“The so-called 'Left-Hand Path' - that of Kaulas, Siddhas and Viras - combines the... Tantric worldview with a doctrine of the Übermensch which would put Nietzsche to shame... The Vira - which is to say: the 'heroic' man of Tantrism - seeks to sever all bonds, to overcome all duality between good and evil, honor and shame, virtue and guilt. Tantrism is the supreme path of the absolute absence of law - of shvecchacarī, a word meaning 'he whose law is his own will'." ― Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar.

“It is necessary to have “watchers” at hand who will bear witness to the values of Tradition in ever more uncompromising and firm ways, as the anti-traditional forces grow in strength. Even though these values cannot be achieved, it does not mean that they amount to mere “ideas.” These are measures…. Let people of our time talk about these things with condescension as if they were anachronistic and anti-historical; we know that this is an alibi for their defeat. Let us leave modern men to their “truths” and let us only be concerned about one thing: to keep standing amid a world of ruins.” ― Julius Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga.

“We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who died at his post during the eruption of Vesuvius because someone forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one that can not be taken from a man.” ― Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Regarding Anything Written on Tarot Symbolism Here

There is nothing especially “mystical” about the origins of the Tarot, at least no more than Chess, or Lot Books, or allegorical artwork of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in general. I have never asserted otherwise. The late 18th-to-20th century speculations of the occultists on the origins of the Tarot are just that. They do not even qualify as Tradition or authentic folklore, any more than the most bizarre excesses of the 19th century Theosophical Society literature qualify as authentic Vedic or Hindu teachings.

The most substantial research into the actual history and development of the Tarot deck has been done by Michael Dummett, better known to the world as an analytical philosopher. Dummett has written that the various forms of early tarot packs developed since the 15th century range in number from 97 to 42 cards, but with reason to believe they sprung from a more-or-less standard model of the 78 card deck of which the Visconti-Sforza pack is a good example. While this may not have been the exact form of the deck initially, it quickly became the standard. This is the form of the 56 suit cards and 22 trump cards. The suit cards are divided into groups as batons, cups, swords, and coins. The court cards are divided according to type (baton, cup, sword, and coin) and rank (king, queen, knight, page).

The word “Tarot” likewise had no particularly mystical origins, being borrowed from the French “tarau”, which was in turn simply the French adaptation of the Italian “tarocco” (plural, “tarocci”). Throughout the 15th century, the Tarot was known simply as “carte da frionfi” which means nothing more than “cards with trumps.” The word “tarocchi” did not widely apply to the game until the 16th century. The word itself is of unknown origin, and a 16th century writer, Alberto Lollio refers to it as being “without an etymology.”

The names and symbols of the suits have varied over time. The spades, clubs, hearts, and diamonds of the familiar card decks were invented by French cardmakers circa 1470s, while the earliest reference to tarot cards comes from a Ferrarese court account book dating 1442. In Italy, Iberia, and most of France, the suit signs were the same as ordinarily used for the regular pack of cards. On Spanish cards, and those used in southern Italy, the appearance of the suit designs differ from other indigenous Italian cards, notably by the separate placement of swords and batons rather than intersected as in the Italian type. Dummett relates that until c.1750 tarot cards everywhere outside of Italy carried the suit signs of the Italian type, therefore an indication that Italy is where they were invented. The four court cards of each suit is also not an anomaly of the tarot. There are regular card decks from 15th century Germany that also include four court cards for each suit. Therefore the outstanding feature setting the tarot, or tarocchi decks apart from regular decks was the additional suit of trumps or “triumphs”.

There is no evidence of the Tarot being used for occult or fortune telling purposes until the 18th century. A 15th century Dominican preacher wrote a vehement condemnation of gambling and gaming, including a mention of tarot cards alongside dice and regular playing cards as instruments of gaming – surely if there were a widespread practice of using the tarot for “occult” purposes, it would have been mentioned and condemned. The Tarot therefore was invented to play specific types of card games, for which a substantial amount of literature exists.

If there is “esoteric” content to the Tarot, it is not automatically intentional in every respect, except insofar as symbolic and allegorical content common to the culture of the time served as the subject matter for the Trump cards. In which case it is as open to interpretation as any other allegorical or symbolic material from any other device of any other culture, as well as is the numerical structure of the deck itself.

The symbolic and allegorical subject matter of the Trump cards led Guenon to recognize the Tarot as a substantial example of vestigial survival of Traditional symbols in mainstream cultural artifacts. If one chooses to take the Traditionalist line of interpretation of the Tarot, as we do here, it should be along the lines outlined by Evola (The Mystery of the Grail, p.9-10), "The characteristic feature of the method that I call 'traditional' (in opposition to the profane, empirical, and critical-intellectual method of modern research), consists in emphasizing the universal character of a symbol or teaching, and in relating it to corresponding symbols found in other traditions, thus establishing the presence of something that is both superior and antecedent to each of these formulations, which are different from and yet equivalent to each other. Since anyone tradition may have given to a common meaning a more complete, typical, and transparent expression than have the others, seeking to establish correspondences is consequently one of the most fruitful ways to understand and integrate what in other cases is found in a more obscure or fragmentary form."

It is the actual pictorial content of the Tarot, its symbolism and allegories, numerical structures, and even its aristocratic origins that validate a Traditionalist line of interpretation (as well as other factors that will be apparent to anyone familiar with the literature), not the absurd latter-day 18th-20th century occultist fabrications regarding its origins in ancient Egypt or among Gypsies, or other fantastical nonsense. A perrenialist or Traditionalist interpretation of the Tarot, along the methodical lines advocated by Evola, or the widely recognized Traditionalist art historian Coomaraswamy for example, is just as valid as the Traditionalist interpretation of any artifact, artistic or religious, of any culture.


See also: http://cosmodromium.blogspot.com/2010/11/tarot-history-information-sheet.html

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