Playing cards have a fascinating history that spans continents and centuries. The origins of playing cards can be traced back to ancient China, where paper was invented during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). The Chinese created paper playing cards as early as the 9th century during the Tang Dynasty. These cards were similar to the ones we use today, divided into suits and used for various games.
The concept of playing cards likely traveled along the Silk Road, the ancient trade routes that connected China to the Middle East and Europe. By the late 14th century, playing cards had made their way into Europe, likely through interactions with the Islamic world in Spain and Italy.
When playing cards arrived in Europe, they underwent significant transformations. The early European cards were hand-painted and used for games and gambling. The decks consisted of four suits—swords, cups, coins, and polo sticks—which are similar to the suits in modern tarot decks. These cards were used by the wealthy and nobility for entertainment.
The evolution of playing cards into tarot cards is a bit murky and shrouded in historical mystery. Tarot cards, as we know them today, originated in the 15th century in Italy. The earliest known tarot decks were created for the Duke of Milan’s family in the 1440s. These early tarot decks were used for a game called Tarocchi, a trick-taking game similar to the game of Bridge.
The earliest known cards still in existence date from 1392 and, of these, only 17 remain. It is believed that they were painted for Charles VI of France by Jacquemin Gringonneur, but it is possible that they are actually less ancient and are Tarocchi of Venice cards from the middle of the 15th century. The earliest surviving full deck was painted in 1422 by Italian artist Bonifacio Bembo. This is known as the Visconti deck after the family name of itscommissioner, the Duke of Milan.The standard modern deck consists of 78 cards split into two sections: the 22 cards of the Major Arcana (thearchetypal Tarot cards, such as the Lovers, Death and Judgement), and the 56 cards of the Minor Arcana (four suitsof fourteen cards, each comprised of cards numbered from one to ten, and four ‘court’ cards). This structure is a derivation of the Venetian or Piedmontese Tarot, but early decks were of several types with varying numbers ofcards. Examples of early European decks related to the Tarot include:
- Tarocchi of Venice (also known as the Lombardi Deck), which has the same structure as a modern Tarot deck
- Tarocchi of Mantegna, consisting of five series of ten cards each
- Tarocchino of Bologna, which differs from the standard structure in having no court cards in the MinorArcana (so 62 cards in total), and is thought, probably erroneously, to have been invented by FrancoisFibbia, Prince of Pisa
- Minchiate of Florence, a 98-card deck consisting of the standard 78 cards augmented by twenty additionalmajor cards representing the twelve signs of the zodiac, the four elements (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) andfour cardinal virtues (Hope, Prudence, Faith and Charity; though these are often considered to beWisdom/Prudence, Temperance, Courage/Fortitude and Justice).
The tarot deck used for Tarocchi consisted of the standard four suits found in regular playing cards, but it also included additional symbolic cards. These extra cards depicted allegorical imagery, including figures such as the Fool, the Magician, the High Priestess, the Empress, and the Emperor. These symbolic cards were likely influenced by various sources, including ancient mysticism, astrology, and religious symbolism.
Over the centuries, tarot cards started to be associated with divination and occult practices. This shift in purpose occurred primarily in the 18th century when French and English occultists began to interpret the symbolism of the tarot cards in a mystical and esoteric manner. They assigned deeper meanings to the cards, linking them to astrology, Kabbalah, and other mystical traditions.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the tarot experienced a revival, thanks in part to the efforts of occultists like Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, who created the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. This deck, published in 1909, is one of the most popular and enduring tarot decks in use today.
Since then, tarot cards have continued to evolve, with various artists and mystics creating their interpretations of the cards. Tarot readings have become a popular form of divination and spiritual guidance, offering insights into the past, present, and future for those who seek its wisdom.
Visconti-Sforza Tarot (1450-1460)
The Visconti-Sforza Tarot is one of the oldest and most renowned tarot decks in existence. Created in the mid-15th century in Milan, Italy, the deck is attributed to the Visconti and Sforza families, powerful and influential Italian dynasties of the Renaissance period. The Visconti-Sforza Tarot is considered a masterpiece of art and a significant historical artifact, providing valuable insights into the symbolism and artistic styles of the time.
Here are some key features of the Visconti-Sforza Tarot:
The Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck is known for its exquisite and detailed artwork. The cards were created using tempera paint on gold leaf backgrounds, showcasing intricate designs and vibrant colors. The artists paid meticulous attention to the symbolism and imagery depicted on each card.
- Number of Cards:
The original Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck consists of 78 cards, divided into the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana comprises 22 trump cards, while the Minor Arcana consists of 56 suit cards, divided into four suits: swords, cups, coins (or pentacles), and batons (or wands).
- Themes and Symbolism:
The imagery in the Visconti-Sforza Tarot is rich in symbolism, reflecting the cultural and social norms of the Renaissance period. The Major Arcana cards feature allegorical figures and scenes, each representing different aspects of life, virtue, and destiny. The Minor Arcana cards, similar to standard playing cards, depict scenes related to everyday life and activities.
- Historical Significance:
The Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck is considered one of the earliest tarot decks ever created. It holds immense historical and artistic value, offering a glimpse into the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the Italian nobility during the 15th century. The cards were likely used for gaming and entertainment by the aristocracy of the time.
- Preservation and Legacy:
Despite the passage of centuries, some of the original Visconti-Sforza Tarot cards have survived and are now housed in various museums and private collections around the world. Reproductions and facsimile editions have also been created, allowing modern tarot enthusiasts and historians to study and appreciate these ancient cards.
The Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck remains an enduring symbol of the fusion of art, mysticism, and history, captivating the imagination of those interested in the origins of tarot and the cultural heritage of Renaissance Italy.
2. Charles VI Tarot (1460s)
The Charles VI Tarot, also known as the Gringonneur Tarot, is one of the oldest surviving tarot decks, dating back to the 15th century. This deck is named after King Charles VI of France, and it is often attributed to an artist called Gringonneur. The exact origins and creator of the deck are shrouded in mystery, but it is widely believed to have been created in the 1460s in Milan, Italy.
- Artistic Style:
The Charles VI Tarot is known for its distinctive artistic style. The cards are hand-painted and feature intricate, detailed artwork. The Major Arcana cards, in particular, showcase rich symbolism and elaborate designs, depicting allegorical figures and scenes.
- Number of Cards:
The Charles VI Tarot consists of 78 cards, like a standard tarot deck, divided into the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana comprises 22 trump cards, while the Minor Arcana consists of 56 suit cards, divided into four suits: swords, cups, coins (or pentacles), and batons (or wands).
- Historical Significance:
The historical significance of the Charles VI Tarot lies in its age and the insights it provides into the early development of tarot cards. It is considered one of the earliest examples of tarot decks in existence. The deck reflects the cultural and artistic influences of the Renaissance period in Italy.
- Preservation and Legacy:
Only 17 of the original Charles VI Tarot cards are known to have survived the centuries and are now housed in various museums and private collections. These surviving cards are highly valuable and are studied by tarot enthusiasts, historians, and scholars interested in the history and symbolism of tarot cards.
- Influence on Tarot History:
The Charles VI Tarot, along with other early tarot decks, played a significant role in the evolution of tarot symbolism and interpretation. While the meanings of the cards have evolved over time, the symbolism present in these early decks laid the foundation for the interpretations used in modern tarot readings.
It’s important to note that due to the age of the Charles VI Tarot and the scarcity of surviving cards, it is extremely rare and valuable. As with many historical artifacts, its true origins and the stories behind its creation may never be fully revealed, adding to its mystique and allure among tarot enthusiasts and historians.
3. Tarot de Marseille (Late 17th Century)
A cornerstone in Tarot’s evolution, the Tarot de Marseille epitomizes clarity and intuition. With its bold colors and potent, simplified imagery, this deck became the archetype for countless Tarot interpretations, emphasizing symbolism and intuitive understanding.
The Tarot de Marseille is one of the most influential and enduring tarot decks in the history of tarot cards. It originated in the late 17th century in France and has since become the foundational archetype for many modern tarot decks. Here are the key aspects of the Tarot de Marseille:
The Tarot de Marseille emerged in the late 17th century in the city of Marseille, France. While its exact origins are somewhat mysterious, it is widely believed to have been based on earlier Italian tarot decks, possibly from the region of Milan. The deck’s design and symbolism were standardized in the 18th century, and it has served as a template for numerous subsequent tarot decks.
- Artistic Style:
The Tarot de Marseille is characterized by its simple yet bold and iconic imagery. The cards typically feature a stark color palette, with primary colors such as red, blue, yellow, and green dominating the illustrations. The Minor Arcana cards often consist of geometric shapes representing the suit symbols, and the Major Arcana cards feature archetypal figures and scenes.
- Card Structure:
Like most traditional tarot decks, the Tarot de Marseille consists of 78 cards. These are divided into the Major Arcana (22 cards) and the Minor Arcana (56 cards). The Major Arcana represent significant life events and spiritual lessons, while the Minor Arcana focus on everyday situations and challenges. The Minor Arcana consists of four suits: Cups, Swords, Coins (or Pentacles), and Batons (or Wands).
The Tarot de Marseille has had a profound influence on the development of tarot reading and interpretation. Many tarot readers and scholars consider it a classic and essential deck for understanding the traditional meanings of the cards. Its symbolism and structure have been adapted and incorporated into numerous modern tarot decks, making it a cornerstone of tarot traditions.
- Modern Reprints and Variations:
In the modern era, the Tarot de Marseille has seen various reprints and artistic interpretations. While some decks stay true to the traditional design, others incorporate new artistic elements and styles. Tarot readers often choose decks based on personal preference, and the Tarot de Marseille remains a popular choice due to its historical significance and timeless appeal.
- Esoteric and Occult Significance:
The Tarot de Marseille has also been associated with esoteric and occult traditions. Occultists like Éliphas Lévi and Aleister Crowley have explored the deeper symbolism of the Tarot de Marseille, attributing mystical meanings to the cards beyond their surface interpretations. This esoteric exploration has contributed to the deck’s enduring mystique.
The Tarot de Marseille continues to be a source of fascination for tarot enthusiasts, historians, and practitioners of divination, showcasing the enduring power of its symbolism and the timeless appeal of its artistic design.
4. Etteilla Tarot (Late 18th Century)
The Etteilla Tarot, also known as the Book of Thoth Etteilla Tarot, is a historic tarot deck created in the late 18th century by Jean-Baptiste Alliette, who used the pseudonym “Etteilla.” Alliette was a French occultist, cartomancer, and writer who played a significant role in popularizing tarot reading in France during his time.
- Etteilla’s Influence:
Jean-Baptiste Alliette, who was a respected tarot reader, published a book titled “Manière de se récréer avec le jeu de cartes nommées tarots” (How to Entertain Yourself with the Deck of Cards Called Tarot) in 1783. In this book, he introduced his own tarot deck and the principles of divination associated with it. He claimed that his deck was based on ancient Egyptian wisdom, linking the tarot cards to Egyptian hieroglyphs and mysticism.
- Deck Design:
The Etteilla Tarot deck is distinct from traditional tarot decks like the Tarot de Marseille. It features unique imagery and symbolism inspired by Alliette’s interpretations of Egyptian mysticism. The Major Arcana cards have titles and keywords in French, and the imagery often incorporates Egyptian motifs. The Minor Arcana cards, instead of using pictorial illustrations, are more akin to playing cards, displaying arrangements of the suit symbols (wands, cups, swords, and coins).
- Relevance in Tarot History:
The Etteilla Tarot holds historical significance because it marks a shift in tarot reading traditions. Alliette’s interpretations and symbolism diverged significantly from earlier tarot traditions, and his influence contributed to the development of esoteric tarot practices in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Esoteric and Occult Connections:
The Etteilla Tarot, like many other tarot decks, has been embraced by various esoteric and occult groups. Alliette’s work laid the foundation for future occultists, including members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley, who explored deeper esoteric meanings within tarot cards. These interpretations often went beyond Alliette’s original ideas, delving into complex occult symbolism and mysticism.
- Modern Revival:
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in historical tarot decks, including the Etteilla Tarot. Modern publishers have created reproductions of the Etteilla Tarot, making this unique deck accessible to contemporary tarot enthusiasts and collectors. These reproductions often include guidebooks that explain Alliette’s interpretations and divinatory methods.The Etteilla Tarot remains a fascinating artifact in the history of tarot, representing a pivotal moment when tarot reading began to incorporate diverse mystical and occult traditions, contributing to the rich tapestry of tarot interpretations that exist today. The Etteilla Tarot marks a transformative era, transitioning Tarot from mere playing cards to a tool of divination and occultism. Jean-Baptiste Alliette’s interpretations linked Tarot with astrology, numerology, and the Kabbalah, laying the groundwork for modern Tarot practices.
5. Ancient Italian Tarot (18th Century)
Preserving medieval Tarot symbolism while embracing Enlightenment aesthetics, the Ancient Italian Tarot blends tradition with evolving artistic sensibilities. Its intricate illustrations capture the enigma of Tarot, merging historical depth with cultural refinement.
The Ancient Italian Tarot, also known as the Tarocco Italiano Antico or Tarocco Piemontese, is a historic tarot deck that originated in the 18th century in Italy. It is one of the regional variations of the tarot, distinct from the more well-known Tarot de Marseille and other tarot decks. Here are some key characteristics and information about the Ancient Italian Tarot:
- Regional Variation:
The Ancient Italian Tarot is a regional tarot deck, specifically associated with the Piedmont region of northern Italy. It’s important to note that Italy has a rich tradition of tarot decks, and various regions have their unique tarot designs and interpretations.
- Deck Structure:
Like most traditional tarot decks, the Ancient Italian Tarot consists of 78 cards, divided into two main categories: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana includes 22 trump cards, each with its unique symbolism, and the Minor Arcana comprises 56 suit cards divided into four suits: Cups, Coins (or Denari), Swords, and Batons (or Clubs).
- Artistic Style:
The Ancient Italian Tarot is characterized by its distinctive artistic style. The cards often feature detailed and intricate illustrations, and the imagery is generally more ornate compared to some other tarot decks. The cards may also include references to Italian culture and history.
- Numbering and Titles:
The Major Arcana cards in the Ancient Italian Tarot are typically numbered using Roman numerals and are often unnumbered, with only the card’s title displayed. The titles are in Italian, and the imagery is unique to this deck.
- Cultural Significance:
The Ancient Italian Tarot holds cultural significance within the Piedmont region of Italy. It reflects the tarot tradition as it evolved in that particular area during the 18th century and may have been used for both gaming and divination.
While tarot cards have a long history of use in divination and fortune-telling, it’s important to note that many historic tarot decks, including the Ancient Italian Tarot, were originally created for card games and entertainment. Divinatory practices associated with tarot evolved later.
- Modern Reproductions:
In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in historic tarot decks, including the Ancient Italian Tarot. Modern publishers have created reproductions of this deck, often with guidebooks that provide interpretations and insights into the card meanings.
The Ancient Italian Tarot is a valuable historical artifact that provides a window into the diverse world of tarot traditions in different regions of Italy. It offers a unique perspective on tarot symbolism and artistic expression, making it of interest to tarot enthusiasts, collectors, and scholars of tarot history.
6. Tarot de Paris (19th Century)
The Tarot de Paris, also known as the Tarot of Paris, is a 19th-century tarot deck that originated in France. It is a variation of the traditional Tarot de Marseille, incorporating unique artistic elements and interpretations. Here are some key aspects of the Tarot de Paris:
- Artistic Style:
The Tarot de Paris features a distinctive artistic style typical of the 19th century. The illustrations on the cards are often more ornate and detailed than earlier tarot decks. The deck incorporates vibrant colors and intricate designs, capturing the aesthetic sensibilities of the time.
- Deck Structure:
Like the traditional Tarot de Marseille, the Tarot de Paris consists of 78 cards, divided into the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana includes 22 trump cards, each depicting a unique symbolic scene or figure. The Minor Arcana consists of four suits: Cups, Swords, Coins (or Pentacles), and Batons (or Wands).
- Variations and Innovation
- The Tarot de Paris, while rooted in the Tarot de Marseille tradition, often incorporates unique variations and innovations in its imagery. The symbolism on the cards might deviate slightly from the traditional Marseille patterns, reflecting the artistic freedom of the deck’s creator.
- Cultural Significance:
- The Tarot de Paris is a product of the 19th-century French occult revival, a period when there was a renewed interest in mysticism, the occult, and esoteric traditions. Tarot cards, including variations like the Tarot de Paris, became popular tools for divination and spiritual exploration during this time.
Usage and Interpretation:
- Like other tarot decks, the Tarot de Paris is used for divination, meditation, and spiritual introspection. Tarot readers interpret the cards’ symbolism to gain insights into various aspects of life, including relationships, career, and personal growth.
Collectability and Availability:
- The Tarot de Paris, being a historical and artistic tarot deck, is often sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. While original 19th-century decks are rare and valuable, there are modern reproductions and editions available for those interested in exploring this unique tarot variation.
What makes the Tarot de Paris different from the Tarot de Marseille?
The Tarot de Paris and the Tarot de Marseille are both tarot decks, and while they share some similarities due to their common roots, they also have distinct differences, especially in terms of artistic style and interpretation. Here’s what sets the Tarot de Paris apart from the traditional Tarot de Marseille:
- Artistic Style: Tarot de Marseille: The Tarot de Marseille is characterized by its iconic and relatively simple illustrations. The artwork in the Marseille deck often features bold outlines, primary colors, and straightforward, easily recognizable symbolism. The scenes are typically less detailed, allowing for broader interpretation.
Tarot de Paris: The Tarot de Paris, on the other hand, exhibits a more detailed and ornate artistic style. The illustrations are often richer in colors and intricate designs. The Tarot de Paris tends to have a more decorative and elaborate aesthetic compared to the simpler and more straightforward Marseille deck.
- Card Variations: Tarot de Marseille: The Marseille deck has a set pattern and specific symbols that repeat across different versions of the deck. While there can be some variation in artistic representation, the core symbols, especially in the Major Arcana, remain relatively consistent.
Tarot de Paris: The Tarot de Paris often incorporates unique variations and innovations in its imagery. The symbolism on the cards might deviate slightly from the traditional Marseille patterns, reflecting the artistic freedom of the deck’s creator. This creative freedom can lead to more diverse interpretations.
- Historical Period: Tarot de Marseille: The Tarot de Marseille has a longer historical lineage, with its roots dating back to the 18th century or earlier. It has influenced many subsequent tarot decks and reading traditions.
Tarot de Paris: The Tarot de Paris is a product of the 19th-century French occult revival. It emerged during a period of renewed interest in mysticism and the occult, influencing tarot interpretation within that specific historical and cultural context.
- Occult Significance: Tarot de Marseille: The Marseille deck has been widely used in occult practices and esoteric traditions. Its symbolism has been explored by various occultists and scholars, making it a significant tool in Western esotericism.
Tarot de Paris: The Tarot de Paris, while still utilized in divination and spiritual practices, is less widely recognized in occult literature. It holds historical significance but might not be as extensively studied or used in esoteric traditions as the Marseille deck.
While both the Tarot de Paris and the Tarot de Marseille are valuable tarot decks, the differences in their artistic styles, historical contexts, and usage make them unique in their own right. Tarot enthusiasts often appreciate the diversity of tarot decks and enjoy exploring the nuances and interpretations offered by different variations like the Tarot de Paris.
The Tarot de Paris stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of tarot cards and their ability to evolve and adapt over time, reflecting the cultural and artistic influences of different historical periods. Today, it continues to be appreciated for its artistic beauty and its role in the rich tapestry of tarot history.
7. Wirth Tarot (1889)
The Wirth Tarot, also known as the Tarot des Imagiers du Moyen Age (Tarot of the Imagiers of the Middle Ages), was a significant tarot deck created in 1889 by Oswald Wirth, a Swiss occultist and artist. Oswald Wirth was deeply interested in esotericism, occultism, and the symbolism of tarot cards. He designed the Wirth Tarot in collaboration with French occultist Stanislas de Guaita. Here are some key aspects of the Wirth Tarot:
- Artistic Style:
The Wirth Tarot is known for its intricate and detailed artwork. The cards feature rich symbolism, esoteric imagery, and vibrant colors. Wirth’s artistic style draws inspiration from medieval and Renaissance art, incorporating elements of mysticism and spirituality.
- Deck Structure:
The Wirth Tarot follows the standard tarot structure, consisting of 78 cards. This includes the Major Arcana (22 cards) and the Minor Arcana (56 cards). The Major Arcana represents significant archetypal themes, while the Minor Arcana focuses on everyday aspects of life through the suits of Cups, Swords, Coins (or Pentacles), and Batons (or Wands).
- Symbolism and Esoteric Influences:
The Wirth Tarot deck is heavily influenced by esoteric and occult traditions. It incorporates symbolism from various mystical and spiritual sources, including Kabbalah, astrology, alchemy, and the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Each card is rich in symbolic meaning, making it a popular choice among those interested in deeper esoteric interpretations.
- Influence on Tarot Studies:
The Wirth Tarot had a significant impact on the development of tarot studies and esoteric tarot traditions. Wirth’s interpretations of the tarot cards, as well as his emphasis on their spiritual and mystical significance, contributed to the evolving understanding of tarot symbolism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Modern Reprints and Availability:
Over the years, the Wirth Tarot has been reprinted and republished, allowing modern tarot enthusiasts access to this historically significant deck. These reproductions often include guidebooks that explore Wirth’s interpretations and provide insights into the esoteric meanings of the cards.
The Wirth Tarot remains a valuable and respected deck among tarot readers and scholars interested in the intersection of tarot, mysticism, and esoteric traditions. Its intricate artwork and profound symbolism continue to captivate those who seek to explore the deeper dimensions of tarot reading.
8. Rider-Waite Tarot (1910)
A pivotal moment in Tarot’s history, the Rider-Waite Tarot, designed by A. E. Waite and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, revolutionized Tarot symbolism. Its nuanced illustrations and esoteric references set a new standard, enriching Tarot readings with profound symbolism and mysticism.
The Rider-Waite Tarot, also known as the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot or simply the Rider Tarot, is one of the most popular and enduring tarot decks in the world. Created in 1910, it is often credited to the occultist A.E. Waite and the artist Pamela Colman Smith, though the true extent of their collaboration is still a topic of scholarly debate. Here are the key aspects of the Rider-Waite Tarot:
- 1. Collaborators:
- A.E. Waite: Arthur Edward Waite (2 October 1857 – 19 May 1942) was an occultist and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society focused on the study and practice of the occult, mysticism, and paranormal activities.
- Pamela Colman Smith: (16 February 1878 – 18 September 1951), nicknamed “Pixie”, was a British artist, illustrator, writer, publisher, and occultist, and a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as well. It was her artistic talent that brought Waite’s vision of the tarot to life through the vibrant and evocative illustrations.
- 2. Departure from Tradition:
- The Rider-Waite Tarot departed significantly from the traditional tarot decks of its time, particularly the Tarot de Marseille. It introduced detailed, expressive illustrations on each card, especially in the Minor Arcana, which were often more abstract in earlier decks. This made the Rider-Waite Tarot more accessible and visually engaging for readers.
- 3. Symbolism and Imagery:
- Rich Symbolism: The Rider-Waite Tarot is rich in symbolism. Each card, both Major and Minor Arcana, contains intricate imagery and symbols, allowing for a broader range of interpretations.
- Intuitive Imagery: The imagery in the Rider-Waite Tarot was designed to evoke intuitive and emotional responses from readers. It incorporated scenes and figures that people could relate to, making the tarot more approachable and relatable.
- 4. Influence and Popularity:
- The Rider-Waite Tarot became immensely popular and has influenced countless tarot decks created in its wake. Many modern tarot readers and enthusiasts use decks based on the Rider-Waite system, appreciating its depth of symbolism and the intuitive connections it fosters.
- 5. Legacy and Modern Variations:
- The Rider-Waite Tarot has become a foundational reference point for tarot readers and scholars. Its symbolism and interpretations are widely studied, and it continues to inspire new decks and artists. There are numerous variations and reimagined versions of the Rider-Waite Tarot, each offering a unique perspective on its iconic imagery.
- 6. Contribution to Tarot Reading:
- The Rider-Waite Tarot played a significant role in popularizing tarot reading as a form of divination and self-reflection. Its approachable symbolism and clear imagery have made it a favorite among beginners and experienced readers alike.
The Rider-Waite Tarot remains a cornerstone of tarot history, revered for its enduring impact on the world of divination and its timeless appeal to tarot enthusiasts around the globe.
9. Thoth Tarot (1944)
The Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot, often simply referred to as the Thoth Tarot, is a tarot deck created by the renowned occultist Aleister Crowley and the artist Lady Frieda Harris. It was originally designed between 1938 and 1943 and was posthumously published in 1969. The Thoth Tarot is highly regarded for its deep symbolism, intricate artwork, and connections to esoteric traditions. Here are the key aspects of the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot:
- 1. Collaboration:
- Aleister Crowley: An influential occultist, magician, and writer, Crowley was a member of several occult orders, including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He was deeply interested in mysticism, astrology, and the occult sciences.
- Lady Frieda Harris: An artist and occultist, Harris collaborated closely with Crowley to create the artwork for the Thoth Tarot. Crowley’s detailed instructions and Harris’s artistic skills resulted in the vibrant and complex imagery of the deck.
- 2. Symbolism and Esoteric Influence:
- Rich Symbolism:
The Thoth Tarot is known for its rich and layered symbolism. Each card is intricately designed, incorporating symbolism from various mystical and occult traditions, including Kabbalah, astrology, alchemy, and Egyptian mythology.
- Esoteric Influences:
Crowley infused the deck with his deep knowledge of esotericism, including his interpretations of the Tree of Life, astrological correspondences, and magical symbolism. The deck reflects his Thelemic philosophy, emphasizing personal transformation and spiritual evolution.
- 3. Artistic Style:
- Colorful and Detailed:
The Thoth Tarot is characterized by its vivid and intricate artwork. The cards are filled with vibrant colors, complex patterns, and intricate details, allowing for a profound exploration of the symbolism within each card.
- Unique Style:
Harris’s artistic style, combined with Crowley’s esoteric guidance, created a visually distinct tarot deck that stands apart from traditional tarot designs.
- 4. Controversy and Interpretation:
- Complex Interpretations:
The Thoth Tarot’s symbolism is multi-layered and open to interpretation. Different readers may interpret the cards in unique ways based on their understanding of esoteric traditions and Crowley’s teachings.
Due to Crowley’s controversial reputation and the complex nature of the deck, some tarot practitioners approach the Thoth Tarot with caution, while others embrace its depth and complexity.
- 5. Influence and Popularity:
- Enduring Impact:
The Thoth Tarot has had a lasting impact on the world of tarot and esoteric studies. Many tarot readers and occultists consider it a significant and powerful tool for divination, meditation, and spiritual exploration.
- Variations and Editions:
Over the years, the Thoth Tarot has been reprinted and published in various editions, each maintaining the core symbolism while offering slight variations in color or design.
The Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot continues to be highly regarded for its spiritual depth and intricate symbolism, appealing to those who appreciate complex and esoteric interpretations within tarot readings. It remains a staple in the libraries of serious tarot enthusiasts and occult practitioners.The Thoth Tarot, a collaboration between Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris, stands as a pinnacle of occult Tarot. Rooted in Crowley’s deep understanding of esoteric traditions, this deck features intricate symbolism from astrology, alchemy, and various mystical systems, providing readers with a transformative Tarot experience.
In this exploration of the evolution of the Tarot, we traced the fascinating journey of Tarot cards from their origins in ancient China to the intricately designed Visconti Tarot of the 15th Century and the Tarot de Marseille and Ancient Italian Tarot of the 17th and 18th centuries Transitioning into the 19th century, we explored the Tarot de Paris, a deck that encapsulated the ornate aesthetic of its era. The narrative then shifted to the 20th century, where we delved into the iconic Rider-Waite Tarot, celebrated for its departure from tradition and intuitive symbolism. Finally, we ventured into the realm of the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot from 1944, a deck steeped in esoteric wisdom and profound symbolism. Each tarot deck, with its unique artistic styles and influences, contributed significantly to the rich tapestry of tarot’s evolution and its enduring significance in the world of divination.
I hope that you have enjoyed this small look that the history of Tarot.