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Tarot History

To: alt.magick
From: (Mark Danburg-Wyld)
Subj: Tarot History (0000.trthist.bdw)
Date: unknown

Quoting: |markk@cypress.West.Sun.COM 

|Well, were it not for your the date, I would say this sounds like Eliaphas Levi
|and Papus.  I am very bad with dates, but I thought that Levi wrote in the 
|early 1800s and Papus in the late 1800s.  I just recently read Papus' 'Tarot 
|of the Bohemians' and he did indeed conclude that they were the sum of all 
|universal knowledge, carefully encoded in cards by the egyptians so that
|they would survive, safely hidden, until the descendents of the enlightened
|again came looking for them ... and now you tell me that, not only was this
|theory poot, but it was rehashed poot ... say not so :-)

        Papus wrote _Le Tarot des Bohe'miens_ in 1889 - about 30 years or
so after Le'vi.  It was kind of the peak of interest in Tarot in France,

|I picked up Papus' book, hoping to find a history of the evolution of tarot
|from the first Italian deck of tarochi through the Marseilles deck ... 
|(but it was not to be :-).  His history was too mixed with his enthusiasm,
|and the book was more about his system than about the history of the cards
|and their symbols.   
|It sounds like you've been reading better sources than I have.  What works 
|have you found that offer a credible history of the cards?

        My main source for the history of Tarot is Michael Dummett's _The
Game of Tarot_.  He's very anti-occult and is quite merciless about the
foibles of those who popularized the deck for divinatory purposes.  But he
has a damn good, and damn long, history of the deck. 

|       an amusing thing about the english translation of Tarot of the
|       Bohemians ... the introduction was written by Waite.  Usually
|       (at least in my experience) introductions are written by people
|       who respect the author and the work.  Not so in this case.  Waite
|       starts out by congratulating (the then deceased?) Papus on his
|       pioneering work, and then going on to tear him to shreds on his
|       credulity, scholarship and overly simplistic approach.

        I'm convinced Waite knew the history of the Tarot deck, but didn't
care.  Any of the French occultists of the late 1700 or early 1800's had to
know the 'history' often given for the deck was a total crock, if only
because they probably had a good enough memory to know no-one had ever
mentioned it before 1781.  Waite probably knew de Gebelin had invented the
occult use of the deck, but was more interested in inventing his own 
version to spend much energy clearing up the mess others had made over the

        That's one thing I like about the Tarot, it's been constantly
re-invented since it fell into the occultists hands.  Adding Egyptian
symbols, inventing Kabbalah correspondences, re-doing the entire Minor
Arcana, re-naming the suits, or the royals, or the Major Arcana, or all
of the above, or scraping it all and starting from scratch...  Yep, it's
a big ole, chaotic mess out there.  But definitely lively.  :-) 

Peace to all who read this.....Mark

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