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Kabbalah and Tarot History

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.consciousness.mysticism,talk.religion.misc
From: (James W. Revak)
Subject: Re: Kabbalah and Tarot History (was Hermetic QBL ...)
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2001 05:34:45 GMT

On Tue, 18 Dec 2001 21:44:30 GMT, Joseph  wrote:

>James W. Revak wrote:
>> >also,
>> >I'm not sure that Tarot should be characterized as either "pagan" or
>> >"Pagan" (the latter being a modern development).
>> Interestingly, in its original form in the Italian Renaissance it was
>> in all likelihood essentially a reflection of Christianity and
>> probably a fairly orthodox version of Christianity.  Where else does
>> the Pope and Last Judgment come from?
>the teacher or "heirophant" as well as a final battel between good and evil or
>a last judgement or evan (sp?) ragnorake are not at all uncommon to pre
>christian myths. 

But the figure in early Tarot decks is specifically the "Pope" and the
card is named such.  The Pope is a *Christian* figure.  The term
Hierophant was applied to this card only beginning in the late 18th

The Last Judgment depicted on early decks may indeed be compared to
any number of other similar concepts or myths in other cultures.
Still, in the culture in which Tarot first took root it was a
distinctly *Christian* concept.  The figures jumping out of graves,
and the angel with a trumpet and banner with a cross all comprised
typical Medieval/Renaissance iconography for the Last Judgment.  Crack
any good book on European art of these periods, and you'll see what I

If one wants to understand the "message" of Tarot as understood by
those who invented it and first used it, one has to look at the cards
through *their* eyes.  Looking at the cards through our 21st century
eyes, with their penchant to see "universals", "archetypes", "mythos",
etc., will not help us to understand what the inventors and early
users of the cards saw in them.  This doesn't mean that its bad to
look for "universals", "archetypes", etc., but it doesn't mean that
15th century Italian Christians would have typically looked for stuff
like this.

>its just my opinion, but as an former art student the
>iconography of the tarot can be seen to have pre christian sources 

Sure, but the Pope is the Pope is the Pope.  In the culture in which
Tarot first took root, the Pope was seen as a *Christian* figure.  He
had precious little to do the Hierophant of Eleusis or other aspects
of classical paganism.

>its just my opinion, but as an former art student the
>iconography of the tarot can be seen to have pre christian sources that were
>adapted to the christian mythos 

Sure, but Christians typically used pagan images and literature for
*Christian* ends and interpreted in way consonant with the *Christian*

>as was so much else of the pagan world, what
>you cant conquor assimilate. evan if the tarot does not go back any further
>than the 1500' there still seems to me to be very disctinctly pagan/pre
>christian images in the early decks.
Some images may well be pagan, but early decks are still basically a
Christian statement.  Similarly, there are pagan elements in the
ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but the ceiling is still basically a
Judeo-Christian statement.

JAMES W. REVAK - San Diego, CA, USA -

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