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Tarot History

To: nagasiva 
From: "Bob O'Neill" 
Subject: Re: Tarot History (was .... and Re: 'Real' vs. 'Nonhistorical....)
Date: Thu, 19 Jun 1997 18:12:12 -0400

> nagasiva:
> >> please mention some earlier occultist-types than de Gebelin and Levi....

If you mean by occultist-types: reading with the cards -
	Then the answer is that de Gebelin is the earliest author.  There are
some few hints of earlier reading and some hints that ordinary cards
were used earlier.  But de Gebelin essentially "invented" reading.

But if you mean something broader by "occultist-types" - 
Something like: saw the Trumps as a symbolic system to be used
individually to understand the psychological stages leading to satori -
Then, there is evidence that this kind of "occult" usage is as old as
the cards themselves.
This is discussed by Michael Dummett (Game of Tarot) - but he is a
It is discussed at length in O'Neill Tarot Symbolism - available from
Weiser and New Leaf Distributors. can get you a copy also.
Giles book on the Tarot also discusses it.

But this evidence is all indirect -
There are bits and pieces of literary references - detailed in Dummett's
Game of Tarot and also reviewed in Kaplan, Encyclopedia of the Tarot - I
think he gives the texts of all of the early reference to the Tarot in
volumes I and III.

As far as we know, no one prior to de Gebelin sat down and wrote a whole
book on Tarot and the "occult" or "esoteric" or whatever.
So in one sense, you can start with de Gebelin.
But you will miss out on the possibility of a couple of hundred years of
development -
during which the Tarot was seen as a guide to god-union but nobody wrote
a book about it.
If you start with de Gebelin - 
You start with a late and distorted view that the Tarot is about reading
Please don't get the impression that this is the important part of

> >"I'm beginning to compile a small list of names for further study in
> >the origins of tarot as a field..."...
> as a field of study and practical *occult* application (rather than
> card games or the collection or creation of artwork or emblems or
> however you'd like to categorize them).

You left out "as a guide to self-realization"
If you include that then the list changes significantly.
If you restrict the "occult" uses to reading with the cards -
then de Gebelin is a good starting point.
> >you wished to discuss the 'origins of tarot'.
> that is correct, as an arcane tool of divination and reflection which
> may be utilized to communicate esoteric ideas in a directed manner or
> to construct a syncretic symbol-set useful to ceremonial magicians
> with these in mind.

If you are serious about the "reflection" part, then the list of books
to read is very, very different than the list for "divination" and
"ceremonial magic".  The Tarot is richer than just "divination" and
"ceremonial magic" 

Please let me know if I can be of help.

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