Chas S. Clifton, The Unexamined Tarot, Gnosis Magazine - Winter 1991, pp. 44 -45.

"Despite the publication of new Tarot decks and books about the Tarot, the Tarot itself remains one of the most influential yet least-examined "texts" of Western esotericism. Most writers on the Tarot are esotericists themselves, and their overall concerns are non.historical or even anti-historical. Concerned with the Tarot's eternal aspects, using it to develop systems of divination, self-development, meditation, and qabalistic pathworking, they fail to ask the right questions about its roots, preferring instead to place them in a vague and misty past where robed initiates procede through torch-lit halls. Nevertheless, the likely historical roots of the Tarot are planted in mystery enough without anyone needing to pile on additional manure. Its story connects the fourteenth century's Black Death and today's New Orleans Mardi Gras parades, and links the game of polo with phallic symbolism."


"The pagan divinites served as a vehicle for ideas so profound, and so tenacious that it would have been impossible for them to perish."  Seznac:p. 149


For example, Jean Seznac traced the Magtegna Apollo to the tomb of St. Sebaldus in Nurenberg. [*] And in his great work, The Survival of the Pagan Gods, he has traced other elements of the Mantegna Deck - both source material and subsequent appearances of the images.

In other words, the general time zone during which the Tarot made its appearance, say for arguements sake, the mid-15th Century - acts as a demarkation line, in the same way we use B.C. and A.D. therefore, B.T. and A.T.

IN many cases, such as the Caduceus of Hermes-Mercury, we can trace the image back for thousands of years.

In others, the transmission of the image is not so clear.

For example, Arcanum 8 - has the Scales of Justice and the Weighing - ideas which suggest the ancient Egyptian Weighing of the Soul.

There is no reason to suppose that Christianity, through the Coptic Christianity of Egypt, and the Byzantine Rule of the Egyptian Province after the Roman rule collapse could not have transmitted the Egyptian Judgement through to Europe.

Similar images of course are to be found in the escatalological literature of St. John the Divine, as manifested in The Books of Revelations.

And these images came to rest in the woodcuts of A. Durer.

But Revelations can be traced back to Babylonian and Mithraic influences, opening up many other routes through which Judgement symbolism could have moved West, for example, Syrian Christianity.

Again, Arcanum 8 cannot be completely isolated from Arcanum 20 which is associated with Resurrection. Here again, Christianity has claimed ownership of these theologies and eschatological concepts, whereas they can be traced to deeper historic roots.

Again, the Severed Head, is an image that is associated with Arcanum 13 The Reaper, or Death as it is commonly known. To follow this image, especially for example, in Alchemy, or in the works of C.G.Jung bears rich results.

[*]Seznac, Jean 'Apollo and the Swans' on the tomb of St. Sebaldus. JWCI, p. 75


Tarot Index