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DIVAGATING through THE TAROT
By REBECCA FITZGERALD
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Rebecca Fitzgerald
All right reserved.
Chapter One1. What is divagating?
Divagating means to wander around somewhere and often refers to straying off the subject under discussion. This happens frequently to me when I consult the Tarot. A variety of possibilities present themselves and one thought can lead to another often resulting in a search for other associated information.
2. What to expect from this book
Tarot capitalized throughout as a sign of respect. A wealth of information describing each card. Information presented in a concise well organized and easy to follow format. Pictures of every card. Symbolic explanations· regarding colours, patterns on clothing, the position of the people and background items on each card. Numerological explanations for the digits 0 through 9. Astrological connections including the zodiac sign, ruling planet, gender, element and quality. Major Arcana cards include the archetype represented, personal considerations, affirmations and unifying themes between cards. Explanations regarding the four suits in the Minor Arcana. Court card explanations. Traditional and reversed meanings listed on each card. A Tarot reading example. A number of Tarot card spread examples. An Index. And more, check the Contents for a full list.
3. Why another book on Tarot cards?
This book materialized over time. I started out wanting to understand the Tarot, what it was based on, how it worked and why it worked. It intrigued me as it fell into a somewhat enigmatic and murky realm. Within the circles I worked and socialized Tarot cards were a topic rarely if ever discussed. For some the card's association with New Age dynamics placed them in a silly and somewhat frivolous sphere. For others it was fear of association as the Tarot cards were historically connected to the occult. However the Tarot's obscure history and the extensive information contained in the cards grabbed hold of my imagination and wouldn't let go. In order to grasp its meaning I purchased a number of books and started writing notes. After a year of compiling information I realized symbolism and archetypes, the influence of myths, as well as the role of the collective unconscious were essential features in understanding the Tarot's meaning. I began studying and learning more about these subjects. Numerology, astrology, and chakra connections with the Tarot also kept cropping up so I began exploring those topics as well. Following more than three years of additions to my notes my friends began saying "you have created a book." And so I have.
Tarot card books are something like cook books. There is always some extra ingredient to be considered or a different aspect an author believes is important to include. This book attempts to answer the questions previously mentioned that sprang to my mind while I was trying to comprehend and utilize the Tarot cards. I have attempted to include the salient facts on each card so less time is spent hunting for information when learning about the Tarot. It is my hope that those who purchase this book find it a valuable resource in understanding the Tarot and perhaps in embracing it as I have.
4. What is the Tarot?
Usually illustrated with symbolism and archetypes to create meanings, Tarot decks include seventy eight cards. Originally used for playing games, Tarot cards are now more commonly used for divination, meditation, and for reflection purposes. For many individuals the information embedded in these cards leads to spiritual transformation and personal growth towards a sense of greater wholeness.
Studying the Tarot is an intriguing undertaking. Absorbing the information contained in the cards for the pure satisfaction of expanding personal knowledge is gratifying. Reflecting upon the information in a Major Arcana message is rewarding while using the cards to answer questions is both pleasurable and insightful. I am truly amazed at how the cards activate new understanding about situations. Reading the Tarot is thought provoking, inspiring and continually enlightening.
5. Tarot cards and the occult
Occult means hidden, however the word "occult" conjures up different meanings in different people. The occult typically refers to magical and divinatory beliefs and practices some of which include astrology, Tarot, palmistry, numerology, spirit contact, spiritualism, channelling, magic and witchcraft. As well the occult includes exploring past lives (reincarnation), casting spells and psycho kinesis (mind over matter). Surrounded by superstition many of these practices are feared. Established traditional religions sometimes use the word occult to describe something they don't understand, that alarms them, or they wish to condemn; they use it as an offensive label against a variety of ideas and practices.
Many people interested in paranormal activities have taken great pains to isolate certain disciplines such as astrology, numerology and the Tarot from the realm of the "occult." These three have been seen as different from other divinatory practices as they are based upon structured rules and principles and using them doesn't require psychic abilities or membership into a group or cult. Certainly the wide acceptance of astrology and daily horoscopes has shed many stigmas they once had due to their connections with the occult.
Casting nothing but bright light upon the occult would be naive and faulty. However rejecting everything that lies within a larger unit, because some parts of the larger unit are seriously flawed or even dangerous, is akin to never logging onto the internet because harm has befallen some who have. This type of thinking leads to narrow mindedness and extremism. With the wide spectrum of activities under the occult umbrella people need to discern what to explore, ignore, reject, and ultimately to leave alone.
Philosopher and psychologist, William James (1842-1910), has been quoted as saying "Contempt prior to investigation is a sure barrier against understanding." This book invites those who have avoided the Tarot for whatever reason to take a look and perhaps open up a whole new realm never yet explored.
6. What is the origin of Tarot cards?
There appears to be an abundance of misleading and false information surrounding the Tarot. It does not seem that any serious historian has investigated this topic which has allowed individuals to publish information that is not based on sound research. Misinformation picked up as fact is quoted again and again with additional information being blended into the mix making it difficult to sort truth from fabrication. After sifting through a great deal of information I have tried to capture various salient points that look as if they are based on some supportive evidence.
The authors and originators of the Tarot are unknown. The Tarot deck's Minor Arcana cards share many similarities with playing cards which showed up in France and Italy, via Muslim Spain, around thirteen hundred and seventy-five (1375). Contrary to some beliefs, the Romany (gypsies) did not either invent the Tarot or start the trend of divining with the deck. By the time the Romany appeared in Europe in the fifteenth century Tarot card decks and the game of trumps (tarrochi) were in widespread use both in Italy and France. Tarrochi included fifty-six minor cards which resembled playing cards along with a number of the Major Arcana "trump" cards. This game was not used for any type of divination.
Prior to fifteen hundred (1500) it is difficult to find any substantial information that relates to Tarot cards. From approximately twelve hundred (1200) to fourteen hundred (1400) during the medieval inquisition, the church documented in considerable detail what was considered as evidence of heresy. Playing cards were included in the list of evidence as being subject to censor. However Tarot cards were never mentioned suggesting they were too obscure to be noticed or they didn't exist. It is very likely that Tarot information, embedded with myths and symbolism, was being orally passed down from generation to generation and had yet to be captured on paper. For example early poets are known to have used the titles of the Major Arcana trump cards to create flattering verses called tarocchi appropriati, describing ladies of the court or famous people. One of the oldest known Tarot decks are hand painted cards from the late fifteenth century, of the northern Italian type likely coming from Venice or France, and are in the Biblioteque Nationale of France.
The Tarot was significantly influenced throughout the Italian renaissance especially in the latter years of the fourteenth century. This was a time of great intellectual diversity and activity. Hermeticism (ideas or beliefs set forth in the writing of Hermes Trismegistus), astrology, Neo-Platonism (a thought form rooted in the philosophy of Plato c. 428-347 BC), Pythagorean philosophy (based on reason and numbers) with roots in Alexandrian Egypt, study of the Kabbalah (ancient Jewish mystical tradition), and heterodox (opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position), as well as Christian thought all thrived. Any or all of these may have influenced the intention as well as the design of the Tarot.
Drawn from medieval and renaissance Europe the symbolism on original Tarot cards is distinctive to European Christendom. Illustrations nearly identical to each of the earlier Tarot subjects can be found in European art and such detail on the cards is not found in other cultures. Prior to seventeen hundred and fifty (1750) most if not all known Tarot cards bore Italian labels and suit-marks which suggest an Italian origin, however they had French names.
The ties to Egypt many Tarot cards have did not occur until the late seventeen hundreds. Information and knowledge about pictographs found in the pyramids during the Napoleonic invasion could be related to the meanings of the Tarot cards. An Egyptian hieroglyphic book of seventy eight tablets was utilized by some to find overlapping meanings in the seventy eight Tarot cards. No one knows the origin of this book and it seems to have just mysteriously appeared. In the late seventeen hundreds Court de Gebelin, a Freemason, was shown a pack of Tarot cards and he was so impressed with how they reflected the ancient Egyptian religion that he wrote a treatise on the subject. In seventeen eighty one (1781) the Comte de Mellet published a short article on the Tarot which identified connections between the Hebrew letters and the cards. Many of the connections between the earliest established Tarot interpretations and Egyptology flow but a number of them are forced resulting in substantially altered or lost meanings. Following these publications Tarot cards began being used more for divination and less for playing and interest in the Tarot became an integral part of occult philosophy.
Though Egyptian influence cannot be substantiated prior to the late seventeen hundreds information in Tarot cards reflect ideas and beliefs found in both Egyptology and in the Kabbalah. Variations of these ideas are also reflected in many cultures dating back four thousand or more years BC. Druids, the knowledgeable sect of the Celts, shared many of the same beliefs as Egyptians and Kabbalists. The Druids who greatly influenced British culture trace their roots back to the beginnings of mankind. Knowledge about astrology, measurements, and numerology were all well known and utilized to construct standing stones, such as Stonehenge, found in Britain and other parts of the world. There is overlap in the myths and traditions in many early cultures. The essence of this ancient knowledge is what has been captured and embedded in the symbolism on Tarot cards.
Arthur E. Waite was a prominent member of the magical Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn founded in eighteen hundred and eighty eight (1888) by Dr. W.W. Westcott, S.L. Macgregor-Matthews, and Dr. W.R. Woodman. The Golden Dawn, active during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century's, focused on and practiced theurgy (the effect of supernatural or divine intervention in human affairs) and spiritual development.
Waite created the Rider-Waite (Smith) deck in nineteen hundred and nine (1909) over four hundred years into the history of the Tarot. Waite's deck owes much of its symbolism to the Golden Dawn group and represents a departure from the earlier Italian - French Tarot card tradition. Rider was the publishing company and Pamela Coleman Smith, an American artist, contributed her own vision especially with the colours and creation of the pictures upon the fifty-six Minor Arcana cards. Originally these cards were like playing cards showing only the numbers of the suit they represented. Waite found many relationships between the Tarot and the Kabbalah. He related the twenty two trump cards (the Major Arcana cards) to the twenty two paths along the Kabbalah's Tree of Life. In order to make his theory fit he changed the accepted order of some of the cards. Since the trumps did not have numbers or any recorded order for the first hundred or more years of their existence his ordering method remains as viable as any other. Today Waite's ordering of the Major Arcana cards has become the standard for most Tarot decks.
Aleister Crowley, also a member of the Golden Dawn, wrote the Book of Thoth, which is based on Egyptian ideology. Considered another classic Tarot deck, Lady Frieda Harris began painting Crowley's cards according to his instruction in nineteen hundred and thirty eight (1938) and it was completed in nineteen hundred and forty three (1943). Crowley renamed several of the trumps and also re-arranged the astrological and Hebrew alphabet correspondences of some cards, in accordance with his earlier book, Liber Al vel Legis (The Book of Law).
In ancient Egyptian mythology, Thoth, is god of wisdom and technology. In art he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis (bird) or with the head of a baboon. The ibis and baboon were considered to be reincarnations of Thoth. Thoth was revered as the inventor of mathematics, engineering, astronomy, and botany. According to Plato's Phaedrus, Thoth also invented writing and he is often depicted as a scribe. Thoth was the measurer of time and devised the solar year. The curved beak of his ibis mask was associated with the moon and it was Thoth to which the ancient Egyptians ascribed their knowledge of the stars.
Both Waite and Crowley were deeply influenced by the occultist, Madame Blavatsky. Helena Blavatsky's master work, the Secret Doctrine, published in eighteen hundred and eighty eight (1888) will remain seminal for centuries. This fifteen hundred page book is a massive study of man, of nature, of spiritual evolution, and of the essence of reality. Blavatsky addresses questions such as the continuity of life after death, purpose of existence, good and evil, consciousness and substance, sexuality, karma, evolution, and human and planetary transformation. One of Blavatsky's theories is that everything, every theology, from the earliest and the oldest down to the latest has sprung from one universal esoteric or Mystery language. One of the topics Madame Blavatsky explores is the role of symbolism in the Tarot. Her book has remained in print for over one hundred years.
The Tarot terms Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, High Priestess, and Hierophant originated from the Golden Dawn influences. Historically the terms were the trumps, the suit cards, Papess and Pope. Likewise pentacles were referred to as coins, and wands were called staves or batons.
The original Italian titles of the cards were in some cases different from the later French titles popularized by the Tarot of Marseille decks. English translations from this deck have now become familiar to most that use the Tarot. The trumps originating in Italy varied considerably, they were not numbered, their ordering is not known and the number of trumps differed from deck to deck. The intention of the original designers of the Tarot in selecting the symbols for the trump cards is unknown, although there are many conjectures, some more plausible than others.
Excerpted from DIVAGATING through THE TAROT by REBECCA FITZGERALD Copyright © 2011 by Rebecca Fitzgerald. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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