"We give this method of Fortune-telling for what it is worth. It may be either a pastime seasoned with a flavour of mystery, a study in the weird ways of coincidence, or a test of skill quickened by intuition. We would have all our readers amused and interested, but none saddened or enslaved by it."
"As the instruments of Cartomancy we give them our respectful consideration. We would urge those of a morbid and unhealthy turn of mind to beware of letting this practice take too strong a hold upon them. No reasonable being need be ashamed of confessing a certain fear of the Unseen and the Unknowable; but, on the other hand, no sane person would take a pack of cards as the rule and guide of life, the final court of appeal in any matters of moment."
— Professor P.R.S. Foli
This section of my website is dedicated to my interest in the cards. While I have a great interest in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck and Mr. Waite's teachings for both Tarot and cartomancy, I also have a keen interest in others, such as 1800s and older definitions. My overriding specialty in any interest is the ability to research, and I intend to have fairly thorough research for the various pages here. For books whose copyright has expired and now reside in public domain I will repost their definitions to this site. (Texts and the illustrations are in the public domain in the United States of America if they were published prior to 1923.) But should anything copyrighted be posted here I will remove it at the owner's request without a hassle.
And I'm working on my own deck. It'll be the size of regular playing cards and will likely have the full minor and major arcana suits. Playing cards are so much easier to shuffle! I regret to say that I do not have the time, materials, or knowledge to make a proper deck. Not many ever have, much less know how.
What are Tarot cards?
Tarot cards are cards a bit larger than your average playing card and are often used for soul-searching, divination, and guidance. Cards are thought to have originated in the East (China, Persia, India, Chaldea) in the 800s (9th century), but perhaps not as game things and instead strictly for divination, then made its way to Italy as tarocchi game cards during the mid-1300s (14th century). One rumor says the Gypsies brought card divination to Europe with them. Another is that the Arabs and Moors were the first who introduced cards to Europe in Spain and that those cards were called naibi (nabi, naba, nabaa), meaning "to foretell" in Hebrew and Arabic. Some say Tarot cards come from Egypt, partly because the Egyptian word teru means "guidance" and partly because it is suspected that the Gypsies passed through Egypt, but mostly because Tarot is known as the Book of Thoth.
Tarot is assumed to have been taken up by mystics in the late 1700s (18th century), whereas it is assumed cartomancy began in the 1300s (14th century). Cartomancy and playing cards in turn are said to have derived from Tarot. Some sources say that Tarot cards were created as a way for diviners to escape execution by converting their tools into card form, and that the methods involved in Tarot are quite old.
Card history in general is pretty muddled and there are a lot of guesses about exactly when cards were introduced as a tool for divination and from where they came. Whatever its age, it is a great tool for the serious card readers and a pleasant pastime for the hobbyists.
As far as more recent history goes, a few names stand out as authorities on cards:
- Antoine Court de Gébelin
- Antoine Court
- Former Protestant pastor and Freemason.
- Monsieur Etteilla
- Jean-Baptiste Alliette
- French occultist and hair dresser.
- Mlle. Lenormand
- Marie-Anne Adélaïde le Normand
- French professional fortune-teller.
- Éliphas Lévi
- Alphonse Louis Constant
- French occultist and ceremonial magician.
- A.E. Waite
- Arthur Edward Waite
- American-born British poet and scholarly mystic.
- Dr. Walter Gorn Old
- English Theosophist and astrologer.
- Gérard Anaclet Vincent Encausse
- Spanish-born French physician, hypnotist, and occultist who founded the modern Martinist Order.
- Professor P.R.S. Foli
- Sir Cyril Arthur Pearson, 1st Baronet
- British newspaper magnate and publisher, most noted for founding the Daily Express.
Gypsies, Roma, Romany, nomads, whatever you wish to call them, have been a fascination for many of us. As a country girl who grew up always aspiring to live purely outdoors, I have always had a particular fondness for them. I also include some card definitions on my site that are credited to the nomadic fortune tellers. But, as a Southern woman, I know first hand how annoying or harmful romanticised or plain ol' ridiculous stereotypes can be about a person based on their culture. I link you first with this article, then this article, and give a gentle reminder to remember that Roma Gypsies and Irish Travellers are real people with real lives, and real problems to go along with their real charm. I by no means claim to be an expert on them or their lifestyles, or even their histories, (much less an expert on my own culture and our histories!) but it doesn't take much effort to acknowledge the difference between fantasy and reality. Or to treat an individual as individual instead of as a stereotype.