You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Tarot History & Research’ category.
I’ve completed one session of my 5-week Petit Lenormand course and can hardly wait until the next session. I have so much information to share. I recently bought a very early 20th century booklet on fortune-telling with German-suited playing cards: Green Leaves, Red Hearts, Bells and Acorns, as found on the Spiel der Hoffnüng cards. A friend is translating the book for me and, at first glance, it seems to provide a key to the Lenormand suits.
In looking for images to illustrate these old suits I came across an astonishing double-headed version of a deck that was popular in Germany, Austria and Hungary. In it the Daus cards (2′s which substituted for Aces) represent the four seasons, but look at how the pictures match the images on the Pages:
Starting on the right: Wintery Acorns (Eicheln) are Clubs and both the Jack and Daus feature birch rod switches.
Summer’s Bells (Schellen) are Diamonds and both cards show wheat being harvested with a scythe.
The red Hearts (Röt Herzen) of Spring (same in both decks) are all about hearts and flowers, the blossoming of love.
The green Leaves (Grün Laub) of Fall are Spades and show two children pressing wine grapes, while the Jack of Spades depicts a child at play. The Lenormand text for this Jack calls it is a card of goodness. Country customs often turn grape stomping into a time of fun and frivolity. Fall is also the season when children return to school.
A 1830 32-card set of German Fortune-Telling Playing Cards (Munich: Franz Josef Holler, made by Comptoir Industry of Leipzig)
I then found a webpage featuring German cards printed with fortune-telling meanings. This deck falls right between the 1799 Spiel der Hoffnüng game (the direct forerunner of the Lenormand cards) that is illustrated with both German and French playing cards, and the 1846 emergence of the German fortune-telling deck named after Mlle. Lenormand.
While the individual card meanings don’t seem to match the Lenormand cards, the suits do, and they show a fortune telling tradition that is quite different than the English and French systems most of us are familiar with. I’d be very grateful to anyone willing to translate some of the verses above into English. Please post translations in the comments.
You can sign up anytime to access my Lenormand course or to order the DVDs at Global Spiritual Studies.
While it’s hard to tell what beast is shown on the 10 of Acorns (Eicheln), we also find a beast (Bear) on the equivalent 10 of Clubs. Both of them have envy as a keyword. The original Lenormand instructions read: “Bear means happiness, but it also indicates it is necessary to avoid discussions with an envious person.”
Want a good, medieval mystery to read? The Song of the Nightingale by Alys Clare, sent this blogger, C. LaVielle, on a journey into the real life mystery of the origins of Tarot. As she notes, a Cathar origin is not really feasible, but its origins among “progressive Catholics who used existing Christian Apocalyptic art” is. This is an excellent summary of that perspective. The photo above is a 15th century fresco on the side of a Confraternity Chapel in Clusone, Italy. It depicts both a Dance of Death and a Triumph of Death and includes several figures that appear in the Tarot. Read the article at C. LaVielle’s Book Jacket Blog.
(Thanks to Mel Parsons for turning me on to the book and blog post.)
I have spent the past two years obsessed with the Petit Lenormand cards, a deck of 36 fortune-telling cards created in Germany in 1846, based on an earlier multi-purpose game called the “Die Spiel der Hoffnüng” created by Johann Kaspar Hechtel in Nuremburg in 1799. The Petit Lenormand appropriated the name of the Parisian Mlle Lenormand, the most famous fortune-teller of her age, who died in 1843, shortly before the newly incarnated deck appeared. I’ll write more about these cards later.
I am announcing here for the first time that I have found an earlier set of 32 fortune-telling cards that are the undoubtable forerunner of both the “Spiel der Hoffnüng” game and the Lenormand cards. My source is a 1796 book in English in the British Museum entitled: “Les Amusements des Allemands, or The Diversions of the Court of Vienna, in which the Mystery of Fortune-Telling from the Grounds of the Coffee-Cup is unravelled, and Three pleasant Games, viz.: 1. Fortune-telling from the Grounds of the Coffee-Cup. 2. Fortune-telling by laying out the cards. 3. The new Imperial Game of numbers are invented.
The work is based on an Austro-German set of cards from 1794. An introduction to the book states:
“These entertaining games first made their appearance at Vienna, in 1794, where they still are the favorite amusement of the Empress of Germany, and the Imperial Court. They have since been diffused through all the fashionable circles in that country. The Editor, therefore, has to hope that, in a country where the liberality and curious discernment of its inhabitants is so conspicuous as that of Britain, they will not be held in less estimation.”
While there are only 32 cards, most of them are exact forerunners to Lenormand cards. The few variations, like Lion, have close replacements as their Coffee-ground meanings indicate. For instance, “Lion, or a ferocious beast” has the same meaning as the Lenormand Bear.
It’s been thought for several years that the Lenormand images were derived from Coffee-ground fortune-telling or Tasseomancy. This work is the missing link that proves this theory. It has been curious that several of the Lenormand images were not found in the old lists of coffee-ground emblems, but now we know that several cards were added to the original set. The reason for the expansion of the deck to 36 cards probably came about when Hechtel decided to combine “Les Amusements des Allemands” with the German 36-piece playing card deck, which was then more popular than either the 32-card Piquet deck or the 52-card deck.
The Empress, for whom these were a ‘favorite amusement’, was probably Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily (1772–1807), the last Holy Roman Empress, first Empress of Austria and mother of nine. She was described as:
so jealous that she does not allow him [the Emperor] to take part in social life or meet other women. Vicious tongues accuse her of being so passionate that she exhausts her consort and never leaves him alone even for a moment. Although the people of Vienna cannot deny that she is gifted, charitable and carries herself beautifully, she is disliked for her intolerance and for forcing the Emperor to live isolated from everyone. She is also accused of interesting herself in unimportant matters and socializing exclusively with her lady-companions. With them she spends her evenings singing, acting out comedies and being applauded.
Could the “unimportant matters” mentioned above include her use of fortune-telling cards?
Here is the full British Museum description of the book:
A sequence of 32 playing-cards bound (at the British Museum) as a small book, having on them emblematic designs of various character, and below moral apophthegms to which the designs have reference. Each piece has a number at the upper left-hand corner answering to certain explanatory and descriptive tables given in a book of directions which accompanies the cards. The title page of this book of 31 pages bears the following lettered inscription: “Les Amusements des Allemands, or The Diversions of the Court of Vienna, in which the Mystery of Fortune-Telling from the Grounds of the Coffee-Cup is unravelled, and Three pleasant Games, viz.: 1. Fortune-telling from the Grounds of the Coffee-Cup. 2. Fortune-telling by laying out the cards. 3. The new Imperial Game of numbers are invented”, and “London: Printed for Champante and Whitrow, Jewry-Street, Aldgate, and may be had at every Booksellers and Toy Shop in the Kingdom, 1796.” Engraving and letterpress Backs plain (according to Willshire) 1796.
Bent Sorensen has offered this list of the 32 Emblematic Fortune-Telling Cards, according to the numbers found on the cards:
16. Tree I – Labor, Pains, Long Effort
29. Tree II – Money (the result of one’s labor)
30. Worms or Vipers (“Bugs”)
I’m proud to announce that The Tarot of the Magicians by Oswald Wirth (RedWheel/Weiser), with an extensive introduction by me, won the Award for the Best Book of 2012 from TarotProfessionals. This is a classic work by one of the great French occultists of the late 19th and early 20th century that should be read and re-read by all serious Tarot students. The book also contains the first reproduction of Wirth’s original 1889 Tarot (only 350 produced), on fine card stock—ready to be cut out and used. If you get only one tarot book in 2013, it should be this. Please share your impressions of this outstanding book.
Tarot Art and History Tour of Northern Italy
September 23rd – October 6th 2012
14 Day Tour of Northern Italy
We had such a great time on our first organized Tarot Art & History Tour of Italy this fall, that Arnell and Michael are doing it again and it is going to be fabulous! Highlights are posted on this webpage . More details will be sent to you upon request. Hope you can come as it is an unbelievable opportunity! Please book early as space is limited for this extraordinary adventure.
Above is my photo of the room of Good and Bad Government in the Civic Palace of Siena. I really got that these frescoed rooms were designed to have a powerful impact on all who entered the space—to magically imbue people with the ideals and principles governing them. Town councilors entered the room from the now-sealed door that is directly under the allegorical images of Wisdom and Justice—a very deliberate choice. The Rider-Waite Empress was taken from the central image representing PAX (Peace). To the right is the well-governed town. To the left is the Devil with all the terrible consequences that his reign could have upon on the area. Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, creator of The Tarot of the Crone, Tarot Paperdolls and the forthcoming Minoan Tarot is in the foreground.
I can’t emphasize enough, that if you want to have any idea of the world from which the Tarot emerged, you have to experience it for yourself! Your days will be filled with the consciousness and beauty of the 14th and 15th centuries that created the base for the later Renaissance. You’ll begin to understand in the constant mix of Pagan and Christian imagery, how their “Christian” mind-set was an amalgam of all the wisdom that had come before and very different from how we think today. You’ll get an appreciation of the incomparable beauty of Italy and the sophisticated allegorical thinking that had to go into the creation of the Tarot. Your tour guide, Morena Poltronieri of the Museo dei Tarocchi, will introduce you to the secrets of the masons who built the churches and will reveal the influences of the real alchemists, Templars, artists and philosophers who left their easily discerned marks on the buildings she knows so well. Here is one corner of the Museo dei Tarocchi.
Check out this animoto video by Tero Hynynen of photos from the last trip.
As promised, here is the information on the IndiGoGo fundraising campaign for the Waite-Trinick Tarot Book. You can help publish A.E. Waite’s Second Tarot images as quickly as possible—so we can all get them in our hands! Be part of this historic presentation.
Tali Goodwin has started a series on her discovery of the images and the continuing saga involving her research into John Trinick. Read all about it at The Tarot Speakeasy.
Update: Ordering information here for the 250 copy limited edition.
The following announcement by Tali Goodwin and Marcus Katz has stirred quite a controversy. At the end of this announcement you’ll find a link to an article by Tabatha Cicero that adds much to an understanding of issues involved in the publication of these images.
Tali Goodwin of Tarot Professionals and the blog Tarot Speakeasy, through extensive research, has discovered the ORIGINAL Waite-Trinick images that comprised a tarot deck conceptualized by A.E. Waite for the private use of members of his Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. Tali tracked the family of stained glass artist, J. B. Trinick, who had lived in Kendal, England, and found the original color paintings!
Late last year Marcus Katz stumbled across an ebay sale for a set of worn and damaged images that he immediately recognized as part of a mysterious second Waite deck. It had been brought to the attention of tarotists in Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett’s book A History of the Occult Tarot. The illustrations here are from that book. The new discovery was part of a series of several major synchronicities in the story of this rare deck that have taken place over the last two years.
Tali and Marcus were able to view and photograph the beautiful and enigmatic original paintings and have agreed with the owners to bring out a book (in color and b&w) of the major twenty-two images with full commentary prior to Christmas 2011.
The commentary will be based on Waite’s unpublished and extensive commentary on the images, which has led to a complete mapping of Waite’s “secret” correspondences to the Tree of Life. Marcus says that this set of correspondences is so blindingly obvious and “makes sense,” such that he believes we will be astounded. It will be interesting to see if the mapping corresponds with the revised Tree of Life described in Decker and Dummett’s book. Also, this clears up a long-running controversy about whether the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was designed with Golden Dawn Tree of Life Associations in mind. My feeling is that it was, as Waite clearly uses these associations in some of his Order papers, but it’s also clear that he wasn’t really satisfied with them.
Tarot Professionals are hosting a funding drive—live on Indigogo (now available) to ask for assistance towards publication. As they want to make these remarkable images—and the biggest discovery in Tarot this century—available to everyone. I’ll post the information as soon as I get it.
For additional information and another perspective, read Tabatha Cicero on “The Great Symbols of the Paths” at The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn blog.
About John Trinick
Several years ago, Cerulean, on Aeclectic’s tarot forum, posted this information about Trinick:
John Trinick was born in Melbourne, Australia, on 17 August 1890, sailing to England with his parents in 1893 before returning to Australia in 1907. He studied in the art school of the National Gallery of Victoria between 1910 and 1915 and then returned to England in 1919 to continue his studies at the Byam Shaw and Vicat Cole school of Art.
Trinick began to specialise in glass in 1921 when he joined the studios of William Morris Merton and ten years later he opened his own studio in Upper Norwood, London. He rapidly became famous for the quality of his work, exhibiting widely at The Royal Academy, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and in Vitoria, Spain, in addition to providing stained glass windows for several churches, including a complete set of chapel windows for St. Michael’s in 1951. Among his other work was a panel, Opus Sectile, depicting Our Lady of Walsingham in Westminster Cathedral; 11 windows for St. Pius X, London and the entire chapel scheme for Salmerston Grange, Margate.
He was also an accomplished illustrator in watercolour, pencil, pastel and crayon, a collection of Trinick’s watercolour copies of European stained glass windows ws purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it forms part of the V and A archives.
Although the majority of Trinick’s work involved ecclesiastical commissions, he did not limit his exploration of spirituality to Christianity. He actively explored many modes of thinking throughout his life, including Rosicruianism and Freemasonry. He had a strong interest in alchemy and other forms of ancient spirituality. In 1922 he published a book of poetry entitled Dead Sanctuary and, in 1967, at the age of 84, he published a philosophical volume, The Fire Tried Stone, an appraisal of the work of Carl Jung.
John Trinick died in 1974, many of his designs returning to Australia.
Here is the advice of 45 experienced reader and teachers of tarot and a few newbies. The contradictions are intended to foster respect and understanding for alternate views.
History is based on facts and therefore can express only what can be demonstrated with evidence or carefully deduced from an in-depth understanding of the facts, the culture, the period and the people. New facts can totally change what was formerly thought to be true.
Myths are false stories that reveal some kind of inner Truth. That Truth is often not what the myth conveys on its surface. Someone called them “the Great Imaginings behind this World.” However, they can lead us along paths that aren’t real or can even be harmful, for instance when they become “rules” that unnecessarily limit our experience.
It’s been said that history is true on the outside but a lie on the inside (for instance, we’ll never know what people actually felt and did). Whereas a myth is a lie on the outside and true on the inside (however, discerning the truth it points to can be tricky).
There are at least two kinds of tarot myths:
- Stories of tarot’s origins (mostly romantic and mystical stories with great inner significance),
- “Rules” that should be followed only if you find them helpful and meaningful.
We actually know quite a bit about tarot history. It originated sometime between 1420 and 1440 in Northern Italy, probably Milan, amid other experiments in creating sets of “triumph” cards. We also know fairly precisely what the images signified in the late Gothic, early Renaissance North Italian culture. For the first 350 years ‘Il Trionfos’ were known almost entirely for playing games similar to bridge.
There are indications early on that both playing cards and tarot were used for divination and character delineations, but such practices were not widely known until the late 18th century. This is when Antoine Court de Gébelin, Le Comte de Mellet, and Jean-Baptiste Alliette (Etteilla)—all Freemasons—wrote about tarot and fortune-telling and made up stories about their being brought to Europe by the gypsies from their mystical place of origin in Egypt.
Please read the TarotL History Information Sheet and my post: “Origins of Playing Card Divination.” The serious student will want to also check out trionfi.com, taropedia.com, Cultural Association “Le Tarot”, the Tarot History Forum and Tarot History & Iconography at aeclectic, among others. Books are recommended on these sites.
The advice given here by our panel of tarot experts (and a few newbies) wasn’t easy to organize. I’ve done quite a bit of condensing and of merging of similar statements.
• Just starting to read tarot? No, it’s not important to know tarot history and myth. All that’s important to know is that tarot is a divination tool.
• History is not necessary for newbies. Myths and archetypes work even if you don’t know how or what their history is. They are timeless, that is, relevant to all times. Newbies need the Magic first!
Do you want to know how playing cards are actually made? Here are a series of videos that take you through the historical development of the major deck production techniques.
This video from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London shows how woodcut playing cards were created:
The Rider-Waite-Smith deck was produced by Lithography (technically chromolithography as several colors were involved). The process was similar to what’s shown here except with a really big stone, a big press, and a separate run for each color:
Cartamundi in Belgium, who have printed many modern tarot decks, demonstrate how they print their playing cards:
I really hesitated about including this video, as it breaks my heart, but, since so many tarot decks are now printed in China, I thought it important that we understand a little of what is involved in obtaining such cheap prices:
And for something a little more personal—
Check out these sites:
- Guides for Producing Small Editions of Hand-made Playing Cards,
- Arnell Ando’s Useful Notes on Making and Publishing Your Own Tarot Deck.
If you don’t want to design your own deck but like a bit of handwork and a deck that looks different and, in many cases, is more immediate in its impact, try cutting off the borders of one of your decks. Tarotforum has a page with pictures of hundreds of trimmed tarot decks—check out which ones work best here first. And, here’s a video by Donnaleigh on how to do it:
Who created the first tarot deck? For what purpose? No one really knows for sure. It is clear that tarot cards (il trionfos) were used for games almost from the beginning. Whether there was any other purpose in the mind of the artist or the person who commissioned the deck will probably never been known. What has emerged, though, is an image of cards as a social pasttime that may have been part of the courting rituals of the period. It presented an opportunity for young men and women to interact and flirt in a chaperoned environment. In fact, the oldest decks we have were probably commissioned as wedding presents. One of the earliest of card players and the intended recipient of the Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck, was Bianca Maria Visconti (1425-1468), shown above at her wedding with Francesco Sforza (1441). The deck may have been a gift from her father, Filippo Maria Visconti (died 1447). Filippo Maria Visconti’s golden ducato is shown on the suit of Coins of the Visconti-Sforza deck (first noticed by Ross Caldwell, I believe):
A German historian of women in the Middle Ages and Renaissance and a recognized art expert, Maike Vogt-Luerssen, has written a book about Bianca Maria (unfortunately only in German) and has collected an astonishing array of paintings of members of the Visconti and Sforza families. Begin here and then continue your tour through this marvelous collection.
Were the Cary-Yale Tarot cards, a deck with six court cards per suit and additional triumps, made for the marriage of
- Filippo Maria Visconti and Marie of Savoy in 1428 (because it contains the Savoy device of a white cross on a red field), or for
- Galeazzo Maria Sforza with Bona of Savoy in 1468 (because it contains the Sforza device of a fountain)?
Marie of Savoy was the daughter of Amadeus VIII, Count of Savoy, who was elected as the Antipope Felix V by the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence, from November 1439 to April 1449 (the picture of Felix V on the right should be familiar to tarot aficionados):
There is a possibility that the Cary-Yale cards were painted not by Bonifacio Bembo but by someone from the workshop of the Zavattari family (and here) who painted the frescos of Teodolinda in the Cathedral at Monza, near Milan.* The Bavarian and Christian Teodolinda married the Lombard king Authari in 589 (who was either an early heretic or a pagan) and when he died a year later, she married the Duke of Turin, Agilulf, who became the King of Italy, making Milan his seat. In the 15th century, the Zavattari family painted the story of Teodolinda, as she had founded a chapel on that spot and established Monza as her home. These frescos bear a striking resemblance both to the Borromeo frescos and to the Cary-Yale Tarot.
Added: Tero Tynynen has done more research on the subject with lots of links and a couple of videos featuring the frescos of Monza and period music, for those who are interested in the possible artists of these earliest decks - here.
* The frescos in the Cathedral of Monza were painted between 1440 and 1446 by Franceschino Zavattari and his sons Gregorio and Giovanni in a style known as the “International (or Late) Gothic.” Another son, Ambrogio, may have been involved. Franceschino’s father, Cristoforo, participated in work on the Milan Cathedral in the early fifteenth century. Slight differences in style are probably due to different painters within the family as well as the difference between large wall frescos and small cards. It should be noted that I am not the first to see these similarities, as they’ve been noted by many commentators, but the information is not generally known among tarot readers.
For a really wild surmise regarding the story of Teodolinda, I can’t help wondering if the story of the Christian bride converting a pagan king named Authari (Arthur?) and being led by a dove to build a cathedral could have been at all related to the King Arthur legend, that became popular in 15th century Lombardy?