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Tarot History/Structure

To: alt.tarot,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.divination,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: Tarot History/Structure (was Re: The tarot in the restored order)
Date: 14 Mar 1997 07:50:04 -0800

49970314 AA1  Hail Satan!

apparently, Peter van den Berg wrote:
>> > At the moment I'm reading a book called 'The TAROT in the restored
>> > order',(almost 500 p., with lots of illustrations and diagrams etc.) that
>> > states that originally the Tarot deck must have had 80 cards! Almost
>> > everywhere they speak about the Tarot deck consisting of 78 cards,
>> > forgetting/omitting the two traditional blank cards.

when was this 'originally'?  who devised it?  on what basis is this
history conjectured?  my sources indicate that tarocchi, a card game
from Italy, was the most realistic origin of modern "Tarot" cards, 
though I am as yet unsure of how the switch was made between card 
game and cartomancy.

John :
>**What about the theory that the original Tarot Deck only contained 22 

if tarocchi is considered to be the earliest or 'original' card deck
(as compared to, say, the first ORACULAR deck), then it appears to
have originated in the 15th->16th centuries.  as Kaplan writes, in
his introduction to the Visconti-Sforza (Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo) 
Tarocchi Deck:

	The term *tarocchi* was used in Italy in the early
	sixteenth century, and quite probably in the fifteenth
	century, to describe the complete 78-card deck consisting
	of 22 Major Arcana or trump cards and 56 Minor Arcana or
	suit cards.  The words *tarocchi* and *tarocco* are often
	used interchangeably, although *tarochi* is actually the
	plural of *tarocco*.  *Tarot*, the French derivation of
	*tarocchi*, has come into widespread use in the English

	_Visconti Sforza (Instructions)_, by Stuart R. Kaplan,
		U.S. Games Systems, Inc., 1975; p. 3.

>The Minors and Courts came along earlier (or later) as a simple

later appears to be more well-founded by evidence.  as Kaplan continues:

	Many card-makers, from earliest times to the present,
	have sought to introduce a variety of suit signs
	including stars, arrows, birds, dogs, falcons, mirrors,
	columns, moons, anchors, etc., but did not strike the
	popular fancy....

	Some scholars believe the modern 52-card playing card
	deck derives from the early tarocchi packs -- the knight
	and page having been combined to form the jack and the
	22 trump cards having been dropped, with the exception
	of the Fool which survives as the Joker.  However, no
	one knows with certainty that the 22 Major Arcana and
	the 56 Minor Arcana were originally devised as a
	78-card deck.  It is sometimes theorized that the court
	and pip cards of the Minor Arcana developed independently
	of the trumps and at a later date the trumps were added
	to form the complete tarocchi pack....

	The Fool disappears from traditional ... packs until the
	middle of the nineteenth century when the Joker, occasionally
	pictured as a fool, begins to appear in 52-card American
	packs.  Therefore, it is difficult to substantiate any
	direct link between The Fool and the Joker, beyond the
	obvious humorous connotation....

	The earliest pack of tarot cards with numbers on the
	22 Major Arcana is a French deck by Catalin Geoffroy
	(possibly prepared  for export to Germany) which
	dates from about 1556 or 1557.  The same sequence is
	still popular today....

	Ibid, pp. 3-6.

>Does it all really matter?  

it matters if/when people begin enveloping the Tarot in a shroud
of mystery and claiming it originated with the Egyptians or was
devised by Gypsies as some Hermetic flim-flam.  there is value in
at times getting into the nitty-gritty of what is really known
about the history of the deck.  of course there is also value in
studying the mythos surrounding the deck's origins, and this can 
usually be seen to be a tool of a particular esoteric tradition's
perspective (whichever one happens to be making the claims).

>Are we losing sight of the reasons as to why they are here NOW 

'why they are here', or 'how they got here'?   the former implies
that there is some Overall Purpose for which all Tarot is geared.
I haven't noticed that this conception is popular amongst those
who are at all skeptical of tarotic origins, though (at first) 
game and (later) oracle appear to be the most popular uses.

the latter ('how...') is what can be rationally-derived from an 
honest look at the cards and their historical passage.  from this 
we can begin to ARRIVE at arguments about 'why they are here', 
and so the two are ultimately related, why they are here being 
implicated by how they arrived.

>in order to bat around the questions of when and how many??  

batting things around is usually a frivolous and useless pursuit,
and if not based on some sort of reliable research merely becomes
a quibbling row devoid of significance when engaged in Usenet.

>I'm satisfied to know there are 78 

'there are' is also ambiguous, since the term 'tarot', usually
applied to a formal structure inclusive of the format mentioned
by Kaplan above, is incorporated into the wider category of
'cartouche' or 'cartomancy'.  this latter contains all manner
of card-decks, some with resemblances to the classic Tarot 
structure, some which vary considerably from this, and some 
which have no connection whatever to tarot or its kindred (e.g. 
Rune, Mah Jong or I Ching cards).

>(or 79, depending on the use of the blank "Eternity" or 
>"Unknowable" card).

I have never heard of this card referred to in any classical
setting, though I have included it within a deck of my own
design.  along with the blank rune, I suspect it to be of
relatively modern derivation, though I'd love to hear more 
about which decks have one and what meanings it is ascribed.
the most popular classic decks (Smith-Waite/Harris-Crowley)
do not generally contain a Blank as part of their structure,
though the latter sometimes includes a Unicursal Hexagram.
see  and  call: 408/2-666-SLUG!!!
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