Tarot, occultism and divination

Tarot, occultism and divination

When it comes to cartomancy and divination of the future, the reference to the Tarot is almost mandatory.

Few, however, know that the Tarots were born as simple playing cards and only from the end of the 1700s began to be associated with the kabbalah and with other mystical traditions, and then see a whole series of esoteric and occultist theories flourish between 1800 and 1900.

Occultism and tarot

If even today magicians and soothsayers of all sorts use the Tarot for the divination of the future, it is due in particular to two esotericists: the French Papus (i.e. Gérard Encausse) and the Swiss Oswald Wirth. The first, a doctor who had also studied alchemy, also belonged to the secret society known as Golden Dawn (precisely the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn), which refers to the tradition of Jewish Kabbalah, and ended up creating Tarots illustrated with Egyptian characters illustrating a cabalistic structure.

The second, a personal friend of Papus, was affiliated to some of the main secret societies of the time such as the Theosophical Society, being also initiated at Masonry in 1884, at the age of only 24. Like Papus also Wirth devoted himself to the study of the Tarot and on the basis of the so-called Tarot of Marseilles personally redesigned their 21 major arcana (to which a deck of traditional cards is added to the game Tarots, the minor arcana) and the Fool, i.e. the 22 Trump cards.

Tarocchi Wirth

The Wirth Tarot deck

The Tarot deck designed by Wirth included characters in medieval clothing, Egyptian sphinxes, Arabic numerals and Hebrew letters instead of Roman numerals, Taoist symbols and the alchemical version of the Devil invented by the French Éliphas Lévi, probably the most famous occultist of the whole nineteenth century, in turn, a Mason and who had first established a precise relationship between the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the 22 Trump cards.

Those of Papus and Wirth were not the only Tarot decks to have luck in the occultist environment: among others also Aleister Crowley (famous occultist of the Ordo Templi Orientis) wanted to draw his own playing deck, changing the names, the drawings and the order of the Triumphs (Justice thus became the Judgment, Temperance becomes the Art, the Judgment becomes Aeon and the Fans and the Knights were replaced by Princes and Princesses).

Tarocchi Crowley

Tarot: from success to decadence

The occultists Tarot's success later decreed the current decadence, given the subsequent reproduction of reproductions of reproductions, all accompanied by errors in drawings, marks and colors (reduced to only four basic colors for typographic needs).

In short, believe it or not the Tarot currently used by wizards and soothsayers of all kind are now only more relatives than the distant Tarot of the Occultists over 100 years ago. The good news is that the renewed interest in using these cards is both a tool for divining the future and playing cards has brought new artists, like Salvador Dalì, Renato Gottuso or Dario Fo, to propose their own original versions including a new deck of Masonic Tarot realized by Michele Marzulli.

Tags: Secret society