SPECULATIONS ON THE TAROT
I have read many accounts of the origins and meaning of the Major Arcana of the Tarot but have never felt satisfied by any of them. These twenty-two enigmatic and elusive images seem far deeper than the names attached to them, deeper than their conventional fortune-telling interpretations, deeper than the obvious archetypal qualities of age and youth, wisdom and folly that they express.
The style of clothing represented in the earliest Tarot cards is typical of Italy around 1410-20. And a few of the images -- or at least their names -- can be matched up with familiar Medieval allegorical figures. But the overall feel of the cards is strikingly non-European and non-Christian. This, together with the fact that they seem to have appeared suddenly and out of nowhere, as a fully-formed system, has always suggested a more ancient and exotic origin.
In the late 1700's, the Count de Gebelin claimed an Egyptian source for the Tarot, but without any particular justification beyond the general 18th century tendency to attribute all occult wisdom to ancient Egypt. Later interpreters looked to astrology and the cabbala to illuminate the meaning of the images. But none of these interpretations can be said to have cast much light on the subject.
My own investigations have been piecemeal rather than systematic -- grounded in the individual images rather than in any preconceived interpretive schema. I have found many patterns and parallels but no single key that unlocks the whole. My conclusions are tentative and subject to modification. And yet it seems worth putting up these materials, partial though they are.
The topics listed below will appear as active links as they become available:
1. The Fall of Mount Meru.
2. The Wheel of the World.
3. By Isis and Orisis.
4. The Seven Spheres.
5. The Descent of Inanna.
6. The River that Runs into Itself.
7. The Way Up is the Same as the Way Down.
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