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The Insight Institute Tarot

September 27, 2011

Brian Burgess (see previous post) states twice to my knowledge in the pages of Prediction or Prediction Annual that the Insight Institute deck is a copy of a tarot from the fourteenth century. He may have misunderstood or misremembered. The Institute itself says that its deck is based on a fifteenth century tarot. As far as I am aware, however, the original deck the Insight Institute designs are based on has never been identified. Versions usually very like or practically identical to all the individual Trump cards of the Institute’s deck can be found – but not all together in one set. They are scattered through a series of decks from various eras.

H.T. Morley, who wrote an article of the Tarot for Prediction (which I have posted to the blog), wrote a book called Old and Curious Playing Cards. In the section devoted to the Tarot, Morley gives example illustrations of each Trump, sometimes more than one. Every one of the Trump designs used for the Institute’s deck appear in Morley’s book. The Institute’s Trump cards can be seen at Compare those with the illustrations from Old and Curious Playing Cards, some of which you will find below, while the remainder will be posted over the next few days. The dates of Morley’s illustration range from the fifteenth century (The Lovers) to the nineteenth (several, but most significantly his Sun, which is the same as the Waite-Smith design).

Morley also furnishes us with names of the Trumps in English, Italian and French as they were understood in his day. (Publication of his book will pre-date the Second World War; unfortunately I don’t have an exact year for this.) Here is what he says.

“The names on the 22 Atout Cards are: –

English Italian French
I The Magician Il Bagatell Le Bateleur
II The High Priestess or Pope Joan La Papessa La Papesse
III The Empress L’Imeratrice L’Imperatrice
IV The Emperor L’Imperatore L’Impereur
V The Hierophant or Pope Il Papa Le Pape
VI The Lovers Gli Amorti Les Amoreux
VII The Chariot Il Caro Le Chariot
VIII Justice La Giustizia La Justice
IX The Hermit L’Eremita L’Eremite
X Wheel of Fortune Ruota della Fortuna La Roue de Fortune
XI Fortitude or Strength La Forza La Force
XII The Hanged Man L’Appeso Le Pendu
XIII Death La Morte La Mort
XIV Temperance La Temperanza La Temperance
XV The Devil Il Diavolo Le Diable
XVI The Tower or Thunderbolt La Torre La Foudre
XVII The Star Le Stelle L’Etoile
XVIII The Moon La Luna La Lune
XIX The Sun Il Sole Le Soleil
XX The Last Judgement Il Giudizio Le Jugement
XXI The World Il Mondo Le Monde
The Fool Il Matto Le Fou

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