melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
([personal profile] melannen posting in [community profile] tarot Mar. 11th, 2010 09:20 pm)
I recently ran across the blog Pre-Gebelin Tarot History, and I wanted to link it here, because it is the Tarot research source that I've been trying to find for ten years - since I first started studying the cards.

It focuses on documentary, literary, and artistic references to Tarot that pre-date Court de Gebelin's original interpretation of the Marseilles tarot as encoded Egyptian wisdom, in 1781.

That means that, to start with, it's got a lot of fantastic reproductions of early Tarot imagery that are hard to find other places.

It also means, though, that the blog's writer is very firmly on the side of the opinion that Tarot started out as a card game in early Renaissance Italy, that for almost its entire history it's been been primarily a card game, and that all the mystical interpretations are based on things tacked-on to the real tradition by later occultists.

I think that's too hard of a line to take - the whole point of occult traditions is that they don't get recorded in the histories, and part of that is because it's upper-class Christian men who wrote the histories; and that even if it *did* start out as a card game, the imagery is well-suited to both divination and meditation, and it must have been used that way from early on.

The card game *is* what all the historical evidence supports, though, and study the imagery in the Renaissance Italian context (and the changes that were made as the cards moved out of Italy) are incredibly rich sources of knowledge, about the cards themselves, and about Western philosophy and, yes, mysticism - there's a humanist/platonic/Christian mysticism running deeply through even the most wholly mundane explication of the images.

And I think it's a crying shame that so many Tarot enthusiasts *completely* ignore - or never even get a chance to learn about - all of the historical accounts and the studies of surviving early Tarot decks (Especially since I find the history of card games fascinating in their own right.) The Pre-Gebelin blog has the primary historical sources all there, and after I spent ages chasing after every hint of them I could find in mainstream Tarot works, I am so happy to find it all in the blog.

So. Yes. The blog's writer is very much on one side of a debate, and he often gets very, very blunt about the people who refuse to accept historical methods, and the scholarship is dense enough that it's not a quick read, but I still really, really strongly recommend it for anyone who's serious about studying Tarot. Even if it's just so you'll know what it is you're choosing to ignore.

...And if you like the idea of learning about the Italian Renaissance roots of the Tarot, but the blog is too abrasive or too densely written for you to enjoy, I also really recommend the book Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Robert Place, which covers a lot of the same history as the blog, but does it in a way that's sympathetic to the mystical uses of the Tarot, and also includes a divination guide that's heavy on using the Renaissance symbolism.


tarot: (Default)
Tarot and cartomancy

Most Popular Tags

Page Summary

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags