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Ready, Steady . . .

June 25, 2016

by Tony Willis                   


The subjects I’ve written about so far – the tarot’s early history, the game of tarock, the Marseilles tarot, the Qabalah, symbolism, and so forth – have been covered only briefly. I have given as much data as was needed to introduce anyone new to the tarot to these areas of study but no more. If you want to investigate any of these topics in greater depth, you will find many articles about them available on the Internet. For starters, you might try clicking on the following links:

Tarot history




Tarot de Marseilles

Résumé of Key Facts

Before continuing, I am going to make a résumé of two points having bearing on the great importance that the Marseilles deck has on any review of the occult aspects of the tarot.

The first is: There is no proof that the tarot existed prior to the first half of the fifteenth century.

The second is: Although there were a few isolated attempts at divining by means of the tarot in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it was not until 1781 that the esoteric fraternity began to take notice of the cards. The occultists of France were the first to investigate the possible occult content of the tarot. The version of the pack most readily available to them was the Marseilles deck and consequently, it became the point of departure for their speculations on the subject. They were unaware of earlier tarots, such as the Visconti de Modrone or the Pierpont Morgan Bergamo deck, commonly known today as the Visconti-Sforza deck. And even supposing there were tarots predating the early Italian decks just mentioned, French occultists knew nothing of them either. It was to the Marseilles tarot that they turned for inspiration and it was upon that deck’s symbolism that they erected their theories of the esoteric significances of individual cards and the occult rationale of the pack as a whole. It is for this reason that the Marseilles tarot deserves the attention of anyone attempting to delve into the roots of the occult tarot, on the principle that the nearer one gets to the source, the purer the water is.

to be continued

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