a cache of usenet and other text files pertaining
to occult, mystical, and spiritual subjects.


BO'Neill: History of Tarot

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.tarot,alt.occult,alt.pagan.magick,alt.divination
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: BO'Neill: History of Tarot
Date: 12 Jan 1998 22:24:43 -0800

49980112 aa2 Hail Satan!

~From: "Bob O'Neill" 

[some omitted]
[re the lack of the Devil/Tower in some decks and development of Tarot]

Of course, by itself the lack of the Devil and Tower is insufficient.  We
have to add a few more pieces to the puzzle.  And, of course, we are stuck
with the dilemma of trying to assign exact dates to things that happened
500 years ago.  To maintain internal consistency, I'll use the guesstimates
of Dummett (the most careful and sceptical of the scholars) from Game of
Tarot (GoT 1980) and Wicked Pack of Cards (WPC 1996).

Hand-painted decks - the 3 most complete ones are attributed " the
unanimous opinion of present-day art historians..." (GoT) to Bembo whose
earliest dated work is 1442.  So we can date the hand-painted decks around
1440 (GoT p 79), and probably a bit later. The "Charles VI" decks are more
likely from about 1480 (WPC p28)

Robert Steele, 1900. "A notice of the Ludus Triumphorum and some early
Italian card games"  Archaeologia 57:185-200.  Steele was the first to
point out a sermon that listed ALL 22 of the triumphs, including the Devil
and Tower (called the Arrow).  GoT says that Steele in a later article
(1901) estimated the date of this sermon as 1450-1480 and Dummett accepts
this dating and notes:

"We may, therefore, safely assume that in the last quarter of the fifteenth
century, the Tarot pack attained great popularity among the lower ranks of
society..." (GoT p 79).

In WPC (p 25) he tends toward 1450 as the earliest date for the standard
pack of 22 trumps.

He doesn't say so, but he probably assigns this earlier date because of 
the record we have of the duke asking his treasurer to buy him a couple of
trionfi decks - dated 1450.  So the printed decks were available by that 

He also notes (WPC p 28) that we also have wood-block printed sheets from
the end of the 15th century "...fortunately because these have a much
closer connection in design with later cards than do the de luxe items."
And these decks contain devil and tower.

So far we have hand-painted decks dated around 1440 without Devil and Tower
and a sermon sometime after 1450 that lists them in the decks "...among the
lower ranks of society..."  But the plot thickens:

See WPC p 27: probably the earliest date for the cards is 1425, and the
"...earliest date with any claim to be plausible would be 1410."
So there are some older (and questionable - but not dismissable) references
that may go back 15-20 years before the earliest hand-painted decks.

So we are left with the following pieces of direct evidence:
(1) The deck may have existed for 15-20 years before the oldest
	hand-painted decks
(2) The hand-painted decks are from sometime later than 1440.
(3) All 22 cards are in the sermon from 1450 (or later)
(4) The fact that all later decks are derived from the 4 printed sheets
(see the fly-leafs in GoT) - suggesting that the de luxe hand-painted cards
may never have left the courts and never influenced later decks.

Because of the wishy-washy nature of the exact dates, one cannot settle the
question with any finality.  To me, at the moment, the case rests on
whether the earlier date of origin (1410-1425) is valid.  If not, then it
is a question whether 1440 to 1450 is sufficient period for the cards to
move from the courts to a popular game.  And of course the 1450 date
indicates that the cards were in the hands of people AT LEAST by that date,
we don't know how much earlier. Whether that is sufficient time, in turn,
depends on your view of how popular the nobles were with the common people.


(emailed replies may be posted);; 408/2-666-SLUG
  join the esoteric syncretism in alt.magick.tyagi; 

The Arcane Archive is copyright by the authors cited.
Send comments to the Arcane Archivist:

Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to the site maintainer for the creation and upkeep of this site.

The ARCANE ARCHIVE is a large domain,
organized into a number of sub-directories,
each dealing with a different branch of
religion, mysticism, occultism, or esoteric knowledge.
Here are the major ARCANE ARCHIVE directories you can visit:
interdisciplinary: geometry, natural proportion, ratio, archaeoastronomy
mysticism: enlightenment, self-realization, trance, meditation, consciousness
occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase


Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races