Traditional Tarot

Desultory Notes on the Tarot

About

“One must not always exhaust a subject to such an extent that nothing is left for the reader to do. It is not a matter of making one read, but of making one think.” (Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws, XI, 20)

The presiding idea of this site is to provide, in English, translations, digests, reviews and critiques of primarily (but not exclusively) French-language materials on the Tarot and related matters. Many of these seminal and thought-provoking books and articles have been largely overlooked in the vast literature on the Tarot in French, not to mention in English. Our considered opinion is that a more widespread knowledge of this body of literature will, in some way, contribute to a greater understanding of the Tarot, its history, symbolism, function — and possibilities. That the most influential, interesting and intelligent writings on the subject have been systematically overlooked has been reason enough to undertake this project.

Two of the more interesting pieces of writing from this tarological current are the prefaces by Jean Paulhan to Paul Marteau’s book Le Tarot de Marseille, and that by Roger Caillois to Oswald Wirth’s Le Tarot des imagiers du Moyen Âge. A lengthy study dissecting the myth of the Egyptian origins of the Tarot, including a substantial introduction, is also worth noting.

Those who wish to gain a solid grounding in the academic history of the Tarot will profitably consult the publications of Messrs Michael Dummett, Ronald Decker and Thierry Depaulis, often cited in these pages. One good starting point is the paper The History of Card Games by Michael Dummett. Two detailed articles on the Tarot of Marseilles by Thierry Depaulis are also available online, and these provide a solid grounding from which one may better assess the historical validity of the various speculations published here and elsewhere:

“In order to grasp the full range of [the Tarot’s] significance, it is necessary to study not only the basic commentaries written upon it but also the cards themselves, observing all the combinations and implications – a field so vast as to constitute a special branch of symbolism as wide-ranging as that of dreams.”

– J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, Dover, 2002.

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A Note on Copyright: 

Please note that all the texts published here are published for educational purposes, and that they remain copyright of their respective authors, and that all translations remain copyright. Please do not indiscriminately copy and paste these texts elsewhere without permission. If you do cite them, please credit our site as their source.

Disclosure:

Some of the links provided are affiliate links, and may result in a commission, at no extra cost to you, should you click through and make a purchase. By and large, these links are provided by way of convenience to those interested in the books or decks we mention or review. Links to English translations or the newest editions have been provided where possible. Our reviews and translations are made freely available, and we strive to remain critical, impartial, and as objective as possible.

Image Credits:

Sources for the images used have been credited insofar as possible. The image in the header is from the Conver Tarot de Marseille (1760) — but, as the signs of wear on the woodblocks suggest, it is probably a Camoin (Marseilles) edition (1870). Image courtesy of The World of Playing Cards. The image of XVIIII Le Soleil on the contact form comes from the 1930 edition of the deck designed by Paul Marteau for Grimaud, courtesy of the BNF.