning of
a new Logos."

And while the Emperor spoke, his helmet shone
brighter and brighter, and his golden armour gleamed
beneath his mantle. I could not bear his glory and 1
lowered my eyes.

When I tried to lift them again a vivid light of radiant
fire was before me, and I prostrated myself and made
obeisance to the Fiery Word.

The Sun ~ Meaning and Symbolism


As soon as I perceived the Sun, I understood that It,
Itself, is the expression of the Fiery Word and the sign of
the Emperor.

The great luminary shone with an intense heat upon the
large golden heads of sun-flowers.
And I saw a naked boy, whose head was wreathed with
roses, galloping on a white horse and waving a bright-red

I shut my eyes for a moment and when I opened them
again I saw that each ray of the Sun is the sceptre of the
Emperor and bears life. And I saw how under the
concentration of these rays the mystic flowers of the waters
open and receive the rays into themselves and how all
Nature is constantly born from the union of two principles.

The Chariot ~ Meaning and Symbolism


I saw a chariot drawn by two sphinxes, one white. the
other black. Four pillars supported a blue canopy, on
which were scattered five-pointed stars. The Conqueror,
clad in steel armour, stood under this canopy guiding the
sphinxes. He held a sceptre, on the end of which were a
globe, a triangle and a square. A golden pentagram
sparkled in his crown. On the front of the chariot there
was represented a winged sphere and beneath that the
symbol of the mystical lingam, signifying the union of two

"Everything in this picture has a significance. Look and
try to understand", said the voice.
"This is Will armed with Knowledge. We see here,
however, the wish to achieve, rather than achievement
itself. The man in the chariot thought himself a conqueror
before he had really conquered, and he believes that
victory must come to the conqueror. There are true
possibilities in this beautiful conception, but also many
false ones. Illusory fires and numerous dangers are hidden
He controls the sphinxes by the power of a magic
word, but the tension of his Will may fail and then the
magic word will lose its power and he may be devoured
by the sphinxes.

This is indeed the Conqueror, but only for the
moment; he has not yet conquered Time, and the
succeeding moment is unknown to him.

This is the Conqueror, not by love, but by fire and the
sword,—a conqueror against whom the conquered may
arise. Do you see behind him the towers of the conquered
city? Perhaps the flame of uprising burns already there.
And he is unaware that the city vanquished by means
of fire and the sword is the city within his own
consciousness, that the magic chariot is in himself and that
the blood-thirsty sphynxes, also a state of consciousness
within, watch his every movement. He has externalized
all these phases of his mind and sees them only outside
himself. This is his fundamental error. He entered the
outer court of the Temple of knowledge, but thinks he
has been in the Temple itself. He regarded the rituals of
the first tests as initiation, and he mistook for the goddess,
the priestess who guarded the threshold. Because of this
misconception great perils await him.

Nevertheless it may be that even in his errors and
perils the Great Conception lies concealed. He seeks to
know and, perhaps, in order to attain, mistakes, dangers
and even failures are necessary.

Understand that this is the same man whom you saw
uniting Heaven and Earth, and again walking across a hot
desert to a precipice.

The Moon ~ Meaning and Symbolism


A desolate plain stretched before me. A full moon
looked down as if in contemplative hesitation. Under her
wavering light the shadows lived their own peculiar life.
On the horizon I saw blue hills, and over them wound a
path which stretched between two grey towers far away
into the distance. On either side the path a wolf and dog
sat and howled at the moon. I remembered that dogs
believe in thieves and ghosts. A large black crab crawled
out of the rivulet into the sands. A heavy, cold dew was

Dread fell upon me. I sensed the presence of a
mysterious world, a world of hostile spirits, of corpses
rising from graves, of wailing ghosts. In this pale moonlight
I seemed to feel the presence of apparitions;
someone watched me from behind the towers,—and I
knew it was dangerous to look back.