What Is Tarot?

The structure of the Tarot deck is part of the symbolism of the cards. The history of Tarot tells us how and why the way Tarot is put together affected how the symbolism of Tarot was established and interpreted.
I have a new article on my site. It is actually an extensive update to an article I had on my old Tarotica site.

In "What is Tarot?", I explore the history of the structure and the symbolism of the cards, starting with the Mamluk playing card decks, which provided Tarot with a lot of its basic symbolism, and going through the modern era of occultist packs.

Tarot is not an easy study, and that is true even if you leave out all the occultist theories and just deal with the way the gaming decks developed over time. Even just examining the evolution of Tarot games, it is easy to affirm the occult Tarot idea that no matter how established an idea or a symbol, things can change and they often do in Tarot.

Not all of the changes are always that helpful. And unfortunately unlike mutations in lifeforms, that often quickly kill off the unfortunate mutants, Tarot mutation is celebrated by modern practitioners and game deck designers (especially) as a means of keeping Tarot a "living" artform.

Maybe. But it would be nice if people bothered to learn what it is they are changing and often killing just to keep the mutant going.


Eric Wagner said…
Terrific piece. Which chapter of Revelations corresponds with the Fool?
Glenn Wright said…
I don't know that the correspondence is all that tight in every case. But, for example, if you hold that 0-Fool should correspond to Chapter 1, then in superficial symbolism—which might be useful in recalling playing-card sequences, you have the seven candlesticks, in the midst of which was the figure of Christ. And the first Fool was notable for the seven feathers (a lenten tradition) in his hair. Maybe these stood for candlesticks in the chapter. In any case, the Christ-Fool symbolism was robust in seeing its ways into our own modern Tarot symbolism as well.