Whoopi's Reading and Mary K. Greer's Redacted Memory

The View's co-hosts Elizabeth Hasselbeck and Whoopi Goldberg looking perfectly incredulous at "psychic" Sandy Anastasi's tale of Tarot history. Even more devastating for Sandy, Mary Greer got historically offended! Oh no!
Seldom do these stories of Tarotica, of Tarot cartoculture, have happy beginnings or endings, and I have to say even the middle journeys are often wretched things, revealing only pain and miasma.

But, fortunately, you're just looking for a few cheap laughs, right, so here is the story of how a silly Tarot "psychic" went onto The View to read cards, and ended up being scolded by Mary K. Greer, for of all sins, not being sufficiently historical in her on-air tarotblather.

Now, that is really something, considering how, for so many years, Greer argued against the value of Tarot history and its historians, chiefly because their "mere facts" rubbed her fantasies about Tarot the wrong way. And also, a lot of them were men, and she doesn't like men telling her what to do. So there.

Over the years, unfortunately for Mary's pride and dogma, the possession and even expression of some basic facts about Tarot history, became generally required if one was going to opine authoritatively about the subject. Eventually, she began to posture as if knowing some history and some facts might even be good things, like flossing or something.

And so, when poor Tarot psychic Sandy Anastasi went on The View to read Waite Tarot cards for co-host, Whoopi Goldberg, and Sandy expressed an opinion about Tarot's history, in Greer's view Sandy had the professional reputation of the entire stupid island of Tarotmania resting on her psychic shoulders.

Unfortunately, the best Psychic Sandy Anastasi could come up with about Tarot history was the following:
"The Tarot cards are rooted so deeply in history, nobody really knows where they came from. Our earliest history is the gypsies carrying them around Europe, and we know them as a divination tool, a fortunetelling tool."
Well, OK, so that's really not true.

Tarot cards are rooted about 560 years ago or so, in northern Italy, where they were invented to play card games. We know this for a number of reasons, but chiefly because the oldest decks are from this time and place, and Tarot card games are about all Tarot was known for until the 18th century, when some Freemasons applied their Egyptomaniacal theories to the cards and invented occult Tarot.

As for Gypsies, well the myth of their involvement with Tarot goes back to the 18th century, since of course Gypsies were wrongly believed to be the remnants of ancient Egyptians, the Egyptian theory of Tarot promoted by the Freemasons included a mention of how the Gypsies had been responsible for introducing Tarot to Europe. There wasn't any evidence that was the case, but it made a good and resilient story.

Of course, eventually the Gypsies heard they were supposed to be using Tarot cards, and they actually did adopt them into their collection of fortunetelling tools.

Anyway, as you'll see when you look at the video of the reading, things didn't go so well for Psychic Sandy. For one thing, she had to deal with Loopy Elizabeth Hasselbeck, whose role on the show seems to be that of court jester. Hasselbeck went so far as to attempt to correct the hapless psychic, who had placed the cards upside-down, silly rabbit, so the television audience couldn't properly see them. Of course Psychic Sandy had to explain to Elizabeth that in fact she used inverted cards, and now Elizabeth had gone and changed the meanings and everything! Hasselbeck laughed about her newfound power to alter the future, and Goldberg, whose cards and future were being mangled this way and that, just seemed wryly skeptical and bored through the whole mess.

Now, if the reading had not been such a Tarot trainwreck, and put onto YouTube for everybody to laugh at, most likely Greer wouldn't have felt challenged to ride forth in defense of the realm. But, of course she heard duty call, and off she went to blog about the unfortunate spectacle of Sandy Anastasi's Tarot tribulation.

Greer started out trying to appear to be nice—"I don’t like to criticize someone else’s reading"—but nice is really not in Greer's nature of course, and she went right to work, pointing out how unprofessional Sandy had been:
“I was shocked that the reader, Sandy Anastasi, knew nothing true about the history of tarot when there is so much documented and written about it. As a tarot author and spokesperson, it is incredibly irresponsible and unprofessional for her to spout such nonsense."
So there, stupid ole Sandy! Mary K. Greer says you are INCREDIBLY IRRESPONSIBLE to be so full of nonsense about Tarot history! You simpleton you!

Yeah. OK.

But, here's the problem with Greer's histrionics. She knows damn well that she herself has said precisely the same kinds of things about Tarot that Sandy Anastasi promoted on The View, BUT she also knows that you would be hard pressed to find those things, even on the big world wide web, because she's worked hard to erase them.

Specifically, what I am referring to is the Tarot History section of her 1984 book, Tarot For Your Self. New editions of that book have Greer's new more facty history section, which she claims couldn't have been acquired back in 1984, because back then people didn't know (or more importantly care) so much about silly old facts and stuff about Tarot.

Of course, Greer's claims about that are utter nonsense, as the general factual scheme of Tarot's history was mainly reported accurately even back in A. E. Waite's Pictorial Key to the Tarot, a century ago.

In Greer's 1984 book, however, she was pretty clear about how unclear and yet really powerful the mystery was about Tarot and its history.

Right at the start of the book, in the section "What Tarot Is", she alleges:
“The Tarot is an ancient Western occult psychological and philosophical system consisting of 78 cards divided in the Major and Minor Arcana. The 22 cards of the Major Arcana represent in archetypal symbols wo/man's [sic] journey through life, a journey which Carl Jung envisioned as the process of individuation.”
She doesn't say how she knows the Tarot is "an ancient Western occult psychological and philosophical system". She knows that line is just a blob of newage buzzwords, and its historical relevance or factual truth is not important.

Later, in her section on Tarot history, Greer offered:
“No one knows for sure where or when the Tarot first appeared.”
“The very mystery of the origin of the Tarot adds to its power...I choose to believe that the Tarot didn’t just happen by accident. The Tarot is a map, deliberately drawn to aid each of us who stumbles upon this path. Who drew this map, and when and where, is another story, for another day.”
Now, recall that Sandy Anastasi had said:
"The Tarot cards are rooted so deeply in history, nobody really knows where they came from."
And again, Mary K. Greer:
“No one knows for sure where or when the Tarot first appeared.”
Now, Greer complained about Sandi:
"She lost a good opportunity to inform the public that the tarot originated in 15th century Northern Italy—most likely in the courts of Milan or Ferrara (and not with the gypsies!")
But then looking back at Greer's own assessment of the Gypsy situation in Tarot For Your Self, she says (having noted Gypsies couldn't have introduced Tarot into Europe, nevertheless):
"...the gypsies picked up the use of playing cards quickly and perhaps helped spread their use, giving them the reputation of 'fortune-telling' devices.”
That isn't much different than Sandy's:
"Our earliest history is the gypsies carrying them around Europe, and we know them as a divination tool, a fortunetelling tool."
While Greer doesn't say it is "our earliest history", she does suggest the Gypsies could have begun this spreading in the 15th century, so about the time Tarot appeared.

One of the things I have noted about Greer over the years is that she delights in beating people up for making the very same mistakes she makes, and which, when she's saying wrong things, she defends as her right to add ignorant power to Tarot. But, as noted, the bits I have quoted here from Greer's 1984 book, are almost wiped clean from the web, as if she never wrote them. Now at least they can be preserved on this blog.

You don't have to thank me, Mary.



Douglas said…
Great post!

I liked the way you presented the 'history' of Mary K.Greer! The hidden, dark secrets of the past - easily forgotten - history is written by the victors!


Seanchai said…

Well written. I knew nothing about this at all, but as most people in the community, I know Greer, and her many works.

Thank-you for a very insightful, and truly historical perspective to not only this issue, but Greer's response. I wish I could say it was surprising.