Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Herbal Tarot: About Tarot

In combination with my study of The Herbal Tarot, I will not only be reviewing the herbal associations but also the tarot deck itself.

I first studied tarot under reader June Wright who still reads professionally in Johnson City, TN at her shop Caravan Mystique on Spring Street. She is an excellent reader and teacher with the tarot, combining the traditional meanings of the cards and encouragement to read each spread with your intuition.
She taught me about the cards then had be apprentice with her by sitting in on readings and later doing readings under her observation. By the end of a couple of months I was reading at festivals and in her shop, which was then located a block away and under the name Unique Treasures.

To accompany my studies now, I have joined Tarot College, an online school with classes on tarot, readings, divination, specific decks, etc.
I am taking the course called Tarot which has reminded me of things I've forgotten over the last few years and taught me a things I never knew, leading me down paths in the Tarot I have never previously tread. I encourage you, if you are currently studying tarot, to give Tarot College a look.

An Introduction to the Tarot

This is a brief introduction. There are many many many books on tarot that explain the long and vague history of the deck, and I suggest that you read a few to give you a better idea of it than I can in a simple blog post.

No one really knows when Tarot cards were invented, or by whom, though people have advanced many theories over the centuries.
The Tarot supposedly made its first appearance, according to Tarot historian Tom Tadfor Little, as traditional playing cards first seen in Europe in 1375. How it got there is in dispute in most texts. Some believe it came from Egypt and the Middle East brought to Europe by the crusaders. Others hold that the Romany tribes brought it through Europe in their travels. I don't hold a strong belief either way and, though it sounds apathetic or critical, I don't really care much which one is true. Its "true" origins do not effect my studies or readings. This does not mean that I don't think that the study of the history of tarot is in any way pointless or unnecessary, just that bickering over its origins isn't helpful.

The earliest mention of the Tarot comes from an edict banning tarot in Bern, Germany issued in 1367. At this time the cards were called by the name Nahipi, and they may have consisted only of the playing cards we know today as the Minor Arcana.

The earliest description of a Tarot deck, written by Frater Johannes von Rheinfelden in 1377, describes only the four suits of the Minor Arcana. Also, the oldest surviving card deck, the so-called “Hunting Deck” of Stuttgard, dating from 1420, consists only of Minor Arcana cards.
The Major Arcana cards make their first verifiable appearance in the early 1400s, with the Visconti-Sforza cards providing the oldest surviving examples.

It does appear, however, that the first Tarot decks were created as a game. The decks were used to play a game called triumph that was similar to bridge. In triumph, 21 of the 22 special picture cards were permanent trump cards. The game spread quickly to all parts of Europe. People began referring to as tarocchi, which is an Italian version of the French word tarot, around 1530.

There does not appear to have been an agreed upon system of Major Arcana cards at first. Instead symbols were drawn from many sources; early decks include among their Major Arcana such images as the Planets, the Zodiacal signs, the Seven Virtues, the Muses, figures from Pagan mythology, etc… Some of the modern Major Arcana cards appeared from the beginning –such as the Fool- others did not make their initial appearance until much later. In particular the Devil card and the Tower were added to the Major Arcana during the era of the Reformation.

 The Major Arcana, or Trumps, are considered the fifth suit of the Tarot, but they are markedly different from the other four suits.  It is said that this is because the Major Arcana deal with spiritual things, while the other four suits, or Minor Arcana, deal with everyday situations.

The cards start with the Major Arcana and, importantly with
  0)   The Fool 

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