A Tutorial by Paola Orlic and Claud Biemans

Introduction Stories have a curious relationship with the future. In sci-fi and other speculative fiction genres, stories allow us to imagine whole worlds in near and far future. In games, we can play out possible futures in the first person. In fortune telling, stories guide us to identify with them, to find their connections to our own lives and to speculate about what the future would bring. Tarot is such an elaborate system of stories, symbols and archetypes, that can be used (according to Jung) to reach deep into the person's psyche and uncover links between our experience and images of kings and queens, astral bodies and abstract institutions. A tarot reading is a highly interpretative and participatory storytelling performance, able to engage people across cultures and generations.

A (so far) unrelated, but equally engaging universe of stories are ethnobotanical accounts about interactions between plants and human culture, collected by scientists, cooks, gardeners, herbalists and consciousness researchers. They range from medical, culinary or magical recipes, to myths and fairy tales, to botanical categorisation and intricate naming systems.

At FoAM, we're interested in blending such seemingly unrelated stories by asking what do plants and tarot have in common? The answers are manifold - from looking at plants that can influence our mood to make us act as The Fool or The Empress, to plants having physical characteristics of The Star or The Hermit. The links can be made on the symbolic, iconographic, botanical, physiological, hermetic and many other levels. Plants are so embedded in our culture, that linking them to deep cultural archetypes in tarot unveils the intricate relationships we have with the vegetal realm, extending far beyond mere food and fuel.

Let's start at the beginning, with a lecture by Paola Orlic about Tarot. slides

More detailed notes from the tutorial

Article based on presentation notes on this page

Tarot is a pack of cards most commonly numbering 78 cards that were used from mid 15th century in various part of Europe to play a group of card games (in Italy- Tarocchi/Tarocchini, in France- French Tarot), but most notably from 18th century on Tarot was rediscovered and used by several mystics and occultists as a divination tool designed for discovering and expanding mental and spiritual pathways, transforming it and popularizing it soon as a elaborate fortunetelling system.

TAROT DECK Tarot is usually a deck of 78 cards composed of: the Major and Minor Arcana (Arcana -plural form of the Latin word “Arcanum” meaning “closed” or “secret”). THE MAJOR ARCANA consists of 22 trump cards (actually 21 + Fool card) without the suits. THE MINOR ARCANA (56 Pip cards / 4 suites x 14 cards) consists of 56 cards divided into four suits of 14 cards each. You can clearly see the resemblance with the structure of 52-card bridge/poker playing card decks, except that bridge/poker playing card decks have three court cards rather than four).

However Tarot has not been created immediately in its final form. In the beginning of its existence, in the 15th century Northern Italy there were a lot of different stages before Tarot crystallized in the form we know it today with:

  • 4 suites containing 10 numerals and
  • 4 court cards
  • 21 numbered trumps and 1 unnumbered picture card - The Fool.

As some scholars believe-the 4 suits most probably derived from early Arabic card games while for the Trumps it is believed that were an invention during the Renaissance period in Italy. The first known tarot cards were created between 1430-1450 in northern Italy- Milano, Ferrara and Bologna when additional trump cards with allegorical illustrations were added to the common 4-suit pack. These new decks were originally called “Carte da trionfi” or Triumph cards, and the additional cards known simply as Trionfi, which became “trumps” in English. The first literary evidence of the existence of “Carte da trionfi” is a written statement in the court records in Ferrara in 1442 but the oldest surviving tarot cards are 15 fragmented decks painted in the mid 15th century for the Visconti-Sforza family- the rulers of Milano.

Although there are several theories concerning the origin or the etymology of the word ”tarot” none of these proved to be completely satisfactory neither any of these we could call “the right one” or the most probable so I’m brining out just few of many proposals:

Clearly English and French word “Tarot” derives from the Italian word “Tarocchi” referring to the very popular card game during 15th century in northern Italy, especially Milano and Bologna. Therefore, one theory relates the name “Tarot” to the river Taro in the northern Italy near Parma which can be seen in relation with the geographical source of the tarocchi game.

The other theories however often point out Arabic words “Turuq” which means “ways” or in other case to the word “Taraka” meaning “to leave, abandon, omit, leave behind” referring to possible origin of Tarot coming to Europe from Islamic Spain history…

Finally, there is also a proposal that word Tarot refers also to the term “Harut and Marut” 1) mostly regarding the phonetic resemblance with two angels mentioned in a short account in the Qu’ran where it is stated that a group of Israelites learned magic for demonstration and to test them from mentioned angels called “Harut” and “Marut” adding also that this knowledge of magic would be passed on the other by the devil.

The first card game with separate trumps (as we would call it today cards of major arkana) was probably ordered in the early 15th century by Filippo Maria Visconti who became Duke of Milan in 1421 at the age od 20 when he ordered from the painter Michelino da Besozzo to make images of the 16 trumps based on the classical Roman mythology with 12 gods and 4 heroes or half gods + suits depicting 4 kinds of birds. We don’t know the number of each suite, we only know that the highest suit card was the King and that the 4 suites (containing 10 numerals each), were distinguished 4 kinds of birds -eagles, phoenixes, doves and turtle-doves. Unfortunatelly, none of these Michelino da Besozzo cards have survived up to this date except the written notion that came to us trough the writings of Martiano da Tortona, the scribe at Visconti who died in 1426 and who left this very valuable information about the “Trump game” already being present at the Visconti’s court at the beginning at the 15th century in Milano. Although the earliest extant specimens of Tarot Trumps are indeed famous Visconti-Sforza ”Carte da Trionfi” or “Cards of the Triumphs” decks from the mid-15th century that I’m, going to present you a bit later in the historical overview of the Tarot, here I need to point out another Tarocchi deck called Sola-Busca from 1491. because it is the oldest deck of 78 cards that is entirely known to us with the Trumps and the Figures representing historical / mythical characters identified by names printed on the cards 2).

Although in the Western world today, the Tarot is usually seen either as a means of divination, the practice of receiving information from supernatural or other sources, or, in a more modern Jungian view- as a psychological creative tool for accessing the archetypes of unconscious, the earliest historical references to Tarot cards are in fact linked exclusively with the card game called Tarocchi or Tarocchino and that had nothing to do with the idea of anticipating or predicting the future as people today mostly think of Tarot.

According to some theories, playing cards were a Chinese invention which found their way to Europe around the end of 14th century trough Mamluk Empire 3). Tarot minor arcana cards are probably deriving from Mamluk Egypt cards with suits very similar to the tarot suits of Swords, Wands, Cups and Coins that are still used today in traditional Italian, Spanish and Portugese decks.

Playing cards appeared quite suddenly in Christian Europe during the period 1375-1380, following several decades of use in Islamic Spain history. But, the idea of trumps appears to be a European invention which according to some theories, appeared in the 1420 (early 15th century) in the German game of Karnoffel 4). Tarot was probably created 10-15 years later around 1440 in northern Italy or at least from that time on we can trace historical evidences of triumph cards in Ferrara and Milano. Although institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church and most civil governments did not routinely condemn tarot cards during tarot's early history that changed very soon so the first notion of playing cards in Europe 14th century is actually that of ban of their prohibitions (Bern Switzerland in 1367., Florence and Basel in 1377. Regensburg 1378. Duchy of Brabant 1379. etc.)

Moreover, some sermons inveighing against the evil inherent in cards can be traced to the 14th century such as:

  • Bernard of Siena’s sermon reviling cards as the invention of the Devil in 1423
  • the most famous sermon “Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis” written by a anonimous Franciscan monk from mid 15th or early 16th century which is considered

today the officially first known source listing all the 22 trumps In this sermon Franciscan monk openly condemned all kinds of card games and dice plays considering them sinful activity pointing out especially a list of those cards called “Triumphs” whose imagery he calls “demonic” assigning Tarot invention to the Devil himself!

On the other hand I can’t resist to mention Pietro Aretino's witty 16th-century dialogue titled “Le carte parlanti“ (“The talking cards”) - a dialogue in which “gaming is discussed in a congenial more cheerful fashion” with frequent references to tarot symbolism

Pietro Aretino (20 April 1492 – 21 October 1556)

Aretino was an 16th Italian author, playwright, poet and famous satirist, ultimately known as “the Scourge of Princes” who made immense influence on contemporary art and politics and is also called the inventor of modern literate pornography. In any case, regarding our subject as an important literary man Aretino wrote about Tarot in his “Le Carte Parlanti” (The Talking Cards) composed in form of dialogue between the cards, in fact “talking cards” and an artist who painted them, called the Padovano from his birthplace. Just to bring another, completely different point of view from the church doctrine at that time Aretino in this work talks about game with a pleasant morality, Aretino even proposes an examine of the meaning of triumphs and it is clear, together with an evident sarcasm, a respectful attitude towards cards and playing.

But, in order not to span too much this presentation on the idea of tarot in literature and art as well as in the broader context of renaissance neoplatonistic philosophy in general (very interesting topic too) I’ll keep track on the subject so I’m going back to the first known historical tarot deck.


The oldest surviving Tarot cards are 3 early to mid-15th century sets, all made for members of the illustrious Visconti family, rulers of Milano. The oldest of these existing Tarot decks was most probably painted to celebrate a mid-15th century wedding joining the ruling Visconti (Bianca-Maria) and (Francesco) Sforza noble families of Milan, probably painted by Bonifacio Bembo and other miniaturists of the Ferrara school. When you hear today the term “Visconti-Sforza tarot” you have to be aware that it is used collectively to refer to incomplete sets of approximately 15 known decks now located In various museums, libraries an private collections around the world. Unfortunately, no complete deck has survived; rather some collections have a few face cards, while some consist of a single card. But most notably when today we use the term Visconti-Sforza decks we talk about the three most famous collections such as:

  • Pierpont-Morgan Bergamo tarot deck- also known as Colleoni-Baglioni and Francesco Sforza produced around 1451. Originally composed of 78 cards it now contains 74 preserved (20 trumps, 15 face cards and 39 pips cards). The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York has 35 of them, Accademia Carrara in Bergamo has 26 of them in its catalogue while the remaining 13 are in the private collection of the Colleoni Family in Bergamo. Trumps and face cards have a gilt background, while the pip cards are cream-coloured with a flower and wine motif. The two significantly missing trumps are the Devil and the Tower.
  • Cary–Yale tarot deck, named after Cary family’s collection of Card Games, absorbed into the Yale University Library in 1967, it is also known as the Visconti di Modrone set, and had been dated back to cca 1466. Some scholars have suggested this may be in fact the oldest of sets, perhaps commissioned by Filippo Maria Visconti at the onset of the project. From this deck 67 cards remained preserved (11 trumps, 17 face and 39 pips)
  • Brera-Brambilla set named after Giovanni Brambilla, who aquired the cards in Venice in 1900. but from 1971 the deck has been in the catalogue of the Brera Gallery in Milano. Apparently commissionied to Bonifacio Bembo by Francesco Sforza in 1463 it ow consists of 48 cards with only two trumps remained- The Emperor and the Wheel of Fortune.

With a very interesting notion that in all of those decks lack significant 4 cards namely: the Devil, the Tower, the Three of Swords, and the Knight of Coins raising theories among tarot scholars from being lost or possibly never made.

If I had to propose my own opinion here I would add: I truly believe they existed indeed but at one point in Visconti family were on purpose removed or omitted from the deck by some superstitious family member (maybe even according to some advice)–most possibly in order to get rid of bad luck or simply not to bring misfortune to the family!


The Tarot of Marseilles (or Marseille deck), also widely known by the French designation “Tarot de Marseille”, is one of the standard patterns for the design of tarot cards. It is a pattern from which many subsequent tarot decks derive. The Tarot deck was probably invented in northern Italy in the 15th century and introduced into southern France when the French conquered Milan and the Piedmont in 1499.

The name Tarot de Marseille is not of particularly ancient vintage; it was coined at least as early as end of 19th century (1889 Papus- French occultist) and was popularized in the 1930s by the French cartomancer Paul Marteau, who used this collective name to refer to a variety of closely related designs that were being made in the city of Marseille in the south of France, a city that was a centre of playing card manufacture.

  • I. Le Bateleur (The Mountebank, The Juggler, The Magician)
  • II. La Papesse (The Papess, or The Female Pope)
  • III. L'Impératrice (The Empress)
  • IV. L'Empereur (The Emperor)
  • V. Le Pape (The Pope, or The Hierophant)
  • VI. L'Amoureux (The Lovers)
  • VII. Le Chariot (The Chariot)
  • VIII. La Justice (Justice)
  • IX. L'Hermite (The Hermit)
  • X. La Roue de Fortune (The Wheel of Fortune)
  • XI. La Force (Strength, or Fortitude)
  • XII. Le Pendu (The Hanged Man)
  • XIII. usually left un-named, but called “L'Arcane sans nom”, La Mort (Death)
  • XIV. Tempérance (Temperance)
  • XV. Le Diable (The Devil)
  • XVI. La Maison Dieu (The House of God, or The Tower)
  • XVII. L'Étoile (The Star)
  • XVIII. La Lune (The Moon)
  • XIX. Le Soleil (The Sun)
  • XX. Le Jugement (Judgement)
  • XXI. Le Monde (The World)
  • no number. 0/XXII Le Mat (The Fool)

At one point of history Tart cards eventually came to be associated with the idea of divination, mysticism and magic. This was actually a late rather than early development, as we can tell from period sources on card divination and magic. The Tarot was not widely adopted by mystics, occultists and secret societies until the 18th and 19th century. This tradition begun in 1781. when Antoine Court de Gebelin, a swiss clergymen and Freemason, published “Le mond Primitif” a study of religious symbolism and its survivals in the modern world. De Gebelin 5) first called attention to the unusual symbols of the Tarot de Marseille and claimed that the symbols in fact represented the mysteries of Isis and Thot. He furthermore claimed that the name “Tarot” came from the Egyptian words “Tar” meaning “Royal” and “Ro” meaning “road/ path, way” concluding his theory with that the Tarot represented a “royal road” to wisdom.

De Gebelin wrote that before Champolion had deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs (1822) of course so later Egyptologists found nothing in the Egyptian language that would support De Gebelin’s “creative” etymologies, but these findings came too late. By the time authentic Egyptian text were available with proper translations, the identification of the Tarot cards with the Egyptan “book of Thot” was already firmly established in occult practice. Moreoever, because Gebelin strongly believed that the Tarot deck held the secrets of the ancient Egyptians made him develop a reconstruction of tarot history without producing any historical evidence in which he claimed that Egyptian priests had distilled the ancient Book of Thot into these images that they allegedly brought to Rome, from where they were introduced into France. An essay by Comte de Mellet included in Court de Gebelin’s “Le Monde Primitif” was furthermore responsible for the mystical connection of the Tarot’s 21 Trumps and the Fool with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. An essay made such impact to further tarot practice that within two years the fortune-teller known as the “Great Etteilla” 1785. published a technique for reading the Tarot and the practice of tarot reading was born.


The idea of the Egyptian origin of the Tarot proposed by Court de Gebelin in 1871. was first applied by a tarot practitioner called “Etteilla,” or the “Great Eteilla” as he called himself (“Le Grand Etteilla”). Etteilla was a French occultist who reversed his real name Jean Baptiste Alliette and marketed himself as a seer and card diviner in the Paris during the French Revolution. Nevertheless he is mostly considered a prototype of a tarot charlatan, Eteilla was the first to popularize tarot divination to a wide audience during 1785 and is probably the first professional tarot occultist known in the history who made his living by reading tarot cards. He also published his ideas of the correspondences between the tarot, astrology and the four classical elements and four humors and was the first to issue a revised tarot deck specifically designed for occult purposes in 1791. Although mostly discarded by the “serious occultist” as a charlatan Etteilla in fact designed the first known esoteric Tarot deck, adding astrological attributions to various cards, altering many of them from the Marseille designs, and adding divinatory meanings in text on the cards., although now eclipsed by much more elaborated Smith and Waite's fully-illustrated deck and Aleister Crowley's “Thoth” deck, Etteilla deck remain still available.


The idea of the cards as a mystical key to wisdom was further developed by Eliphas Levi 6) and passed to the English-speaking world by The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Lévi, not Etteilla, is considered by some to be the true founder of most contemporary schools of Tarot; his 1854 “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie” (English title: Transcendental Magic) introduced an interpretation of the cards which related them to Cabala. While Levi accepted Court de Gébelin's claims about an Egyptian origin of the deck symbols, he rejected Etteilla's innovations and his altered deck, and devised instead a system which related the Tarot, especially the Tarot de Marseille, to the Cabala and the four elements of alchemy. On the other hand, to this day some of Etteilla's divinatory meanings for Tarot are still used by some Tarot practitioners. Tarot became increasingly popular beginning in 1910, with the publication of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, which took the step of including symbolic images related to divinatory meanings on the numeric cards. (Arthur Edward Waite had been an early member of the Golden Dawn). In the 20th century, a huge number of different decks were created, some traditional, some vastly different.

Thanks, in part, to marketing by the publisher U.S. Games Systems, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck has been extremely popular in the English-speaking world beginning in the 1970s.


Historically, one of the most important design is now usually known as the Tarot of Marseille (French: Tarot de Marseille). This standard pattern was the one studied by Court de Gébelin, and cards based on this style illustrate his “Le Monde primitif”. The Tarot of Marseille was also popularized in the 20th century by Paul Marteau. Some current editions of cards based on the Marseille design go back to a deck of a particular Marseille design that was printed by Nicolas Conver in 1760. Other regional styles include the “Swiss” Tarot; this one substitutes Juno and Jupiter for the Papess and the Pope. In Florence an expanded deck called Minchiate was used; this deck of 96 cards includes astrological symbols and the four elements, as well as traditional Tarot cards.

Some decks exist primarily as artwork; and such “art decks” sometimes contain only the 22 cards of the Major Arcana.


In the English-speaking world, where there is little or no tradition of using tarots as playing cards, tarot decks only became known through the efforts of occultists influenced by French tarotists such as Etteilla, and later, Eliphas Lévi. These occultists later produced esoteric decks that reflected their own ideas, and these decks were widely circulated in the anglophone world.

2 main or most popular esoteric tarot decks from the 1st half of the 20th century:

  1. Rider-Waite-Colman Smith deck 1909. (conceived by A. E. Waite and painted by Pamela Colman Smith),
  2. Thoth Tarot deck designed in 1944. But 1st published 1969. (conceived by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frida Harris)

Waite, Colman-Smith, Crowley and Harris were all former members of the influential, Victorian-era Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn 7) at different respective points in time; and the Golden Dawn, in turn, was influenced by Lévi and other French occult revivalists.

More recently in the French-speaking world, users of the tarot for divination and other esoteric purposes such as Alejandro Jodorowsky, Kris Hadar, and many others, continue to use the Tarot de Marseille . Moreover, in the mid-1990s Jodorowsky contacted a late descendent of the Camoin family, who has printed the Tarot of Marseilles since the 19th century. They worked together for almost a decade to put together a 78-card deck, including the original detail and 11 color printing. It could be generally said that English-speaking countries use more the Rider-Waite deck (sometimes called simply the Rider deck) while in French-speaking countries, the Marseille deck enjoys the equivalent popularity.

RWS deck

The images were drawn by artist Pamela Colman Smith, to the instructions of Christian mystic and occultist Arthur Edward Waite, and originally published by the Rider Company in 1910. While the deck is sometimes known as a simple, user-friendly one, its imagery, especially in the Trumps, is complex and replete with occult symbolism. The subjects of the trumps are based on those of the earliest decks, but have been significantly modified to reflect Waite and Smith's view of Tarot. An important difference from 'Marseille'-style decks is that Smith drew scenes on the numeric cards to depict divinatory meanings; those divinatory meanings derive, in great part, from traditional cartomantic divinatory meanings (Etteilla and others) and from divinatory meanings first espoused by The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, of which both Waite and Smith were members. However, it isn't the first deck to include completely illustrated numeric cards. The first to do so was the 15th-century Sola-Busca deck; however, in this case, the illustrations apparently were not made to facilitate divination.

Thot deck

A widely-used esoteric Tarot deck is Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot. Crowley engaged the artist Lady Frida Harris to paint the cards for the deck. The Thoth deck is distinctly different from the Rider-Waite deck with a very intricately elaborated symbolism and meanings. Deck was finished in 1944 but published for the first time in 1969.

Other decks

The variety of decks is almost endless, and grows yearly. Just to illustrate the immense variety of tarot decks here I bring out some funny decks:

For instance:

  • Tarot of the Cat People for the cat-lovers – deck completely illustrated with cats as protagonists
  • The Motherpeace Tarot notable for its circular cards and feminist angle: the mainly male characters have been replaced by females.
  • The Tarot of Baseball – even more bizarre has suits of bats, mitts, balls and bases; “coaches” instead of Queens and Kings; and major arcana cards like “The Catcher”, “The Rule Book” and “Batting a Thousand”.
  • The Silicon Valley Tarot, major arcana cards include figures of The Hacker, The Flame The War, The Layoff and The Garage; the suits are Networks, Cubicles, Disks and Hosts; the court cards CIO, Salesman, Marketeer and New Hire.
  • etc.

The Tarot has a complex and rich symbolism with a long history. Such history is not impenetrable. Contrary to what many popular authors claim, its origins are not lost in the mists of time. In fact, much of the fog around the symbolism can be clarified if one studies iconographical sources other than occultists with a vested interest in the occult interpretation of Tarot. Interpretations have evolved together with the cards over the centuries: later decks have “clarified” the pictures in accordance with meanings assigned to the cards by their creators. In turn, the meanings come to be modified by the new pictures. Images and interpretations have been continually reshaped, in part, to help the Tarot live up to its mythic role as a powerful occult instrument and to respond to modern needs.Each card has its own large, complicated and disputed set of meanings. There is a vast body of writing on the symbolics and significance of the Tarot. In many systems of interpretation based on that of the Golden Dawn, the four suits are associated with the four elements: Swords with air, Wands with fire, Cups with water and Pentacles with earth. The Tarot is also considered to correspond to various systems such as astrology, Pythagorean numerology, the Kabbalah, the I Ching and others. Altogether the major arcana are frequently said to represent the Fool's journey: a symbolic journey through life in which the Fool overcomes obstacles and gains wisdom.


Carl Jung was the first psychologist to attach importance to the Tarot as an intricate system of images. He regarded the Tarot cards as representing archetypes: fundamental types of person or situation embedded in the subconscious of all human beings. Carl Gustav Jung (1875.-1961.) was a Swiss psychiatrist and colleague of Sigmund Freud, was one of the pioneers of the psychoanalytic movement. He was a creative thinker whose observation of correspondences between world religions, mythologies and the dreams of his patients led to a unique overview of the human condition.

  • Jung emphasized the reality of the psychic life (a fact that separated him from the empirically oriented mainstream of academic psychology)
  • Jung proposed that all humans consciousness is linked together- that the consciousness of each person is like a small pond which trickles into the ocean of a shared “Collective unconscious”
  • Third key principle of G. Jung involves the contents of this collective unconscious – called archetypes.

ARCHETYPES- according to Jung are “Cultural imprints”- images and ideas built up by the thoughts of mankind throughout history.

For example: Over the centuries (millennia) there as developed a generalized concept of “mother”. Mother is a cross- cultural idea seen in mythologies, in fairy tales, world religions. The Great mother of “Mother Earth” appears especially in dreams under an incalculable variety of forms. This universal archetype of the figure of “mother” can be seen in two different ways: loving and nurturing mother: positive affirmative constructive archetype and an evil old witch or a hag who destroys everything: destructive aspect.

In conclusion, since Jung found Tarot figures (major arcana cards) and figures in fairy tales very familiar as referring to identical activities of the archetypes of the collective unconscious, - his theory of archetypes gives rise to several psychological uses. Seen as a kind of algebra of the subconscious, allowing it to be analyzed at the conscious level. Some psychologists use Tarot cards to identify how a client views himself or herself, by asking the patient to select a card that he or she identifies with (The Emperor, for instance, represents the ultimate patriarch or father figure).

The Tarot has inspired writers as well as visual artists. Random selections of Tarot cards have also been used to construct stories for writing exercises and writing games.

  • Italo Calvino described the Tarot as a “machine for telling stories”, writing the novel The Castle of Crossed Destinies with plots and characters constructed through the Tarot.
  • The Greater Trumps (1932), a supernatural thriller by Charles Williams, involves a struggle over “the Original Deck,” which has come into the hands of an English civil servant.
  • T. S. Eliot's famous poem “The Waste Land” uses only superficial descriptions of Tarot cards, a few of which are genuine. From the 1st part ot “The Burial of the Dead”:

“Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days”.

Diane B. Wilkes together with Arnell Ando (btw, creator of the “transformational Tarot Deck) at the International Tarot Society Convention in Chicago (1997) discussed the concept of “Storyteller Tarot” which did together. Although I think that most of the card in this deck that were supposed to be based on stories from literature though few are based also on songs or historical figures (for example- The Great Father of the Emperor is based on two political figures President Harry Truman an Frank Rizzo,- former Mayor of Philadelphia, the Chariot refers to several Bruce Springsteen songs that feature cars!!?!) are at least strange or I found them funny, the idea for such deck was really great as well as insightful especially in corresponding the Fool card with the story of Wizard of Oz that I’ll bring it for the end of this presentation:

0 The Seeker (traditionally: The Fool)


Dorothy- The Seeker - from Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, and the film based on that children's classic. Dorothy, an orphan seeking to protect her dog Totto (0) from an evil and interfering neighbor (physical presence of Miss Gulch on her bicycle is transfigured into the symbolic presence of the Wicked Witch on her broomstick II/XV), decides to run away from the safe but dull haven her aunt and uncle provide (III / IV). She (Discs) is looking for color, excitement, and most of all, adventure (VII). When a tornado turns her world topsy-turvy (XVI), she sets off with her dog, Toto–and her unformed dreams (XVIII). Dorothy finds friends (four of them- 4 elements) on her uncharted journey–a scarecrow who perceives himself as brainless (Sword-air, mental sphere), a tin man in search of a heart (Cup-water, emotional sphere), and a lion looking for courage (Wand-fire, will). When Dorothy is advised that a trip to Emerald City (XXI) will provide the answers she seeks, the four (elements) travel a dangerous path as a unit, and triumph over adversity. Dorothy also discovers her dream is to return home to her aunt and uncle–and that she can go back to her place of grounding whenever she wants. She merely has to recognize and visualize her desire…and it’s hers.

Literary Symbolism:

There is great power in a dreamer who seeks adventure for adventure's sweet sake. The four “seekers” represent the four elements/aspects of the individual:

  • Dorothy: Pentacles or earth/ missing ground (home)
  • Scarecrow: Swords or air/missing intellect;
  • Tin Man: Cups or water/missing emotions;
  • Lion: Wands or fire/missing courage action.

We all possess these elements/aspects within us. When Dorothy sets out on her journey in the novel, it isn't because she has been thrust from the sky. She is frustrated with the humdrum Kansas farm life that is her lot and desires to find something more. She has security (coins-pentacles/earth), but believes that there is something better “out there.” Each of the four “seekers” is searching for something outside of themselves, and each of them already possess what they believe they lack. The only way they can discover that they have the qualities they desire is through their journey (experience) on the yellow brick road of life. None of them carry “baggage” - they find their answers without the trappings of possessions. The four seekers must work together when they encounter the Wicked Witch of the West (II/XV) all four aspects of self must synthesize when encountering difficulties on the journey to self-discovery. Each of the four show that they have what they believe they lack when they are in danger-when they are focused on protecting one another or getting closer to Emerald City, they forget to doubt themselves and leap into the what they most fear.

Artistic Symbolism:

The four “seekers” are linked; you can barely see where one body ends and another begins, which reflects their collective synthesis. Dorothy is seen with her basket and dog, reminiscent of the more traditional (card 0) with his belongings gathered together in a pouch on a wooden stick and a white dog yapping at his heels. The house often symbolizes the ego or persona, and the fact that it is spinning, circling in the tornado (card XVI) indicates that the Seeker is being totally uprooted in chaos. But even so, the house and Dorothy land together–it follows her despite the swirling storm (XVI). Notice how the red shoes glisten at the foot of the yellow brick road! They provide a shining counterpoint to the sheen of Emerald City, showing that Dorothy's sparkle is part of her essence, even as she seeks it elsewhere.

Other archetypes in the Wizard of Oz:

  • The wicked witch: the incarnation of card XV Devil, but also the incarnation for the dark side of the card II High priestess
  • The good witch: card II High Priestess
  • The wizard of Oz: trickster - card I Magician


Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high,
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow!

Well, I think that it wasn't enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em… and it's that if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.

There's no place like home; there's no place like home; there's no place like home…

Toto, we're home – home! And this is my room – and you're all here – and I'm not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all there's no place like home!

Scarecrow (Hunk) Why, if I had a brain I could…
I could wile away the hours,
Conferrin' with the flowers,
Consultin' with the rain.
And my head I'd be scratchin'
While my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain.”

Tin Man (Hickory) When a man's an empty kettle,
He should be on his mettle,
And yet I'm torn apart.
Just because I'm presumin'
That I could be kinda human
If I only had a heart.”

Cowardly Lion (Zeke) Yeah, it's sad, believe me, Missy,
When you're born to be a sissy,
Without the vim and verve.
But I could show my prowess,
Be a lion, not a “mowess,”
If I only had the nerve.“

Dialogue Dorothy – Scarecrow-Tin Man Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?
Scarecrow: I don't know. But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they?
Dorothy: Do you suppose we'll meet any wild animals?
Tin Man: Mmm, we might.
Dorothy: Oh!
Scarecrow: Animals that – that eat straw?
Tin Man: Uh, some. But mostly lions and tigers and bears.
Dorothy: Lions?
Scarecrow: And tigers?
Tin Man: [nodding] And bears.
Dorothy: Oh! Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!”

Tarot archetypes as characters in stories


  • The innocent child
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • Jack and the Beanstalk
  • The Clown or Fool
  • Pinocchio
  • Don Quijote


  • Wizard of Oz (trickster)
  • Merlin (real magician)


  • a) The good witch:
    • The fairy Godmother (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Glinda from Wizard of Oz)
    • The Earth mother (Mother nature, Alma Mater, Mother earth)
  • b) The bad witch:
    • The wicked witch of Oz
      • Rapunzel- out of spite
      • in Snow White-changing guises
      • in Sleeping Beauty-enchanting with great beauty
      • in Hansel and Gretel- attracting with lures
    • The evil stepmother:
      • in Cinderella
      • in Hansel and Gretel
      • in Snow White- out of jealousy


  • Wise man often in the guise of someone of very low standing and/or is often handicapped, may predict the future to a disbelieving tragic protagonist or may be used as wise counsel for a protagonist whose show fortune will turn out far better
  • Old wise man
  • Prophet Moses


  • Tragic hero
  • Prometheus
  • Oedipus
  • Hamlet
  • Machbet
  • Martyr


  • lots of types but main idea: tempts the protagonist with common desires such as material goods, wealth, fame, pleasure or permit knowledge in exchange for the character’s soul
  • Temptation
  • Satan / Lucifer/
  • Memphisto- selling your soul
  • Temptress sirens in Odyssey (Kirka- sensuality)
  • The wolf in Little red Hood- sexuality

0 The Fool

  • Symbolism: Innocence and wonder.
  • Archetype: The Child.

I The Magician

  • Symbolism: Magic and power.
  • Archetype: The Trickster.

II The High Priestess

  • Symbolism: Intuition
  • Archetype: The Anima – the unconscious female element of the male.

III The Empress

  • Symbolism: Nature and fertility.
  • Archetype: The Mother.

IV The Emperor

  • Symbolism: Masculine authority and power.
  • Archetype: The Father and the Hero.

V The Hierophant

  • Symbolism: Guidance or a teacher.
  • Archetype: The Wise Old Man. Teacher. Guide.

VI The Lovers

  • Symbolism: Lover and union of opposites.
  • Archetypes: The Soul or both the Anima and Animus (the opposite of the Anima, the male element of the female).

VII The Chariot

  • Symbolism: Hard work and victory.
  • Archetype: The Warrior.

VIII Justice

  • Symbolism: Balance and justice.
  • Archetype: Justice.

IX The Hermit

  • Symbolism: Wisdom
  • Archetype: Another Wise Old Man! But reclusive

X The Wheel of Fortune

  • Symbolism: Change, moving in circles.
  • Archetype: Fate and Destiny.

XI Strength

  • Symbolism: Determination.
  • Archetype: Endurance.

XII The Hanged Man

  • Symbolism: Necessary sacrifice.
  • Archetype: Sacrifice. Victim

XIII Death

  • Symbolism: Change, transition.
  • Archetype: Rebirth

XIV Temperance

  • Symbolism: Moderation.
  • Archetype: The Union of Opposites. Art/Alchemy

XV The Devil

  • Symbolism: Being trapped.
  • Archetype: The Trickster, The tempter/tress.. (material sphere/sexuality).

XVI The Tower

  • Symbolism: Chaos, unwanted change.
  • Archetype: Chaos.

XVII The Star

  • Symbolism: Hope and the spirit.
  • Archetype: The Star. The Hope.

XVIII The Moon

  • Symbolism: Emotions.
  • Archetype: The Moon – Dream, unconscioussnes.

XIX The Sun

  • Symbolism: Joy.
  • Archetype: The Sun- Joy, wellbeing

XX Judgement

  • Symbolism: Judgement and completion.
  • Archetype: Evaluation and reward.

XXI The World

  • Symbolism: Fullfilment.
  • Archetype: Satisfaction, wholeness. Completition,

Harut and Marut (Arabic: هاروت وماروت‎) are two angels mentioned in the second Surah of the Qur'an, who were sent down to test the people at Babel or Babylon by performing deeds of magic. (Sura Al-Baqara, verse 102). The Qur'an indicates that although they warned the Babylonians not to imitate them or do as they were doing, some members of their audience failed to obey and became sorcerers, thus damning their own souls.
The Sola Busca tarot deck is the only complete 78 cards deck dating to the 15th century. The deck was produced in the second half of the century. The most likely date being 1491. The cards were engraved on copper and later hand-painted in colours. Giordano Berti and Michael Dummett (according to Artur M. Hind, Early Italian Engravings, London, 1938, vol. I, pp.241-247, vol. IV, 370-393) suggest that the deck might have been engraved in Ferrara and illuminated in Venice (or for the Venetian market). The complete deck, which was owned by the Sola Busca family, was photographed in 1907 for the British Museum. In 2010, the Pinacoteca di Brera museum in Milan bought the deck for 800,000 Euro. The names of the cards are important, because most of the images are not easily connected to the common iconography of the represented subject. In particular, the 22 Trumps have the following structure: 1. Mato and 2. Panfilo. (The first is almost a “standard” Tarot Fool, the 2. could be a “self-portrait” of the author of the deck) + 18 Cards mostly (maybe all) corresponding to character of ancient Rome. In particular, at least 13 of the cards could represent people who took part in The End Of The Roman Republic. + Nenbroto and Nabuchodenasor -two Babylonian kings from the Bible
Mamluks (lit. slaves), a military class (slave warriors) which ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1517 and Syria (including Palestine) from 1260 to 1516. The Mamluks were one of the most important dynasties in the history of medieval Islam, gaining fame for stopping the Mongol advance into Syria and for eradicating the Crusader presence in Palestine and elsewhere along the Syrian coast. They were great patrons of culture, and many buildings with the distinctive building style of the period are scattered throughout Israel, especially Jerusalem. Most Mamluk sultans were themselves Mamluks of slave origin, although some were the sons of sultans.
Karnöffel is a card game which probably came from the upper-German language area in Europe in the first quarter of the 15th century. It first appeared “listed in a municipal ordinance of Nördlingen, Bavaria, in 1426 among the games that could be lawfully played at the annual city fête. This makes the game the oldest identifiable European card game in the history of playing cards. Karnöffel is unique in that it had a trump suit of cards with a higher priority than any other suit in the deck, which indicates that it might be a possible precursor to the trump cards of Tarot, as well as the Joker card found in modern card decks. In contrast to modern card games such as poker Karnöffel utilizes a deck of 48 cards. The name Karnöffel is probably derived from another card game, Kanjafah or Kanjifah (called in contemporary manuscripts, Karniffel, Karnueffel and Karnoeffelins), of Persian origin, which bears also a similarity with the name Ganjifa, Ganjifeh, of Indian origin.
Gebelin (1719 –1784) was a kind of a renaissance man- among other things he was engaged (just to give you an idea of what kind of “homo universalis” he was)- he was supporter of American Independence who contributed the new theories of economics (his brother from the same free mason lodge of Les Neuf Soeurs was Benjamin Franklin), and of the “animal magnetism” of Mesmer (with whom he died in an electrical experiment, apparently of an electrically induced heart attack)!. His great project had for its goal to set out to reconstruct the high primeval civilization. Reinterpreting Classical and Renaissance evocation of the Golden Age in mankind's early history. Court de Gébelin asserted that the primitive worldwide civilization had been advanced and enlightened. De Gebelin is also considered to be the intellectual grandfather of much of modern occultism. His centers of focus are the familiar ones of a) universal origins of languages in ancient time and b) the hermeneutics of symbolism. While his views on hermeneutics and religious matters were largely conservative, his original ideas and research on the origin of language earn him a place among pioneers of linguistics. Court de Gébelin presented dictionaries of etymology, what he called a universal grammar, and discourses on the origins of language. His volumes were so popular he republished them separately, as Histoire naturelle de la parole, ou Précis de l'Origine du Langage & de la Grammaire Universelle (“Natural history of the Word, or a sketch of the origins of language and of universal grammar”), in Paris, 1776.With regard to mythology and symbology, he discussed the origins of allegory in antiquity and recreated a history of the calendar from civil, religious, and mythological perspectives.
Eliphas Lévi, born Alphonse Louis Constant (February 8, 1810 - May 31, 1875), was a French occult author and ceremonial magician who took “Eliphas Lévi,” as the name under which he published his books (although he was not Jewish). Levi's first treatise on magic appeared in 1854 under the title Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, and was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual. In 1861, he published a sequel, La Clef des Grands Mystères (The Key to the Great Mysteries). Further magical works by Lévi include Fables et Symboles (Stories and Images), 1862, and La Science des Esprits (The Science of Spirits), 1865. In 1868, he wrote Le Grand Arcane, ou l'Occultisme Dévoilé (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled); this, however, was only published posthumously in 1898. Lévi's version of magic became a great success, especially after his death. That Spiritualism was popular on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1850s contributed to this success. He incorporated the Tarot cards into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important part of the paraphernalia of Western magicians. He had a deep impact on the magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and later on the ex-Golden Dawn member Aleister Crowley. He was also the first to declare that a pentagram or five-pointed star with one point down and two points up represents evil, while a pentagram with one point up and two points down represents good. It was largely through the occultists inspired by him that Lévi is remembered as one of the key founders of the 20th century revival of magic.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (or, more commonly, the Golden Dawn) was a magical order active in Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which practiced magic and spiritual development. It has been one of the largest single influences on 20th-century Western occultism. The three founders, William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers were Freemasons and members of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.) The Golden Dawn system was based on hierarchy and initiation like the Masonic Lodges; however women were admitted on an equal basis with men. The “Golden Dawn” was the first of three Orders, although all three are often collectively referred to as the “Golden Dawn”. The First Order taught esoteric philosophy based on the Hermetic Qabalah and personal development through study and awareness of the four Classical Elements as well as the basics of astrology, tarot divination, and geomancy. The Second or “Inner” Order, the Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (the Ruby Rose and Cross of Gold), taught proper magic, including scrying, astral travel, and alchemy. The Third Order was that of the “Secret Chiefs”, who were said to be highly skilled; they supposedly directed the activities of the lower two orders by spirit communication with the Chiefs of the Second Order.
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  • Last modified: 2013-04-24 11:09
  • by alkan