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Tarot Symbolism

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Archaeology of the Tarot

Morgan DuVall
Non Fiction, English

7 x 10 inches, Softcover
153 pages, 144 Color Illustrations

Amazon Logo; Used with permission

Inspiration for the Tarot symbolism has escaped scrutiny because mystery is infinitely more enticing than explanation. Its unexplained mystical symbolism generates interest and demand for the Tarot. The grandeur of the mystique eclipses the need to study the symbolism. What civilization might have symbolized a woman Pope as a normal occurrence? What civilization might hold science as its most sacred virtue symbolized in the Magician? What civilization symbolized the heavens as a naked woman? These symbols are very antagonistic to the Christian Era and yet they are before us every day in the form of Tarot cards and we are only mildly aware of its inherent contradictions with the last 2000 years. Rather than endeavor to find the origin of the Tarot, we propagate its mystique. Tarot books invariably discuss Antoine Court de Gebelin and Etteilla. If their theories about the origin of the Tarot were so wrong, why do they warrant any mention at all?

quotesThe suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there's no place for it in the endeavor of science. Dr. Carl Sagan

The Symbols of the Tarot major arcana seem so familiar and yet so exotic. How do we account for this dichotomy? This book offers an explanation by methodically analyzing the superb Tarot symbolism of the recently restored Jean Noblet Tarot deck: the most ancient Tarot de Marseille preserved in the French National Library.

Ancient Egyptian wisdom is the philosophical foundational principle of modern life which belies its antiquity. Similarly, values embodied in the Tarot major arcana have transcended time.

Archaeology of the Tarot explores the origin of the Tarot major arcana symbolism by analyzing a large amount of artifacts which were simply unavailable in the de Gebelin era:

Numerous papyri including the Papyrus of Ani and the Papyrus of Hunefer,

Symbolism in the Papyrus of Hunefer

Tutankhamun's jewels, ancient monuments,

Symbolism in Tutankhamun pendant with WadjetAl-Masalla obelisk, Heliopolis
The Temple of Heliopolis' only extant remnant: Al-Masalla obelisk

ancient pyramids and the Great Ennead of Heliopolis.

Meidum Pyramid
Older than the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Meidum pyramid is practically ignored for its ruins are not pyramidal.

Tarot Symbolism

The Tarot trump cards represent the Heliopolis Great Ennead and key players in the creation narrative:

Osiris V Le Pape, Isis II La Papesse, Nephthys III L'Emperatrise, Seth IV L'Emperor, Horus VII Le Chariot, Nut XVII Lestoille, Geb XVI La Maison Dieu, Tefnut XIX Le Soleil, Shu XIX Le Soleil,Bes XV Le Diable, Khepri XX Le Jugement, Wepwawet (Upuaut, Anpu, Anubis) XVIII La Lune, Hathor, Thoth I Le Bateleur, Sekhmet XI Force, Ptah IX Lermite, and Maat VIII Justice.

Tarot Symbolist

An inability to read Egyptian symbolism and hieroglyphs makes it nearly impossible to read the Tarot symbolism. Knowing the language really helps understanding. It is rare for a Tarot scholar to also be an Egyptologist. Those who claim to prove no Egyptian origin in the Tarot are fairly ignorant of Egyptology.


If you came across this symbol, what might you call it? It has five superimposed Greek letters namely from top to bottom Tau, Rho, Chi, Alpha and Omega. How about TauRhoChi without the vowels or ΤαΡωΧ (Taroc) utilizing the vowels? Is it pure coincidence these two names invariably come up in Tarot research? We sought to find the answer in Italian roots for the word Tarocchi but what if this word pre-existed Italian? Why would we write an Italian word in Greek letters such as this? The root of the word ΤαΡωΧ may be Greek, Coptic or ancient Egyptian.

Tarot Symbolism and Funerary Papyri

The Tarot trumps depict many deities from the Papyrus of Ani (c. 1250 B.C.) and other funerary papyri. This was the road to salvation and coronation and probably the reason why Tarot was thought to mean royal path. In the Hall of Judgment pictured below, Thoth (The Magician Tarot Card) annotates the verdict of the deities who sit in judgment above the proceedings like a jury.

Symbolism in the Papyrus of Ani Hall of Judgment

Tarot Symbolism and the Origin Myth

quoteAbsence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Dr. Carl Sagan

There is no "proof" Tarot symbolism originated from a specific era like the Renaissance for example. The Tarot is no younger than the oldest deck, but there is no definitive boundary on how old Tarot symbolism can be. Marseille's oldest building dates to the 16th century but does not "prove" the city could not be older. The ginkgo tree disappeared from the fossil record for the last two millennia but this lack of evidence does not prove it was extinct.

Re-naissance literally means "Re-birth". It was a rediscovery of previous knowledge precipitated by the migration of Greek scholars and ancient texts to Italy following the Fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Constantinople fell in 1453 and the Visconti-Sforza Tarot is dated to the 1450's. Coincidence? Why are these historical facts so often omitted in the history of the Tarot? Is this evidence of earnest research on the origin of the Tarot?

Symbol fossils

Tarot Symbolism and the bigger Picture

quoteWe are the product of 4.5 billion years of fortuitous, slow biological evolution. There is no reason to think that the evolutionary process has stopped. Man is a transitional animal. He is not the climax of creation. Dr. Carl Sagan

More fascinating than knowing the origins of Tarot symbolism is the remarkable evolution of religion that becomes apparent when studied over the millennia. It bears striking similarities to man's evolution. Did man create God or did God create man?

Dr. Carl Sagan once posited intelligent aliens would exhibit many familiar characteristics as they would have evolved much in the same way as we did. In other words, while we might fantasize intelligent life is wildly foreign and exotic, it might surprise us to find that, like us, they were the product of their environment subject to gravitational forces, chemical principles, and would likely develop binocular vision, stereoscopic hearing and sexual reproduction. We are fascinated by the exotic rather than the banality and ubiquity of the laws of nature which neither man, alien nor God can escape.

Dr. Carl Sagan's:

The Story Of Everything

The Frailty of Knowledge,


The Great Library of Alexandria including Aristarchus of Samos and Hypatia. Heliopolis was largely destroyed in the Persian invasion of 525 B.C. After the destruction of Heliopolis the Library and its Priests were moved to Alexandria, the new capital.

on the BIG question...

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Date Posted 31-Dec-2013 by Sable Feather