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Remember the Lotus

Whenever you should doubt your self-worth, remember the lotus flower.  Even though it plunges to life from beneath the mud, it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it to affect its growth or beauty.  Suzy Kassem. The lotus flower is considered a sacred symbol.  The Lotus symbolizes purity, beauty, majesty, grace, fertility, knowledge and serenity.  The lotus will fluorish in murky waters, pushing through mud and mire.  The petals break through and reach toward the sun, while the leaves stay afloat as they shine in the light.

Symbolically, lotus petals can be found in the chakra symbols.  Each chakra has a specific number of petals, representing ascending vibrational frequencies.  The state of enlightenment is represented by the thousand-petal lotus.

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History of the Tarot

Before we begin, a note about the tarot card images on this site: The images are from the Rider-Waite considered public domain in the United States, and can be saved for personal use. Each image is from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck published in the US in 1910, which is no longer under copyright in the U.S. This is NOT the modified and recoloured US Games version published in 1971 (which is still under copyright). The coloring pages are provided for your own personal study, or for creating your own deck, crearted as Adobe Capture images from the 1910 version.

When we think of tarot cards, we think of the occult, mysticism and divination. Well the truth of the matter is that the original tarot cards were actually used to play games. The basic rules for playing the tarot games appears in an Italian manuscript of Martiano da Tortona. The tarot games date back to 1425 with Italian wealthy classes. It is a fact that the beginnings of the tarot deck started in the 15th century in Italy between 1420 and 1440.

There is no substantial evidence linking the tarot at that time to ancient Egypt, although certain Egyptian symbols are present on the cards. But, we can to take account the history between Rome and Egypt in deciding how much Egyptian influence these cards actually contain. This would be based on one’s historical perspective, even if the jury in some cases are decided that there is no proof of such a relationship.

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Created as a game for the nobles, the 22 cards we refer to as the “Major Arcana” was a lavish hand-painted set of cards for the Italian nobility, with which they entertained themselves. This is not the same deck of cards we know today as playing cards, which date back to the Chinese and the 12th century. Standard playing cards were created at that time to entertain the Chinese King's concubines. This origin of playing cards is a credible story, as the Chinese also created paper of which the cards were made.

The three decks from the Italian Nobility in 1440, called the Visconti Trumps, are the ones that are regarded by historical consensus as the ancient elders of the Tarot as we know them today. Like all playing cards at the time, these early decks had numbered cards 1 to 10 along with their court cards (page, knight, queen, king) in four suits; there were also 22 cards not belonging to any suit. These 22 cards bore symbolic pictures with subjects like The Pope, The Emperor, The Wheel of Fortune, The Devil and The Moon. We recognize these same names in the Major Arcana portion of the tarot decks we use today.

The tarot cards were used to play a card game which, at that time, was called “Triumphs”. It was similar to bridge, with the 22 major cards without suits serving as the “trump” cards. The trump cards out-ranked the other cards in the deck.

This card game was extremely popular among the ruling and upper classes in Italy; spreading quickly through Northern Italy to the East of France. As the card game spread to other countries in Europe, changes were made to the pictures, and the ranking of the trump cards bore no numbers. As time ensued the card game spread to Northern Sicily, Austria, Germany and the lower geographically countries.

It is rumored that 16th century tarot was used to compose poems. There is evidence, however, that the 16th century tarot inspired poetic personality characteristic descriptions. Poets did use the titles of the trump cards to create flattering verses, as a way to describe the ladies in the court. In one specific case in 1572, there was written a poem relating to a person's fate.

It is noted that the use of the tarot cards for divination purposes dates back to 1750, where the divinatory meanings and uses of that deck was completely different from how it is used today. Although in 1589, there was a case implying witchcraft and the use of the Tarot cards, there is no other real written evidence of its occult use until the 18th century. It was not until the 18th century that the tarot was no longer viewed as a card game, but came to be regarded as having mystical and spiritual/occult meanings. Keep in mind that, although it wasn't the norm in terms of card usage, ordinary playing cards were associated with divination and the occult as far back as 1487. And there is sufficient evidence to assume that the early divinatory meanings were given to the tarot as far back as 1700's in Bologna.

The first detailed reference of the trump cards of the tarot was in a sermon. It was given by a Franciscan friar between 1450 and 1470 who states the trumps were devised by the Devil himself. The use of the cards was condemned, and the Devil is credited with the final triumph of the trumps. He contended that the Devil wins through the loss of souls in the card game. Unfortunately, this superstitious connotation has carried through to even present-day archaic beliefs.  However, the true history of the tarot shows us otherwise.

The origin of the word “Tarot” is disputed as to whether or not it was derived from Egypt, believed to be Hebrew or Latin, as an anagram originally. Historical findings imply that it comes from the first word, “tarocchi”, which is plural; or it comes from “tarocco”, which is singular, for the game of triumphs or trumps. This connection came about 100 years after the first deck emerged. No one really knows why the word tarot appeared, but we do know that German called the deck “tarok”, and the French called it “tarot”.

In terms of ancient historical association of the tarot and its history, Antoine Court de Gebelin in 18th century in France became convinced that the tarot deck had a connection to Egypt based upon its picture symbolism. In his book “Monde Primitif”, he alluded to the fact that the pictures in the Tarot are from the ancient books that were not burned in Egypt. He also felt there were secrets that had to be decoded in those pictures. Soon after, everyone was viewing the Tarot as a card system deep with hidden meanings.

The secret history of the Tarot was again stirred up by the notion that the originator of the secrets was a god known as “Thoth”, also called Hermes Tresmagistus. Modern occult Tarot began in 1781 when the same Swiss clergymen and Freemason Antoine Court de Gébelin published a speculative study “Le Monde Primitif”, which included the religious symbolism of the Tarot. He wrote that the symbolism of the Tarot de Marseille contained symbols representing Isis and Thoth. He further said that the word “tarot” came from the Egyptian word “tar”, meaning “royal”, and “ro”, meaning “road”. He concluded that the Tarot was meant as the “royal road” to wisdom. He also asserted that it was indeed the gypsies, who were nomadic descendants from Egypt, first used the cards for divination and were the first to introduce the cards to Europe. Although the later Egyptologists could not find anything to substantiate this claim, it has remained solid as part of the Tarot legacy.

In 1781, the Comte de Mellet wrote a short article on the Tarot, which was published in Court de Gébelin's Le Monde Primitif. He was the first to write that there was a connection between Hebrew letters and the cards.

In the 19th century the famous occultist, Eliphas Levi, developed a relationship between the Kabbalah and the Tarot. The Kabbalah is what is referred to as Hebrew mysticism. This fueled the idea that the Tarot originated in Israel, and contained the wisdom of the Tree of Life from the Kabbalah. This idea brought the 78 cards together into a uniform “key to the mysteries”, and was passed on to the English-speaking world through the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Theosophical Society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Rosicrucians, the Church of Light, and the Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) all secured the Tarot's position in the 19th and 20th centuries as a viable form of divination.

It was author Edward Waite who was accredited with the Renaissance of the Tarot in the 20th century. It was also he who commissioned Pamela Coleman Smith to create what he called the “Rectified Tarot”. He himself, being a member of secret societies, also collaborated with one of his brothers who was known as a revered mystic. The man, whose last name was Rider, gave way with Waite to the Rider-Waite's 1910 Tarot Deck. This deck has become the worldwide standard Tarot deck. It was, and still is, the most popular deck to date because of its rich symbolism and ease to interpret.

The images found within this blog are images of the original Rider-Waite (Smith) tarot deck from 1910, and is considered public domain in the United States, and the images do not fall under current copyright protection laws.


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