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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tatot Cards or "Tarocchi"

Tarot Cards

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with tarot cards by now. Its a set of 72 cards lavishly decorated with occult symbology. The deck is used for randomly generated divination, or “fortune telling.” Many have seem its “Death” and “Devil” cards in many bad horror movies in creepy voodoo shops. Despite its age, Tarot has always been lumped in with new age mysticism. And rightly so. Occultists and new age practitioners have written quite a few books about its origins and dramatically warped it into something it isn’t. Nearly all of them containing outright lies and presumptions. They nearly all say something about Tarot’s “mysterious origins,” being the reason it holds so much power. Some even say that it comes from ancient Egypt or God himself. Unfortunately, we know exactly where tarot cards came from and what they are used for.

15th century Italy. There were two card games that were popular at the time. One involving a set of 21 cards, the other involving a set of 56 cards (four of these cards were later removed to form what is now the common playing card deck). These two decks are combined to form a tarot card deck. Even when the two decks were first combined, it still wasn’t used for divination. It was used for another card game. This game is called “Tarocchi,” and is still played today in parts of Europe. Not very magical sounding now, is it? There is evidence that people with Tarot decks were sometimes arrested in Italy. New agers will even use this as evidence that people feared magic. But actually, this law was set up to stop people from gambling. No one cared less about the gypsies’ fortune telling.

Divination with the cards came about when gypsies started using Tarot decks for fortune telling. Fast forward to the early 1900’s when Arthur Edward Waite, your typical eccentric occultist, writes a book on the Tarot as well as designing his own deck. He redesigned the most common Tarot playing card deck and crammed a bunch of occult symbology in it. This becomes the most popular Tarot deck used today.

Many Tarot users toss around the works of Carl Jung as “proof” that tarot exists. Jung was a psychiatrist who firmly believed in the use of tarot. Let met be direct about this. Carl Jung was incredibly delusional about metaphysics. Genius when it comes to certain things, sure. But clearly delusional. He believed in other such nonsense as astrology, ESP, ghosts, and all kinds of things that have long since been proven false. He once even believed himself the be a prophet with “special insight.” I suppose something can be said for his idea that the images and randomness of the Tarot can dig in the subconscious mind in much the same way as an inkblot test can. But just about anything with a degree of randomness can do this. And it usually provides useless information that you probably already know about yourself. (More on my disliking of psychologists later.)

To review:

Tarot is not from God, its from the Italians
Tarot was created for a card game, not for divination
Carl Jung lost his marbles
I myself own multiple tarot decks. So I’m not speaking as an angry skeptic here. They’re fun and usually very beautiful. Sometimes when I’m undecided on what to do, I trust it in the deck the same way that some people trust in flipping a coin to make a simple decision. And, as an illusionist, they can really make for some cool visuals when doing card tricks. But I wouldn’t put too much stock in a deck of cards giving me any serious advice on life.

Submitted by Melancton
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