Tarot has experienced a resurgence in the past two decades and
has become especially popular recently, with newly minted modern
Tarot decks coming out frequently. There are now dozens of decks
from which to choose, representing themes from Egyptian and Celtic
to Native American and Feminist.
Over time, the Tarot cards have had their ups and downs, falling
from popular interest only to be once more resurrected by those
in search of the deeper meanings behind their complex symbolism.
As the saying goes, "Truth will always out."
The earliest known
"book" of Tarot cards still in existence are those from
1840-42, of which seventeen remain. The first entire deck still
in existence was painted by the Italian Bonifacio Bembo for the
Duke of Milan.
exist about the origins of the Tarot. During different periods
of history, occult
(the word means "hidden") studies were either freely
available to all or deeply secret, depending upon the prevailing
authorities of the culture's attitude toward occult knowledge.
One theory is that
in the great library of Alexandria in Egypt, whose female librarian
Hypatia was world-renowned for her wisdom and learning, there
existed scrolls (which was how books were made in those days)
containing all of the wisdom of the ancient world.
One of these "books"
was supposedly based on the legendary Book of Thoth, derived from
the mystery schools of Egypt. The allegorical illustrations on
the Tarot cards are said to contain these secret teachings, which
in the Major Arcana represent a course in personal development.
The esoteric teachings were hidden in the seemingly innocent pictures.
Gypsies are said to
have carried the cards to Europe and "gypsy" is considered
a corrupt form of "Egyptian." Considered by the Church
to be "the devil's picture book", the cards were quickly
condemned by the Catholic Church as heretical. Just to possess
them was a dangerous act.
There seems no doubt
that the cards were a means for preservation of ancient knowledge
that the Church considered dangerous, or heretical, at a time
when it was literally a danger to your life to believe anything
other than the established Church dogma.
we can only speculate on its origins, the Tarot images are inextricably
linked to ancient beliefs, mythologies, and religious systems
such as the Hebrew Cabala. Others, notably Pythagoras, believed
that letters and numbers are in themselves divine beings possessing
extraordinary powers; the Greek neo-Pythagorean school taught
No matter the origin
of the Tarot, it is clear that its motifs refer directly to fundamental
human psychological and spiritual experiences. The more one studies
them and practices their use, the deeper one's understanding becomes,
and the more they resonate to the inner life, as well as to events
in the outer life. They are primarily meant to be used for enlightenment,
for discovery of the authentic Self.
Number cards are believed
to have been added at a later date, around the time of the first
known deck in the fourteenth century. This theory suggests that
they derive from an Italian card game known as Tarrochi.
will never know their true history, that needn't prevent us from
using their wisdom, for the Tarot cards do indeed tell a powerful
story: the story of the development of human life. It is an adventure
story, like the hero's journey, filled with challenges, obstacles
to be overcome, lessons to be learned, reconciliations to be achieved,
honor to be protected, goals to be formulated and reached. In
this universal story, each of us undertakes his or her own Way,
following whatever symbolism speaks to us at the moment of a reading.
It is this amazing flexibility that has allowed the Tarot and
its marvelous symbols to endure through long and tumultuous centuries
in order to come down to us today.
The Soul of the World
In the view
of the alchemists and mystics, the universal significance of such
symbols as the Tarot presents and preserves was thought to spring
from the anima mundi, or soul of the world, which was seen as
a vast repository of knowledge, like a universal library, that
was filled with the memories and wisdom of the entire human race-past,
present, and future. Sometimes called the "Akashic records",
this source of knowledge could be accessed by anyone willing to
make the effort of deep contemplation.
collective pool are all the basic figures found in religions,
myths, legends, and fairy
tales. Taken together, these figures encapsulate a magical storehouse
of profound esoteric knowledge. For example, The Empress symbolizes
the essence of femininity as represented by the great mother Goddess
of the world's most ancient religion. She can be seen as the representative
of what Goethe called "the eternal feminine", in both
myth and psychology.
Thus does each figure
of the Tarot call forth from the individual's unconscious a deep
resonance. Contact with these images in a conscious, intentional
way allows their hidden counterparts -- denizens of the deepest
layer of human collectivity -- to surface and become integrated
into a person's life.
a reading is a story -- the images on the cards meld into a meaningful
pattern that can clarify the issues confronting the person for
whom the reading is held. In a profound sense, if taken rightly,
a reading can act like a vivid, enlightening dream or a moment
of the flash of inspiration-the "Ah-ha" experience.
"So, that's how it goes!"
are wonderful for meditation, as well as for divination, or the
answering of questions. They act to stimulate the intuition, which
is the key to the gateway of the unconscious. They act to illuminate
the hidden factors in a person's life that bear on the situation
at hand. Often, the person him- or herself may be unaware of these
inner issues that are secretly shaping the course of his or her
life. The Tarot, by contacting what is inside the person, reveals
About The Author :
M. J. Abadie is a professionally trained psychic, Tarot reader,
and author. She has written several books on a variety of New
Age topics, including Your Psychic Potential; Awaken to Your Spiritual
Self ; and most recently Child Astrology: A Guide to Nurturing
Your Child's Natural Gifts.