By: S.L. MacGregor
The correspondences in this early writting by S.L. MacGregor Mathers
does not reflect the correspondences to the Tarot in Classical
Golden Dawn Material. Rather, it follows the attributions given
by Eliphas Levi.)
within the limits of this short treatise, upon any long inquiry
into the History of Cards is utterly out of the question; and
I shall therefore confine myself to examining briefly into what
relates to their most ancient form, the Tarot, or Tarocchi Cards,
and to giving, as clearly and concisely as possible, instructions
which will enable my readers to utilize them for fortune-telling,
to which they are far better adapted, from the greater number
and variety of their combinations, than the ordinary cards. I
shall also enter somewhat into their occult and Qabalistical significations.
The term “Tarot”,
or “Tarocchi”, is applied to a pack of 78 cards, consisting
of four suits of 14 cards each (there being one more court card
than in the ordinary packs — the Cavalier, Knight, or Horseman),
and 22 symbolical picture-cards answering for trumps. These latter
are numbered from 1 to 21 inclusive, the 22nd card being marked
Zero, 0. The designs of these trumps are extremely singular, among
them being such representations as Death, the Devil, the Last
The idea that
cards were first “invented’ to amuse Charles VI of
France is now exploded; and it is worthy of note in this connection
that their supposititious “inventor” was Jacques Gringonneur,
an Astrologer and Qabalist. Furthermore, cards were known prior
to this period among the Indians and the Chinese. Etteilla, indeed,
gives in one of his tracts on the Tarot a representation of the
mystical arrangement of these cards in the Temple of Ptah at Memphis,
and he further says:
a table or altar, at the height of the breast of the Egyptian
Magus (or Hierophant), were on one side a book or assemblage of
cards or plates of gold (the Tarot), and on the other a vase,
etc.” This idea is further dilated upon by P. Christian
(the disciple of Eliphas Levi), in his “Histoire de la Magie,”
to which I shall have occasion to refer later. The great exponents
of the Tarot, Court de Gèbelin, Levi, and Etteilla, have
always assigned to the Tarot a Qabalistico- Egyptian origin, and
this I have found confirmed in my own researches into this subject,
which have extended over several years.
Willshire, in his remarks on the General History of Playing-Cards,
says: “The most ancient cards which have come down to us
are of the Tarot’s character. These are the four cards of
the Musée Correr at Venice; the seventeen pieces of the
Paris Cabinet (erroneously often called the Gringonneur, or Charles
VI cards of 1392), five Venetian Tarots of the fifteenth century,
in the opinion of some not of an earlier date than 1425; and the
series of cards belonging to a Minchiate set, in the possession
of the Countess Aurelia Visconti Gonzaga at Milan, when Cicognara
W. A. Chatto,
in his “History of Playing-Cards,” says that cards
were invented in China as early as A.D. 1120, in the reign of
Seun-Ho, for the amusement of his numerous concubines.
J. F. Vaillant,
in “Les Romes, histoire vraie des vraies Bohémiens,”
Paris, 1857, says that the Chinese have a drawing divided into
compartments or series, based on combinations of the number 7.
“It so closely resembles the Tarot, that the four suits
of the latter occupy its first four columns; of the twenty-one
atouts fourteen occupy the fifth column, and the seven other atouts
the sixth column. This sixth column of seven atouts is that of
the six days of the week of creation. Now, according to the Chinese,
this representation belongs to the first ages of their empire,
to the drying up of the waters of the deluge by lAO; it may be
concluded, therefore, that it is an original, or a copy of the
Tarot, and, under any circumstances, that the latter is of an
origin anterior to Moses, that it belongs to the beginning of
our time, to the epoch of the preparation of the Zodiac, and consequently
that it must own 6600 years of existence.”
the apparent audacity of this latter statement, it must be evident
on reflection that the Tarot, consisting, as it does, of the ten
numbers of the decimal scale counter-changed with the tetrad,
and of a hieroglyphic alphabet of twenty-two mystic symbols, must
be relegated to far earlier period in the history of the world
than that usually assigned to the introduction of cards into Europe;
and we may take the fact of the Tarot being the origin of the
modern card as being now pretty well established by general consensus
It was Court
de Gèbelin who, in his “Monde Primitif” (Paris
1781), wrote: “Were we to hear that there exists in our
day Work of the Ancient Egyptians, one of their books which had
escaped the flames which devoured their superb libraries, and
which contains their purest doctrine on most interesting subjects,
every one would doubtless be anxious to acquire the knowledge
of so valuable and extraordinary a work. Were we to add that this
book is widely spread through a large part of Europe, and that
for several centuries it has been accessible to every one, would
not it be still more surprising? And would not that surprise be
at its height were it asserted that people have never suspected
that it was Egyptian, that they possess it in such a manner that
they can hardly be said to possess it at all, that no one has
ever attempted to decipher a single leaf, and that the outcome
of a recondite wisdom is regarded as a mass of extravagant designs
which mean nothing in themselves? Would not people think
that one was trying to amuse oneself with, and to play upon the
credulity of one’s hearers?
this is a true fact. This Egyptian book, the sole remains of their
superb libraries, exists to our day; it is even so common that
no savant has designed to trouble himself about it, no one before
myself having suspected its illustrious origin. This book is composed
of seventy-seven leaves or illustrations, or rather of seventy-eight,
divided into five classes, which each present objects as various
as they are amusing and instructive. In one word, this book is
the PACK OF TAROT CARDS.”
Let us now
examine the word TAROT, or TARO, and discover, if we can, its
true derivation and meaning. Court de Gèbelin states that
there are three words of Oriental origin preserved in the nomenclature
of the Pack. These are TARO, MAT, and PAGAD. Taro, he says, is
pure Egyptian; from TAR, Path, and RO, ROS, or ROG, Royal—the
Royal Path of Life. MAT is Oriental, and means overpowered, murdered,
crack-brained; while PAGAD, he adds, is also Oriental, form PAG,
chief, or master, and GAD, Fortune. Vailant says: “The great
divinity Ashtaroth, As-taroth, is no other than the Indo-Tartar
Tan-tara, the Tarot, the Zodiac.” My derivation of the word,
which I have never found given by any author, is from the ancient
hieroglyphical Egyptian word “târu”, to require
an answer, or to consult; ergo, that which is consulted, or from
which an answer is required. This appears to me to be the correct
origin of the word, while the second t is an Egyptian hieroglyphic
final, which is added to denote the feminine gender. The following
are interesting metatheses of the letters of TARO: TORA (Hebrew)
= Law; TROA (Hebrew) = Gate; ROTA (Latin) = wheel; ORAT (Latin)
= it speaks, argues, or entreats; TAOR (Egyptian) = Täur,
the Goddess of Darkness; ATOR (Egyptian) = Athor, the Egyptian
Venus. A Mr. Lumley tells me that there is a Zend word “tarisk”,
meaning “to require an answer”.
Italian, Spanish, and German Tarot packs, and since the time of
Etteilla French also, but these latter are not so well adapted
for occult study owing to Etteilla’s attempted “corrections”
of the symbolism. The Italian are decidedly the best for divination
and practical occult purposes, and I shall, therefore, use them
as the basis of the present treatise. Unfortunately the old-fashioned
single-headed cards are obsolete now, and the only ones made are
double-headed, which circumstance alters the symbolism in a few
instances. I shall, therefore, wherever necessary, describe the
omitted portion of the design, enclosing it within brackets to
mark the same.
I before observed, the Tarot pack consists of seventy-eight cards
- namely, four suits of fourteen cards each, and twenty-two symbolic
numbered trumps. The four suits are:
Sceptres, or Clubs
Chalices, or Goblets
Circles, or Pentacles
suit consists of Ace, Deuce, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight,
Nine, Ten; Fanti or Valet = Knave; Cavallo = Knight or Horseman;
Dama or Reine = Queen; Re = King.
in each instance, wear a cap-of-maintenance beneath the crown;
the Queens wear the crown only. The Queen of Pentacles and the
Knave of Sceptres are the only ones represented in profile. In
the suit of Sceptres the King bears a wand akin to that represented
on the small cards of the suit, while the other three honours
bear a bludgeon similar to that which is shown for the ace. In
the suit of cups, that only which is held by the Queen is covered,
thus showing the essentially feminine properties of this suit,
while the sceptre held by the King of the preceding suit shows
its more masculine character.
If we examine
the small cards carefully we shall be struck a once by the comparative
similarities of pattern of the Sceptres and the Swords, which
are only distinguished from each other by the former being straight
and the latter being curved. We shall also notice that the Deuces
have peculiarities of their own, which distinguish them from the
rest of the suit. The Deuce of Sceptres forms a cross with two
roses and two lilies in the opposite angles; the Cross between
the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. The Deuce of Cups
shows a tesselated pavement or cloth whereon the cups stand; between
them is a species of Caduceus, whose serpents are replaced by
Lion-headed foliations, which recall the Chnuphis Serpent of the
Gnostics, and certain familiar forms of the Elemental Spirits;
practical occultists will know to what I allude. The Deuce of
Swords forms a species of Vesica piscis enclosing a mystic rose
of the primary colours. The Deuce of Pentacles is bound together
by a continuous band in such a manner as to form a figure 8, and
represents the one as being the reflection of the other, as the
Universe is that of the Divine Idea.
The four Aces
stand out by themselves from the rest of the pack, each forming,
as it were, the Key of its respective suit. The Ace of Sceptres
recalls the Club of Hercules; it is surrounded by eight detached
leaves, whose shape recalls that of the Hebrew Letter Yod, or
I, and is crowned with the Symbol of the Triad represented by
the three lopped branches; it is the Symbol of Almighty Strength
within the cube of the Universe, which latter is shown by the
eight leaves, for eight is the first cubical number. The Ace of
Cups is of Egyptian origin, which can be more easily seen in the
Spanish Tarot. The figure, like an inverted M on its front, is
all that remains of the Egyptian twin Serpents which originally
decorated it. It represents the Waters of Creation in the first
chapter of Genesis. It is the Symbol of the Power which receives
and modifies. The Ace of Swords is a Sword surmounted by a Crown,
from which depend on either side an olive and a palm branch, symbolic
of mercy and severity; around it are Six Hebrew Yods, recalling
the Six days of the Mosaic Creation. It is the Symbol of that
Justice which maintains the World in order, the equilibrium of
Mercy and Severity. The Ace of Pentacles represents Eternal Synthesis,
the great whole of the visible Universe, the Realisation of counterbalanced
The 22 trumps
are the hieroglyphic symbols of the occult meanings of the 22
letters of the Hebrew alphabet. They are numbered from 0 to 21
inclusive. (See Table…)
Priestess, or Female Pope
will now describe carefully the symbolism of each of these hieroglyphical
The Juggler or Magician. Before a table covered
with the appliances of his art stands the figure of a juggler,
one hand upraised holding a wand (in some packs, a cup), the other
pointing downwards. He wears a cap of maintenance like that of
the kings, whose wide brim forms a sort of aureole round his head.
His body and arms form the shape of the Hebrew letter Aleph, to
which this card corresponds. He symbolises Will.
The High Priestess, or Female Pope. A woman crowned
with a high mitre or tiara (her head encircled by a veil), a stole
(or a solar cross) upon her breast, and the Book of Science open
in her hand. She represents Science, Wisdom, or Knowledge.
The Empress. A winged and crowned woman seated
upon a throne, having in one hand a sceptre bearing a globe surmounted
by a cross, while she rests the other upon a shield with an eagle
blazoned therein on whose breast is the cross. She is the Symbol
of Action, the result of the union of Science and Will.
The Emperor. He is crowned (and leaning against
a throne, his legs form a cross, and beside him, beneath his left
hand, is a shield blazoned with an eagle). In his right hand he
bears a sceptre similar to that of the Empress. His body and arms
form a triangle, of which his head is the apex, so that the whole
figure represents a triangle above a cross. He represents Realisation.
The Hierophant or Pope. He is crowned with the
papal tiara, and seated between the two pillars of Hermes and
of Solomon, with his right hand he makes the sign of esoterism,
and with his left he leans upon a staff surmounted by a triple
cross. (Before him kneel two ministers.) He is the symbol of Mercy
The Lovers. This is usually described as representing
Man between Vice and Virtue, while a winged genius threatens Vice
with his dart. But I am rather inclined to the opinion that it
represents the Qabalistical Microprosopus between Binah and Malkuth
(see my Kabbalah Unveiled), while the figure above shows the Influence
descending from Kether. It is usually considered to mean Proof
or Trial; but I am inclined to suggest Wise Disposition as its
The Chariot. This is a most complicated and important
symbol, which has been restored by Eliphas Levi. It represents
a Conqueror crowned and bearing a sceptre, riding in a cubical
chariot, surmounted by four columns and a canopy, and drawn by
two horses, one of which looks straight forward, while the other
turns his head towards him. (Two wheels are shown in the complete
single-headed figure.) It represents Triumph, arid Victory of
Justice and Judgment.
Justice. A woman crowned and seated on a throne
(between two columns), holding in her right hand an upright sword,
and in her left the scales. She symbolises Equilibrium and Justice.
The Hermit. An old and bearded man wrapped in
a mantle, and with his head covered with a cowl, bearing in his
right hand the lantern of occult science, while in his left he
holds his magic wand half hidden beneath his cloak. He is Prudence.
The Wheel of Fortune. A wheel of seven spokes
(the two halves of the double-headed cards make it eight spokes,
which is incorrect) revolving (between two uprights), On the ascending
side is an animal ascending, and on the descending side is a sort
of monkey descending; both forms are bound to the wheel. Above
it is the form of an angel (or a sphinx in some) holding a sword
in one hand and a crown in the other. This very complicated symbol
is much disfigured, and has been well restored by Levi. It symbolises
Fortune, good or bad.
Strength or Fortitude. A woman crowned with crown
and cap of maintenance, who calmly, and Without effort, closes
the jaws of a furious lion. She represents Strength.
The Hanged Man. This extraordinary symbol is almost
unintelligible in the double-headed cards. Properly, it represents
a man hung head downwards from a sort of gibbet by one foot (his
hands are bound behind his back in such a manner that his body
forms a triangle with the point downwards), and his legs a cross
above it. (Two sacks or weights are attached to his armpits.)
He symbolises Sacrifice.
Death. A skeleton armed with a Scythe (wherewith
he mows down heads in a meadow like grass). He signifies Transformation,
Temperance. An angel with the sign of the Sun
on her brow Pouring liquid from one vessel into another. She represents
The Devil. A horned and winged demon with eagle’s
claws (standing on an altar to which two smaller devils are bound
by a collar and cord). In his left hand he bears a flame-headed
sceptre. He is the image of Fate or Fatality, good or evil.
The Lightning-struck Tower. A
Tower whose Upper part is like a crown, struck by a lightning-flash.
(Two men fall headlong from it, One of whom is in such an attitude
as to form a Hebrew letter Ayin.) Sparks and debris are falling.
It shows Ruin, Disruption.
The Star. A nude female figure pours water upon
the earth from two vases. In the heavens above her shines the
Blazing Star of the Magi (surrounded by seven others), trees and
plants grow beneath her magic influence (and on one the butterfly
of Psyche alights). She is the star of Hope.
The Moon. The moon shining in the heavens, drops
of dew falling, a wolf and a dog howling at the Moon, and halted
at the foot of two towers, a path which loses itself in the horizon
(and is sprinkled with drops of blood, a crayfish emblematic of
the sign Cancer, ruled over by the Moon, crawls through water
in the foreground towards the land). It symbolises Twilight, Deception,
19. The Sun.
The Sun sending down his rays upon two children, who suggest the
sign Gemini. (Behind them is a low wall.) It signifies Earthly
The Last Judgment. An Angel in the heavens blowing
a trumpet, to which a standard with a cross thereon is attached.
The Dead rise from their tombs. It signifies Renewal, Result.
The Foolish Man. A man with a fool’s cap,
dressed like a jester, with a stick and bundle over his shoulder.
Before him is the butterfly of pleasure luring him on (while in
some packs a tiger, in others a dog, attacks him from behind).
It signifies Folly, Expiation.
The Universe. Within a flowery wreath is a female
figure nude save for a light scarf. She represents Nature and
the Divine Presence therein. In each hand she should bear a wand.
At the four angles of the card are the four cherubic animals of
the Apocalypse. Above, the Eagle and the Man; below, the Lion
and the Bull. It represents Completion, Reward.
Thus the whole
series of the twenty-two trumps will give a connected sentence
which is capable of being read thus:—The Human Will (1)
enlightened by Science (2) and manifested by
should find its Realisation (4) in deeds of Mercy and Beneficence
(5). The Wise Disposition (6) of this will give him Victory (7)
through Equilibrium (8) and Prudence (9), over the fluctuations
of Fortune (10). Fortitude (11), sanctified by Sacrifice of Self
(12), will triumph over Death itself (13), and thus a Wise Combination
(14) will enable him to defy Fate (15). In each Misfortune (16)
he will see the Star of Hope (17) shine through the twilight of
Deception (18); and ultimate Happiness (19) will be the Result
(20). Folly (0), on the other hand, will bring about an evil Reward
the pack for Fortune-telling, write at the top of each card its
number and signification when in its proper position, and at the
bottom its meaning when reversed. To facilitate this, and to assist
in reading them I here append a list of the cards with the meanings,
which, I think, will be found to answer all practical purposes
R. means Reversed.
MEANINGS OF THE CARDS
The Juggler.—Will, Will-Power, Dexterity;
R. Will applied to evil ends, Weakness of Will, Cunning, Knavishness.
The High Priestess.— Science, Wisdom, Knowledge,
Education; R. Conceit, Ignorance, Unskilfulness, Superficial Knowledge.
The Empress.— Action, Plan, Undertaking
Movement in a matter, Initiative; R. Inaction, Frittering away
of power, Want of Concentration Vacillation.
The Emperor.— Realisation, Effect, Development;
R. Stoppage, Check, Immature, Unripe.
The Hierophant or Pope. Mercy, Beneficence Kindness,
Goodness; R. Over-kindness, weakness, Foolish exercise of generosity.
The Lovers.— Wise Dispositions, Proof, Trials
Surmounted; R. Unwise Plans, Failure when put to the test.
The Chariot.— Triumph, Victory, Overcoming
obstacles; R. Overthrown, Conquered by Obstacles at the last moment.
Themis, or Justice. Equilibrium,
Balance, Justice; R. Bigotry, Want of Balance, Abuse of Justice,
Over-severity, Inequality, Bias.
The Hermit.— Prudence, Caution, Deliberation;
R. Over-prudence, Timorousness, Fear.
The Wheel of Fortune.— Good Fortune, Success,
Unexpected Luck; R. Ill-Fortune, Failure, Unexpected Ill-Luck.
Strength, or Fortitude.— Power, Might, Force,
Strength, Fortitude; R. Abuse of Power, Overbearingness, Want
The Hanged Man.— Self-sacrifice, Sacrifice,
Devotion, Bound; R. Selfishness, Unbound, Partial sacrifice.
Death.— Death, Change, Transformation, Alteration
for the worse; R. Death just escaped, Partial change, Alteration
for the better.
Temperance.— Combination, Conformation,
Uniting; R. Ill-advised combinations, Disunion, Clashing interests,
Devil.— Fatality for Good; R. Fatality for
The Lightning-struck Tower. Ruin, Disruption,
Over-throw, Loss, Bankruptcy; R. These in a more or less partial
The Star.— Hope, Expectation, Bright promises;
R. Hopes not fulfilled, Expectations disappointed or fulfilled
in a minor degree.
The Moon.— Twilight, Deception, Error; R.
Fluctuation, slight Deceptions, Trifling Mistakes.
The Sun.— Happiness, Content, Joy; R. These
in a minor degree.
The Last Judgment.— Renewal, Result, Determination
of a Matter; R. Postponement of Result, Delay, Matter re-opened
The Foolish Man.— Folly, Expiation, Wavering;
R. Hesitation, Instability, Trouble arising herefrom.
The Universe.— Completion, Good Reward;
R. Evil Reward, or Recompense.
King of Sceptres.— Man living in the country,
Country Gentleman, Knowledge, Education; R. A naturally good but
severe man, Counsel, Advice, Deliberation.
Queen of Sceptres.— Woman living in the
country, Lady of the Manor, Love of Money, Avarice, Usury; R.
A good a virtuous Woman, but strict and economical, Obstacles,
Knight of Sceptres.— Departure, Separation,
Disunion; R. Rupture, Discord, Quarrel.
Knave of Sceptres.— A Good Stranger, Good
News, Pleasure, Satisfaction; R. Ill News, Displeasure, Chagrin,
Ten of Sceptres.— Confidence, Security,
Honour, Good Faith; R. Treachery, Subterfuge, Duplicity, Bar.
Nine of Sceptres.— Order, Discipline, Good
Arrangement, Disposition; R. Obstacles, Crosses, Delay, Displeasure.
Eight of Sceptres.— Understanding, Observation,
Direction; R. Quarrels, Intestine disputes, Discord.
Seven of Sceptres.— Success, Gain, Advantage,
Profit, Victory; R. Indecision, Doubt, Hesitation, Embarrassment,
Six of Sceptres.— Attempt, Hope, Desire,
Wish, Expectation; R. Infidelity, Treachery, Disloyalty, Perfidy.
Five of Sceptres.— Gold, Opulence, Gain,
Heritage, Riches, Fortune, Money; R. Legal proceedings, Judgment,
Law, Lawyer, Tribunal.
Four of Sceptres.— Society, Union, Association,
Concord, Harmony; R. Prosperity, Success, Happiness, Advantage.
Three of Sceptres.— Enterprise, Undertaking,
Commerce, Trade, Negotiation; R. Hope, Desire, Attempt, Wish.
Deuce of Sceptres.— Riches, Fortune, Opulence,
Magnificence, Grandeur; R. Surprise, Astonishment, Event, Extraordinary
Ace of Sceptres.— Birth, Commencement, Beginning,
Origin, Source; R. Persecution, Pursuits Voilence, Vexation, Cruelty,
King of Cups.— A fair Man, Goodness, Kindness,
Liberality, Generosity; R. A Man of good position, but shifty
in his Dealings, Distrust, Doubt, Suspicion.
Queen of Cups.— A fair Woman, Success, Happiness,
Advantage, Pleasure; R. A Woman in good position, but intermeddling,
and to be distrusted; Success, but with some attendant trouble.
Knight of Cups.— Arrival, Approach, Advance;
R. Duplicity, Abuse of Confidence, Fraud, Cunning.
Knave of Cups.— A fair Youth, Confidence,
Probity, Discretion, Integrity; R. A Flatterer, Deception, Artifice.
Ten of Cups.— The Town wherein one resides,
Honour, Consideration, Esteem, Virtue, Glory, Reputation; R. Combat,
Strife, Opposition, Differences, Dispute.
Nine of Cups.— Victory, Advantage, Success,
Triumph, Difficulties surmounted; R. Faults, Errors, Mistakes,
Eight of Cups.— A fair Girl, Friendship,
Attachment, Tenderness; R. Gaiety, Feasting, Joy, Pleasure.
Seven of Cups.— Idea, Sentiment, Reflection,
Project; R. Plan, Design, Resolution, Decision.
Six of Cups.—
The Past, passed by, Faded, Vanished, Disappeared; R. The Future,
that which is to come, Shortly, Soon.
Five of Cups.— Union,
Junction, Marriage, Inheritance; R. Arrival, Return, News, Surprise,
Four of Cups.— Ennui, Displeasure, Discontent,
Dissatisfaction; R. New Acquaintance, Conjecture, Sign, Presentiment.
Three of Cups.— Success, Triumph, Victory,
Favourable issue; R. Expedition of business, Quickness, Celerity,
Deuce of Cups.— Love, Attachment, Friendship,
Sincerity, Affection; R. Crossed desires, Obstacles, Opposition,
Ace of Cups.— Feasting, Banquet, Good Cheer;
R. Change, Novelty, Metamorphosis, Inconstancy.
King of Swords.— A Lawyer, a Man of Law,
Power, Command, Superiority, Authority; R. A Wicked Man, Chagrin,
Worry, Grief, Fear, Disturbance.
Queen of Swords.— Widowhood, Loss, Privation,
Absence, Separation; R. A Bad Woman, ill-tempered and bigoted,
Riches and Discord, Abundance together with Worry, Joy with Grief.
Knight of Swords.— A Soldier, a man whose
profession is arms, Skilfulness, Capacity, Address, Promptitude;
R. A conceited fool, Ingenuousness, Simplicity.
Knave of Swords.— A Spy, Overlooking, Authority;
R. That which is unforeseen, Vigilance, Support.
Ten of Swords.— Tears, Affliction, Grief,
Sorrow; R. Passing Success, Momentary Advantage.
Nine of Swords.— An Ecclesiastic, a Priest,
Conscience. Probity, Good Faith, Integrity; R. Wise distrust,
Suspicion, Fear, Doubt, Shady character.
Eight of Swords.— Sickness, Calumny, Criticism,
Blame; R. Treachery in the Past, Event, Accident, Remarkable Incident.
Seven of Swords.— Hope, Confidence, Desire,
Attempt, Wish; R. Wise Advice, Good Counsel, Wisdom, Prudence,
Six of Swords.— Envoy, Messenger, Voyage,
Travel; R. Declaration, Love proposed, Revelation, Surprise.
Five of Swords.— Mourning, Sadness, Affliction;
R. Losses Trouble (same signification, whether reversed or not.)
Four of Swords.— Solitude, Retreat, Abandonment,
Solitary, Hermit; R. Economy, Precaution, Regulation of Expenditure.
Three of Swords.— A Nun, Separation, Removal,
Rupture, Quarrel; R. Error, Confusion, Misrule, Disorder.
Deuce of Swords.— Friendship, Valour, Firmness,
Courage; R. False Friends, Treachery, Lies.
Ace of Swords.— Triumph, Fecundity, Fertility,
Prosperity; R. Embarrassment, Foolish and Hopeless Love, Obstacle,
King of Pentacles.— A dark Man, Victory,
Bravery, Courage, Success; R. An old and vicious Man, a Dangerous
Man, Doubt, Fear, Peril, Danger.
Queen of Pentacles.— A dark Woman, a generous
Woman, Liberality, Greatness of Soul, Generosity; R. Certain Evil,
a suspicious Woman, a Woman justly regarded with Suspicion, Doubt,
Knight of Pentacles.— A useful Man, Trustworthy,
Wisdom, Economy, Order, Regulation; R. A brave Man, but out of
Employment, Idle, Unemployed, Negligent.
Knave of Pentacles.— A dark Youth, Economy,
Order, Rule, Management; R. Prodigality, Profusion, Waste, Dissipation.
Ten of Pentacles.— House, Dwelling, Habitation,
Family; R. Gambling, Dissipation, Robbery, Loss.
Nine of Pentacles.— Discretion, Circumspection,
Prudence, Discernment; R. Deceit, Bad faith, Artifices, Deception.
Eight of Pentacles.— A dark Girl, Beauty,
Candour, Chastity, Innocence, Modesty; R. Flattery, Usury, Hypocrisy,
Seven of Pentacles.— Money, Finance, Treasure,
Gain, Profit; R. Disturbance, Worry, Anxiety, Melancholy.
Six of Pentacles.— Presents,
Gifts, Gratification: R. Ambition, Desire, Passion, Aim, Longing.
Five of Pentacles.— Lover or Mistress, Love,
Sweetness, Affection, Pure and Chaste Love; R. Disgraceful Love,
Imprudence, License, Profligacy.
Four of Pentacles.— Pleasure, Gaiety, Enjoyment,
Satisfaction; R. Obstacles, Hindrances.
Three of Pentacles.— Nobility, Elevation,
Dignity, Rank, Power; R. Children, Sons, Daughters, Youths, Commencement.
Deuce of Pentacles.— Embarrassment, Worry,
Difficulties; R. Letter, Missive, Epistle, Message.
Ace of Pentacles.— Perfect Contentment,
Felicity, Prosperity, Triumph; R. Purse of Gold, Money, Gain,
Help, Profit, Riches.
additional remarks may be serviceable to the to the inexperienced
Cartomancer. They are chiefly taken from Etteilla.
Knight of Sceptres.— This card is not to
be read singly; it means the Departure of the card which follows
it. R. Again, notice the card which follows it; if a Woman, Quarrel
with a Woman; if Money, then Loss of Money, &c.
Knave of Sceptres.— R. Notice between what
cards the News falls, which will show whence it comes, and of
what nature it is.
Deuce of Sceptres.— R. If the cards fall
49 R., 34 R., you will be surprised by a change. If 47, 49 R.,
34 R., it will be happy; but the reverse if they fall 54, 49 R.,
The Knight of Cups.— This shows the arrival
of the card which follows it, as 38, 54, the arrival of affliction
or grief; 38, 39, the visit of a fair young man, etc.
Seven of Cups.— Explains the card which
follows; thus, 43, 30, 33, The idea of attempting some undertaking.
This will again be modified by the following cards.
Six of Cups.— Shows either that what precedes
it is past, has occurred already; or if R., what is going to happen.
Four of Cups.— The
following cards might show what the displeasure or anxiety was
about; the preceding cards, whence it originated.
Queen of Swords.— This is not necessarily
to be taken by itself; it may signify that the person symbolised
by the cards near it has just lost, or is likely soon to lose,
wife or husband. In some instances it may merely signify that
if two people are married, the one will die some time before the
other, but not necessarily that the event will occur immediately.
Knave of Swords.— R. If 72, 53 R. An unexpected
present. If 53 R., 54, unexpected grief, etc.
Nine of Swords.— R. The card following will
show whom or what to distrust, &c..
Eight of Swords.— R.
Shows Treachery or Deceit in the past, and will be explained by
the neighbouring cards.
Seven of Swords.—
R. The cards which come next will show whether it will be good
to follow the advice given or not. Also, the preceding cards will
show from whom, and why, the advice comes.
Four of Swords.— R. The cards near will
show whether it is health or money that requires care.
Three of Swords.— R.
May show simply that something is lost, or mislaid for a time.
Deuce of Swords.— R. If confirmed by the
other cards may simply mean that the friends are not of much use
to the inquirer in the matter under consideration.
Queen of Pentacles.— R. (If this card does
not signify any particular person). If 65 R., 31 R., It is not
said that there will be a Lawsuit. If 31 R., 65 R., If you gain
your case you won’t be much the better for it.
Knave of Pentacles.— R. Consult the following
cards to see in what the person is prodigal. If 67 R., 57 R.,
it may simply mean that the person is too fond of giving advice,
intermeddles too much with other people’s business.
Seven of Pentacles.— R. The next card will
show the reason of the anxiety, and so on.
Five of Pentacles.—
Shows simply that there is some one whom the person loves.
and especially the Kings and Queens, may be taken to represent
persons; in this case their additional meaning should not be read.
The Swords represent very dark people; Pentacles, those not so
dark; Cups, rather fair people; Wands or Sceptres, those much
fairer, and so on. Many Wands together might signify feasting,
many Cups lovemaking, Swords quarrelling and trouble, Coins
or Pentacles money.
mode of reading the cards requires that the person consulting
should be represented, he should take one of the Kings to represent
himself, according to his complexion. If a lady consults
the cards, let her take one of the Queens; if she be rather fair,
the Queen of Cups; if she be very fair, the Queen of Wands or
Sceptres. If the inquirer be quite a youth or a boy, let him take
one of the Knights; if a very young girl, let her take the Knave,
etc. Etteilla’s plan was to take two of the Keys for Significators,
that answering to the Pope for a man, that answering to the High
Priestess for a woman; but I do not think this is so well. The
worst of Etteilla’s system is that he so completely destroys
the meanings of the Keys in his attempted rearrangement of them,
as to make them practically useless for higher occult purposes.
I shall now
give several modes of laying out the cards for divination. The
reader can adopt whichever he prefers, or he can combine them.
of laying out be adopted, it is necessary that the person inquiring
should carefully shuffle the cards, with two objects in view;
firstly, that of turning some of the cards upside down; secondly,
that of thoroughly altering their position and sequence in the
pack. They should then be cut. During the shuffling and cutting
the inquirer should think earnestly of the matter concerning which
he is anxious for information; for unless he does this the cards
will rarely read correctly. This shuffling and cutting should
be thrice rep-eated. The backs of the cards should be towards
the person shuffling.
METHOD.— The full pack of seventy-eight
cards having been first duly shuffled and cut, deal the top card
on a part of the table which we will call B, the second card on
another place which we will call A. (These will form the commencement
of two heaps, A and B, into which the whole pack is to be dealt.)
Then deal the third and fourth cards on B, and the fifth on A;
the sixth and seventh on B, and the eighth on A; the ninth and
tenth on B, and the eleventh on A. Continue this operation of
dealing two cards on B, and one on A, till you come to the end
of the pack. A will then consist of twenty-six cards, and B of
Now take up
the B heap of fifty-two cards. Deal the top card on a fresh place
which we will call D, and the second card on another place C.
(This will form the beginning of two fresh
heaps, C and
D.) Then deal the third and fourth cards on D, and the fifth on
C; the sixth and seventh on D, and the eighth on C, and so on
as before through these fifty-two cards. There will now be three
heaps: A = 26 cards, C = 17 cards, and D = 35 cards.
up the heap D of 35 cards, and deal the top card on a fresh spot
F, and the second card on another place E (so as to make two fresh
heaps E and F). Now deal the third and fourth cards on F and the
fifth on E, and so on as before, through these 35 cards.
now be four heaps altogether. A = 26 cards, C= 17 cards, E = 11,
and F = 24. Put F aside altogether, as these cards are not to
be used in the reading, and are Supposed to have no bearing on
the question. There will now remain A, C, and E.
Take A and
arrange the 26 cards face upwards from right to left (being careful
not to alter the order), so that they are in the form of a horseshoe,
the top card being at the lowest right-hand corner, and the 26th
at the lowest left-hand corner. Read their meanings from right
to left as before explained. When this is done so as to make a
Connected answer, take the 1st and 26th and read their combined
meaning, then that of the 2nd and 25th, and so on till you come
to the last pair, which will be the 13th and 14th. Put A aside,
and take C and read it in exactly the same way, then E last.
This is a
very ancient mode of reading the Tarot, and will be found reliable.
METHOD.— Withdraw the King or Queen, selected
for the Inquirer’s Significator, from the pack. Then shuffle
and cut the same as before. Place the Significator on the table
face upwards, leaving plenty of room for the selected cards on
the left-hand side of it. Now go carefully through the pack, taking
the top card first, then the seventh card from it; and so on through
the pack, re-commencing if necessary, until you have drawn 21
cards by taking every seventh. Arrange these 21 cards in three
rows of seven each, from right to left, on the left-hand side
of the Significator, thus:
Read the meaning
of each row from right to left, beginning with the Significator;
then combine the 1st and 2 1st, the 2nd and 20th, and so on, as
in the previous method.
METHOD.— This mode of laying out the cards
is rather more complicated than the preceding. Withdraw the Significator,
and shuffle, and cut as before. Then deal them as in this diagram,
of this spread in a new window)
The cards will thus form a triangle within a species of arch;
and the Significator of the Inquirer is to be placed in the centre
of the triangle face upwards. The top card is to be dealt on number
1, the second card on number 2, the twelfth card on number 12,
and so on up to number 66, when the remaining 11 cards are to
be put aside and not used in the reading.
Then 1 to
11 and 34 to 44 inclusive will show the past; 23 to 33 and 56
to 66 inclusive will show the present; and 12 to 22 and 45 to
55 inclusive will show the future.
Now read them
simply in order from 1 to 44 for the past, from 23 to 66 for the
present, and from 12 to 55 for the future.
the Significator with every two cards, thus—S. 34 1; S.
33 2; S. 34 3; and so on up to S. 44 11, for the past. Then take
S. 56 23; S. 57 24; and so on for the present. And then take S.
4512; S. 46 13; up to S. 55 22, for the future.
the combinations by taking S. 44 1; 5. 43 2; up to S. 34 11, for
the past; S. 66 23; 5. 65 24; up to S. 56 33, for the present;
and 5. 55 12; S. 54 13; up to S. 45 22, for the future.
them all together, thus—66 1; 65 2; 64 3; and so on up to
34 33; placing them in a single packet one on the other as you
do so; and when this is finished, deal the whole 66 cards in one
large circle, placing the Significator as a starting-point, when
33 will be the first card and 66 the last card on either side
of the Significator. Now gather them up thus in pairs for the
last reading, S. 66; 33 1; 34 2; and so on up to the last card,
which will be a single one. Draw two other fresh cards at random
from the 11 cards which have not been used in the reading, and
place them face upwards one on either side to form a surprise.
Read these three from right to left as conclusion.
is rather difficult at first, but practice will give facility.
Cards may be used like the ordinary packs for games, as well as
for divination; and it may be as well to give the general rules
and mode of play. The Game of Tarot may be played by either two
or three persons. The full pack of 78 cards is shuffled and cut
in the ordinary manner. The dealer dears them out in three hands
by five cards at a time, and places the remaining three cards
at his own right-hand side. There will thus be three hands of
25 cards each, and three cards besides. The players sort their
hands, and the dealer discards the three most useless cards in
his own hand and exchanges them for the before-mentioned three
cards. The deal is taken in rotation by each player. The method
of dealing is the same, whether two or three players participate,
three hands being dealt out in each instance, but if only two
players contend with each other, the third hand is untouched by
constituting the game are 100, which may be marked on a cribbage
board, on paper, or by an ordinary bezique-marker.
hands are played out their score is reckoned in the following
22 trumps are not all of the same value.
20, 19, 18, 17, are called the Five Greater
2, 3, 4, 5, are called the Five Lesser
three of the Greater or three of the Lesser Trumps in his hand,
scores 5 points for the same; 10 points if he has four; and 15
points if he have all five. If the player has any ten trumps in
his hand they will score 10 points, any thirteen trumps 15 points.
It does not matter if Greater or Lesser Trumps, which have been
already scored, form part of such ten or thirteen; all scores
are independent of other combinations. Furthermore, for any cards
to be scored they must be shown to the adversary at the time of
scoring; this rule holds good in all cases. The non-dealer scores
and leads first. If three play, the player on the dealer’s
left hand begins.
cards bear the distinguishing title of Tarot Trumps; they are:
21; the Mat, or Foolish Man, 0; the Pagad, Juggler, or Magician,
1; the King of Sceptres; the King of Cups; the King of Swords;
and the King of Pentacles.
If the player
has any two of these Tarot Trumps, he can ask his opponent for
a third; if the latter cannot reply by showing a third Tarot Trump,
the former can score 5 points; but if he has the third it must
be given up to the asker, who then does not score, but gives him
some card of small value in exchange. For every three Tarot Trumps
actually held in the hand, the holder marks 15 points.
of trumps or of cards of the same suit count; for every four cards
in sequence, 5 points; for every seven cards, 10 points; for ten
cards, 15 points. All cards forming these scores must be shown
to the adversary.
0, The Foolish
Man, is the lowest card in the pack in playing the hand; can take
no card of any suit, and may be played to a card of any suit.
For instance, if the adversary leads a King, and you have only
the Queen of that suit remaining in your hand, but have also the
0, you can play this instead of the Queen, and thus save her from
being taken. A King cut counts 5 points to whosoever cuts it.
In each suit King is highest, then come Queen, Knight, Knave,
Ten, Nine, etc., down to Ace, which is lowest, and can only take
the 0. The Trumps reckon from 21, which is highest, to 1, which
is lowest. You must follow suit if you can; if not, you may trump.
Each trick should be kept separate for counting afterwards. Of
course, the principal care of the player should be directed towards
saving his own important cards, and taking those of the adversary.
The player who takes a trick leads next. When all the hand is
played out, the tricks on either side are counted as follows:—
trick in which there is a Tarot Trump, 5 points (the 0 counts
to its original possessor, while the Pagad, 1, counts to the player
who takes it). For every trick with a
Queen, 4 points;
with a Knight, 3 points; with a Knave, 2 points; for every other
trick, 1 point.
At the end
of each hand the points made by each player are added up separately,
then the lesser is taken from the greater, and only the excess
points of the more fortunate player are scored. The same is done
in each hand, and the player who, in this way, first reaches 100
points (or over in the final hand) wins the game.
For my reader’s
convenience I append a table of the points which can be scored:
3 of the Greater Trumps held in hand
any 4 of the Greater Trumps held in hand
5 of the Greater Trumps held in hand
3 of the Lesser Trumps held in hand
4 of the Lesser Trumps held in hand
5 of the Lesser Trumps held in hand
10 Trumps held in hand
13 Trumps held in hand
2 Tarot-Trumps called unanswered
3 Tarot-Trumps actually held in hand
Sequence of 4 Cards
Sequence of 7 Cards
Sequence of 10 Cards
in Play |
a King, cut
Trick containing a Tarot Trump
Trick containing a Queen
Trick containing a Knight
Trick containing a Knave
Trick of two plain Cards
If three players
contend, of course the third player will form an additional factor
in the game. Then, when the three compare their various scores
in the same hand, only he who has most should score, and then
only the amount by which he exceeds the player who comes second.
The other players do not score at all.
this short treatise, I will say a few words on the occult and
Qabalistical signification of these wonderful Tarot Cards. It
has been long known that the ordinary 52 card pack was susceptible
of some peculiar numerical significations, e.g.:
Cards in the pack suggest 52 weeks in the year.
Cards in each suit suggest 13 lunar months in the
13 weeks in the quarter.
suits in the pack suggest 4 seasons in the year.
Picture Cards in the pack suggest 12 months in the
year, 12 signs of the Zodiac.
if we add together:
pips on the plain cards of the four suits
on the twelve Picture Cards
Picture Cards reckoned as ten each
cards in each suit
obtain the number of days in the year
behind their apparently arbitrary and bizarre designs, the Tarot
Cards contain a far more complicated system of recondite symbolism.
We fmd the number ten multiplied by the mystical number four,
and combined with a primitive hieroglyphic alphabet of twenty-two
says in his “Histoire de la Magie”: “The absolute
hieroglyphical science had for its basis an alphabet of which
all the gods were letters, all the letters ideas, all the ideas
numbers, and all the numbers perfect signs.
hieroglyphical alphabet of which Moses made the great secret of
his Cabala, and which he retook from the Egyptians; for, according
to the Sepher Yetzirah, it came from Abraham; this alphabet, we
say, is the famous Book of Thoth, suspected by Court de Gèbelin
to be preserved to the present time under the form of that peculiar
pack of cards, which is called the Tarot. . . The ten numbers
and twenty-two letters are what are called in the Cabala the thirty-two
paths of science, and their philosophical description is the subject
of that primitive and revered work known as the Sepher Yetzirah,
which is still to be found in the collection of Pistorius and
others. The Alphabet of Thoth is the original of our Tarot, only
in an altered form. The Tarot which we have is of Jewish origin,
and the types of the figures cannot be traced back further than
the reign of Charles VI.”
Yetzirah referred to in the above quotation has been recently
translated by my friend Dr. Wynn Westcott, who is a skilful and
erudite Qabalistical student, so that it can now be read in English.
It certainly gives, in my opinion, the Qabalistical Key of the
Tarot; and shows at once, by evident analogy, the ancient and
religious origin of its bizarre symbolism. It consists of thirty-three
short sections (the thirty-third being merely recapitulatory)
divided into five chapters, and elucidated by thirty-two occult
paragraphs called the “Paths”. In fact, it may be
called a treatise on the ten and the twenty-two. The numbers from
one to ten are said to symbolise the Spirit, Air, Water, Fire,
Height, Depth, East, West, North, South. The twenty-two letters
are divided into three Mother Letters, A, M, SH, referring to
Air, Water, and Fire; seven double letters, B, G, D, K, P, R,
TH, referring to the seven planets, etc.; and twelve simple letters,
H, V, Z, CH, T, I, L, N, S, O, Tz, Q, referring to the twelve
signs of the Zodiac, etc.
the disciple of Lèvi, in his recent work on Magic, has
made the explanation of the twenty-two hieroglyphics of the Tarot
form part of the initiatory ceremonies of the Egyptian mysteries
of Crata Repoa.
of three of the twenty-two Trumps of the Tarot were thus restored
by Eliphas Lèvi.
The Chariot.— A cubical chariot with four
columns, surmounted by an azure and star-decked canopy. Within
the chariot and between the four columns stands a Conqueror crowned
with a circlet, from which rise and shine three pentagrams of
gold. On his cuirass are three right angles; and on his shoulders
the Urim and Thummim symbolised by the two crescents of the Moon
in increase and decrease. In his hand is a sceptre surmounted
by a globe, a square, and a triangle. His attitude is proud and
tranquil. To the Chariot is attached a double sphinx, or rather
two sphinxes joined together; one of them turns its head, and
they both look in the same direction. The sphinx which turns its
head towards the other is black and menacing, the other is white
and calm. On the square which forms the front of the Chariot we
see the Indian lingam surmounted by the flying globe of the Egyptians.
The Wheel of Fortune.— A
wheel of seven spokes, the cosmogonical wheel of Ezekiel, with
a dog-headed figure ascending on one side (Anubis, the Egyptian
Mercury); and a demon descending on the other (the Egyptian evil
deity, Typhon); the former of these bears a caduceus, the latter
a trident; both figures are bound to the wheel. Above them is
a sphinx at the balance-point of the wheel, holding a drawn sword
between its lion’s claws.
The Devil.— Throned on a cube above the
Universe is a goat-headed, satyr-like figure, bearing on its brow
the pentagram, apex upward, so as to make it a symbol of Light.
With one hand it points upwards to the symbol of the Moon in increase,
with the other downwards to that of the Moon in decrease, thus
symbolising the eternal equilibrium of Mercy and Justice; the
first two fingers and thumb of each hand are extended as in giving
the sign of benediction. One arm is feminine, the other masculine.
The torch of intelligence is placed between its horns, as the
Magical Light of the Universal Equilibrium. The caduceus which
holds the place of the generative organs signifies the eternity
of life; the belly is covered with scales to represent Water;
the circle above it is the atmosphere; the Wings are the emblem
of the Volatile; and the deformed and goat-like feet rest upon
not allow me to enter further into the subject, on which, indeed,
several volumes might be written without exhausting it. I can
only hope that this short treatise will suffice to give my readers
some idea of the recondite meaning of the Tarot Cards, and how
to employ them in divination.
is partly taken by Vaillant from Court de Gèbelin’s
“Monde Primitif” vol. 8, p. 387.)