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     The modern Tarot deck of today is based on the so-called
     Venetian deck which consists of 78 cards. The Venetian deck
     includes 22 trump cards called the major arcana and 56 cards
     arranged into four suits of fourteen cards, called the minor
     arcana. The four suits are commonly called Swords, Cups, Coins
     and Wands. Each suit has four court cards (king, queen, knight
     and page) and 10 numbered cards including an ace. The trump
     cards are also numbered from 0 to 21. The Venetian deck is
     also sometimes referred to as the Piedmontese or Marseilles
     Another Tarot deck consisting of 97 cards is known variously
     as the Florentine or Minchiate deck. This deck includes 41
     major arcana (trump) cards. In addition to 21 of the 22
     Venetian trumps (the hierophant or pope is excluded), the
     major arcana of the Florentine deck includes the four virtues
     (hope, faith, charity, prudence), the four elements (water,
     air, earth, fire) and the 12 signs of the zodiac.
     The origin of Tarot is, like their meaning, shrouded in
     mystery and obfuscation. However, current theory suggests that
     they appeared in Europe sometime in the later fourteenth
     century. Theories that suggest the Crusaders or the Gypsies
     introduced the cards to Europe do not appear to have any
     chronological support. The Crusades were too early, the
     Gypsies too late. Initially, Tarot was just a game played with
     The history of Tarot's fortune-telling capabilities starts in
     the 18th century when a Protestant clergyman, Antoine Court de
     Gebelin claimed that the cards were of Egyptian origin.
     Further, he claimed that the Tarot contained secret and
     mysterious information that was so powerful it could only be
     transferred from generation to generation under the guise of a
     light-hearted card game. If the powers-that-be knew of Tarot's
     power they would have certainly reacted against it. Cards in
     general were viewed with some consternation by the religious
     leaders. Court de Gébelin ushered in a whole new approach to
     the Tarot: With the mistaken assumption about their origin,
     the Tarot's cards became the key to unlocking the secret
     mysteries of the cosmic.
     In the 19th century, mystics such as Gerard Encausse
     (pseudonymously known as Papus) and Alphonse Louis Constant
     (pseudonymously known as Eliphas Levi) amplified the divining
     nature of Tarot by connecting it to Jewish Cabalistic
     mysticism. As one commentator writes:
     Although Christian, Jungian and other symbolic systems have
     affected modern interpretations [of Tarot], the set scheme
     which has had the greatest influence is based on the Cabala.
     (Richard Cavendish)
     Cabalistic mysticism is an elaborate and speculative set of
     teachings organized by medieval scholars and based on ancient
     and obscure traditions. Using a diagram called "the tree of
     life", lessons explaining how the world and man and god came
     into existence are learned by the those that have the patience
     and the skill to penetrate the metaphors.
     Tarot, like other fortune-telling enterprises must begin with
     the premise that there are no accidents. Every occurrence is
     determined by a pre-determined law. By divining that cosmic
     law, one can predict the future. The "tree of life" is
     basically a cryptic map of that law and Tarot, its 22 trump
     cards related to the Hebrew alphabet, contains the clues to
     the decoding and proper interpretation of the tree.
     The Tarot's virtue is thus to induce that psychic or mental
     state favorable to divination. (Kurt Seligmann)
     In 1910, Arthur Edward Waite published The Pictorial Key to
     the Tarot and supervised the creation of what is known as the
     Rider Tarot Deck. The actual design of the cards was
     accomplished by Pamela Colman Smith and it is the Rider deck
     that has been used to represent the major arcana cosmic
     players on this roster. While not necessarily the most
     aesthetically pleasing of decks, the Waite-inspired Rider deck
     is, today, one of the most popular decks available. There are
     other Tarot deck designs. A modern example is the deck
     designed by Fergus Hall for the James Bond film Live and Let
     * Cavendish, Richard. The Tarot. Harper & Row, New York: 1975.
     * Martello, Leo L. Understanding the Tarot. HC Publishers, New
       York: 1972.
     * Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. Pantheon Books, New
       York: 1948.
[some more specific and very creative tarotic explication omitted]
Eliphas Levi

     French writer born in Paris, son of a shoemaker. Levi's given
     name was Alphonse Louis Constant. Cavendish calls Levi the
     "first writer to fit the Tarot systematically into the scheme
     of the Cabala." In 1856 he published Le Dogme et ritual de la
     Haute Magic which suggested the Tarot had its origins in
     Jewish mystical thought. Levi associated the 22 trump cards
     with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Arthur Edward Waite

     A belief in the secret tradition of the transfer of knowledge,
     A. E. Waite spent a considerable portion of his life trying to
     uncover the tradition's secrets. A member of the mystical
     Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Waite wrote, in 1910, The
     Pictorial Key to the Tarot: Being Fragments of a Secret
     Tradition under the Veil of Divination which is still the
     standard English-language introduction to the Tarot. Waite
     also supervised the design of the popular Rider Tarot deck.
     1997 Ridertown Tarotians Roster
     Published: February 23, 1997
     Revised: February 15, 1998
     (c) 1997, 1998 by the Cosmic Baseball Association

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