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Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews

To: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
From: (jk)
Subject: Re: Tarot Card Games and Crypto Jews (3)
Date: 15 May 2003 13:47:17 -0700

Catherine Yronwode  wrote in message news:<>...

> jk wrote:

>>> but the tradition of linking Tarot to Kabbalah began with the 
>>> Egyptomaniacal theories of French Freemasons:
> I used to believe as you do about this, Jess: I took a rationalist
> viewpoint---

As opposed to what, an irrationalist viewpoint? Being irrational
is certainly a Tarot tradition, but it isn't useful in determining
the facts of history, including the history of Tarot.

> , that i since i could see no logical reason why the Kabbalah
> was linked to playing cards (tarocchi or tarock decks)---

There is a logical reason why the Kabbalah was
linked to Tarot (which is a peculiar kind of playing cards),
and that reason is evident to people who know something
about Tarot and Kabbalah---they share a numerical motif
of twenty-two symbols. That alone is sufficient to explain
why people, already given to making metaphysical speculations
about the meanings of Tarot's "mysterious" trumps, would
make the Kabbalistic connection.

This tendency is strengthened when you consider who made
the connection---i.e., people already invested in Egyptian
(or Egyptomaniacal) and Apocalyptic dogmas, the very
Freemasons who invented occult Tarot.

That is not a conjecture. That is a fact.

> , it was logical to assume that any such claimed  the linkage 
> was a fantasy on the part of Hermetic Egyptomaniacs. 

It's only logical to conclude that IF you've got evidence
to support that conclusion. That same rule governs your
conjecturing. And you have not met even the least rigorous
standard for supplying convincing evidence for your claim.
You have instead invented a story to fit the absence of 
any supporting facts for your conjecture.

> The article cited at the beginning of this discussion---

---also offers conjectures, not fact-based arguments. That some
people have some stories about some behaviors, or even if
they presently exhibit those behaviors, is simply insufficient
evidence to support the claims you're making about what those
stories or behaviors indicate. You are acting like the occultists
who invented the Egyptian Tarot mythology. They also weren't
good historians.

> The mention of this linkage arose OUTSIDE the realm of Tarot
> scholarship -- 

And as you yourself admit---IT DOESN'T MENTION TAROT.

You need first to address that glaring shortcoming of your

The answer, or dodge, you've manufactured, is again insufficient.

> and in the much more staid and less-fantasy-prone realm
> of Crypto Jewish scholarship.

How much Crypto-Jewish scholarship have you actually read?

Perhaps the lack of mention of the use by Crypto-Jews
of Tarot cards is the result of this avoidance of
fantasy in that field of study. You might try emulating
that cautious approach.

> The mention of this linkage did not arise with reference to tarot
> cards per se -- but tarocchi / trionfi / tarock games were and are in
> the region where Jews were forced to convert or become Crypto Jews.

Once again, Tarot wasn't produced in Spain until lately, and
that's because there is no tradition of Tarot game play in
Spain. They have plenty of other card games, using the 
distinctive Spanish cards (which look different from
Italian and French cards), but Tarot never caught on
in Spain until it was adopted, as it was in the
UK and the United States, as a fortune-telling 

So, what you would have us believe is that---

1. Jews wished to mask their true beliefs by hiding
a Jewish practice under the guise of playing cards.

2. The deck of cards (Tarot) they chose for this purpose 
was rare in Spain, and so likely to draw attention to its 
users for that reason alone.

3. If only or mainly Jews or Crypto Jews used Tarot, again
a rare deck of cards in Spain, for this purpose, eventually
that fact would have been discerned by the Inquisition (which
is after all our source for much of the information concerning
the practices of Crypto Jews). In other words, if Crypto Jews
used Tarots it might have marked them as Crypto Jews
in a way that using regular Spanish card decks would not
have done.

You have offered NO evidence to support the idea that
the cards these Jews were supposedly using were Tarot

No evidence is an insufficient amount.

> Further, i believe that the linkage between these card decks and the
> teaching of the Torah as revealed in the study of Crypto Jewish
> history---

First off, what is revealed in the "study" is merely a claim
about this, nothing documented, and it is claimed to be a
family custom, not a regional one. So we don't have any
indication this practice (of teaching Torah with playing
cards) was widespread, nor even that it was actually 
something inherited as a tradition from centuries earlier.

> makes sense of the seemingly senseless connection between the
> cards and Kabbalah---

Again, the connection between Tarot and Kabbalah is not senseless. 
It is simply not accurate with respect to the historical basis claimed
for it by occultists.

In fact, the reason the connection was made was that it
was so obvious, so attractive to make it. It didn't require
much pondering, or even irrational guesswork, to SEE it.
But it did require more skepticism to confirm it than 
occultists were usually prepared to use.

> One of the most convincing points in this argument to me is that the
> origin of the linkage between playing cards and Crypto Jewish
> religious practices is both dated and located appropriately -- namely,
> to 1492, the year of the Spanish expulsion of the Jews from all
> regions they controlled, including Sicily in Italy. 

But you're talking here about people who were Crypto Jews, 
so people who presumably wouldn't have been expelled because
they were pretending NOT to be Jews.

> I say that this is "appropriate" in date and location because 
> the date falls well after the invention of tarocchi as a game 
> and Sicily is well within the expected spread of tarocchi card 
> decks throughout Italy, including those Italian regions controlled 
> by Spain at the time and thus under the Spanish edict of 
> Jewish expulsion. 

So what exactly is it you're trying to say happened?

Be very specific.

> Side note -- Sea-faring Jewish merchants regularly travelled the
> Mediterranean---

But that doesn't mean any of them were engaged in transporting
Tarot decks to Spanish Crypto Jews, especially for the purposes 
you wish to claim.

Again, you offer NO evidence, merely baseless conjecture.

> The fact that the custom of using playing cards as religious tools
> persists among Crypto Jews to this day -- 

It has not been demonstrated that this is a widespread or
persistent practice among Crypto Jews, or any Jews.

> 500 years after its origin---

That also has not been demonstrated. You are inventing fiction,
not offering historical speculation.

Again, no facts, the amount you're supplying here, is 

> -- indicates that it was a widely-based practice---

If your fiction were true in all particulars it might
indicate this, yes, but your fiction is only that,
a baseless conjecture.

>> Catherine indicated in her posting that the information at the 
>> link she provided "may shed light on the commonly held 
>> Hermetic belief that tarot or tarocchi game cards contain 
>> hidden symbolism relating to the Jewish Kabbalah."

> Yes, and i will now go a step farther, Jess. 


You have offered absolutely no evidence to build any additional
steps to your initial baseless conjecture.

> Based on this new information (new to me -- and apparently new to the
> world of tarot research, since i have not encountered it anywhere
> except in scholarship about Crypto Jews)---

"this new information" is your invention, not anything supported
by the article whose link you provided.

> i am now radically reversing my stand on the origins of what 
> i considered to be a "myth" on the part of Hermetic authors. 

Other than the confessional content, which perhaps has
relevance on some "support" group somewhere, the value of
this reversal is not evident with respect to enlightening
anyone concerning Tarot history.
> In short, i now think that the Hermetics---

Which "Hermetics"? 

Be specific.

> In short, i now believe that the association of
> tarocchi cards with Jewish mysticism predated the rise of the
> occult-Egyptomania craze---

Catherine, you don't even understand the meaning of the
terms you're attempting to employ, nor their historical
relevance. You're talking ignorantly about things which
only interest you to the extent you're being given a public
correction here. That correction will not cease merely
because your exploitation of your own ignorance expands 
in scope from the merely questionable to the ludicrous.

> I now believe---

What you believe is really not that interesting or
pertinent to the issues you pretend to address.

What you can document, what you can support with facts
and educated analyses, MIGHT be welcome, but that's not
what you're offering.

> The fact that a specific and unique Ladino word for playing cards -
> "barajas" -- exists in New Mexico among Crypto Jews, when the rest of
> the Spanish-speaking world calls these objects "cartas"---

The "rest of the Spanish-speaking world" is quite large
and varied and uses forms of baraj- to indicate several
card-playing ideas, including decks and shuffling. I've
not checked the etymology but I doubt it's Hebrew in 

> This leaves only one link incomplete -- 

Yes, and using your approach you should be able to 
also demonstrate the existence of Bigfoot-prints
on the ocean floor in the middle of the Bermuda 
Triangle. No doubt some Atlantean connection can
be made to this amazing (but also baseless) claim.

> the jump from the known teaching of Torah and/or the 
> observance of Jewish prayer via playing cards to the 
> not-yet-proven teaching of Jewish mystical Kabbalah via
> playing cards. 

No "jump" of this sort is required if you have not
supported your claims, and you haven't.

> However, given the early date of 1492 for the start of
> the custom of using tarocchi to teach Torah, i think that the link to
> Kabbalah can be safely assumed---

For nitwits, perhaps. Not for people seriously interested in
Tarot history. For the latter, "safety" is not merely a matter of
feeling good about one's latest imitation of Mary K. Greer---or Eric
von Daniken.

> Finally, we have the question of the "Egyptian" connection to tarot.
> Why Egypt?

> I suggest that if you wish to look into this further, from a
> researcher's point of view rather than a dogmatist's---

But you ARE a dogmatist, and certainly not evidently any kind
of reliable researcher. The question of "why Egypt?" has been
convincingly answered already, without need of any Crypto
Jewish inspirations.

[long irrelevant bit snipped]

Catherine, let me make you a suggestion. By all means send your
ideas, with an appropriate summary of where you'd like to take
them, off to a publisher. And you'd better do it quickly before
someone steals your "research". I have no doubt your book about
the Crypto-Jewish origins of occult Tarot would be unduly popular.

I also have no doubt that will welcome the opportunity
to review it in torturously painstaking detail.


Read jk's Tarot FAQ:
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