Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Female Knight of Staves — Cary-Yale Visconti Deck

Artist: unknown
 
Interpretation: upright: Confidence. Letters. Faithfulness. A friend of many years comes to visit. inverted: Lack of commitment. Gossip. Bad news. Disillusionment with an old friend.
 
I wonder who thought up this interpretation—
 
The main founding father of tarot occultism, Antoine Court de Géblin, was a “Protestant pastor, Freemason and savant (p 52).”* Court de Géblin was one of the founding fathers of the Plilaléthes, an esoteric cult who combined, it seems, most any en-vogue and occultist literature into their doctrine. He wrote innumerable unscientific articles and essays on the history of  civilization all the while demonstrating a disdain for serious evidence and rational thought.
 
In the early 1770s, Court de Géblin was introduced to the game of Tarots by a woman who was visiting Paris from “Germany or Switzerland.” Within the course of fifteen minutes, he scanned the entire pack. He immediately declared it thoroughly Egyptian and announced that its secret knowledge had survived so long because the deck was disguised as an instrument of play instead of the antique book of wisdom it truly was. “He did not pretend to have derived his knowledge from any ancient tradition, orally transmitted… for long ages no one had suspected the truth until he himself had with his genius perceived it and uncovered it (p 58).”
 
Court de Géblin had grown up in Switzerland and thus had seen the cards as a child, but not since. The game of Tarots was, at the time, still popular in Switzerland and generally forgotten in France. This foreignness was an essential element in Court de Géblin’s ability to spread his grandiose theories of the origin and significance of the tarot pack.
 
The deck that Court de Géblin saw in the woman’s possession was one of 78 cards. It is important to note, as demonstrated with this 86-card Cary-Yale Visconti Deck, that not all decks used in the game of trumps had 78 cards. Decks and their suits and trumps were regionally consistent, but not internationally consistent. Whereas the number of cards is significant in contemporary “traditional” occult methods of divination, all that is important for game playing is that the players are familiar with the deck and agree on the rules.
 
The first professional cartomancer, Jean-Baptiste Alliette, or Etteilla as he was known, also used a 78-card pack. He “corrected” many of the trumps to show images we are more familiar with today. His numbering of trumps differed from the order used in play in the tarot of Marseille and contemporary occult tarot, and the meaning of the numeral cards has evolved significantly since his time. However, the number of cards in the occult tarot deck has remained consistent from Court de Géblin’s “discovery” in the 1770s.
 
That is, until the mid 1990s with the addition of the Happy Squirrel Card in the Simpson’s episode #19, Lisa’s Wedding.
 
So, when Stuart Kaplan took to publishing facsimiles of antique tarot decks, who took on the task of assigning esoteric meaning to the additional eight cards in the Cary-Yale Visconti Deck? My guess is Stuart R. Kaplan himself, who has earned great recognition for his contributions to the occult tarot since the late sixties.
 
*R. Decker, T. Depaulis & M. Dummett A Wicked Pack of Cards, St. Martin’s Press, 1996. History of the tarot deck & all quotes from this source.

One Response

  1. Anonymous says:

    >I am hoping tarot cards will help me with cab driving.

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