the origin of tarot


since it looks like we will probably never agree on the origins of tarot, and many posts and threads discuss this, it might be interesting to see what the tarot itself says about its origins, as it was there at that time.
so i asked the tarot, and the grimaud marseille gave these cards as answer:
8 swords, page cups, 9 cups.

8 says there are no limits, and the roots are to be found somewhere between the top and the bottom circle of the 8, or rather between heaven and earth? the origin of tarot can be found in it being god(dess)'s way of communicating with us.

the page of cups is a student with dreams that wishes to know all there is about tarot history. he is focused and concentrated to the max on what is in the cup, but if he only looks in the cup he will loose himself in its depths, and thus miss out on the broader concept.

the 9 of cups answers the question perfectly: the key to the origins of tarot is in understanding it.

comments and opinions are welcome :)


edited to add: diana/jmd, i just realise this post might belong in "your readings", not sure though, just move it if it doesnt belong here.


Okie Dokie, Kaz, let me see what I can do with this :D. You were asking the Grimaud Marseille, of couse, so you know the deck will have a french origin in mind!

We have the page of cups between the eight of swords and the nine of cups. You see right away, don't you? It is a young free spirit torn between the duties of warfare, and the delights of poetry. Or, is it an artistic and sensitive soul, traveling between a life of violence and adventure, and a splendid cultural flowering!

Ah! The vision is becoming clearer... I see... a dreamy musician.. I see... a troubadour!! Yes!! and who might this troubadour be?? Why, heavens look at this! Of course, the nine -- Why, our troubadour is none other than William the IX, Duc of Aquitaine and Count of Poitou!

Ah, yes, of course, I see it now!..and the Eight of Swords refers to his participation in the disastrous first Crusade to the Holy Land! Right, and furthermore, the eight is what came before nine, of course, so it also refers to his lineage -- the great Aquitanian tradition of music and literature, that some say served as a kind of oasis for the grand secular culture of the roman empire, which had every where else died out.

There you have it, historians be danged! Proof positive that the first tarot cards were brought to France from the Islamic world, via the crusades, by a troubadour named William IX. :D :D :D


I tend to very much agree with the interpretation :)

However, let us go further with William the Hermit (IX). Maybe he was very much a Valdensian traveller, so that his visit to northern Italy caused the furore of Tarot history once the seeds he carried from more western districts fell upon those fertile lands.

The eight of swords may also further indicate this, for the quadruple vesica piscis also shows the birthing of Tarot within the four elements, ie, the Earth plane.

Here the Page of cups not only reveals his dreaminess, but also his deeper connection to the Graal saga and the true dating and origins of the Tarot: the year 1196 in the Albigensian district :)


Wow, I am flabbergasted by the job you did!


8 of Swords. Searching for the invisible world, the world "beyond". Initiation. Spiritual evolution. 8 represents Eternity. The number of Cosmic Balance. It is also the number of Resurrection. 8 is the number of Jesus, according to my books - resurrected, or rather.... ressucitated, as Umbrae often reminds us.

Page of Cups. A troubador indeed.

9 of Cups. 9 is also a number of INITIATION.

The Tarot is an initiatory journey. No doubt about it.

I am thinking here also of the Alchemists......... (9 is 3x3. The three stages of Alchemy - black, white and blue - have to master the physical, the emotional and the spiritual world, in order to reach one's goal.)


8 of Swords: A past buried in confusion. Trials and tests. Stuck in it’s own past, a memory lost.

Page of Cups: A present comprised that is akin to finding a flower in a world of entropy.

9 of Cups: And it brings us what we want, and most do not realize what it brings – taking only a portion, taking only what we think is there…cheating ourselves in the process. In our ‘moment’ we confuse the physical with the spiritual, and walk away, wanting.


Jean-Michel, what happened else happened in 1196?


"8 swords, page cups, 9 cups."

i have a slightly different reaction to that reading.

eights are the number of the second crossroads;
choices to be made and decisions with consequences. In eight the journey of the hero
culminates in a sort of big fat "where do we go from here?" and there is a stop in sense of direction and an understanding of purpose.
Swords symbolize thoughts and ideas. Tarot thus
came into being because we needed a sort of bridge
for thinking and communicating. Hieroglyphics of
the most primitive sort, pre-verbal, pre-phonetic,
tarot allows us to create language. The son of cups symbolizes the yang center suspended in the yin pool of consciousness; a very specific and active part of the psyche; which i have otherwhere
refered to as the mammalian metacomplex; the subliminal self aware thinking self.

Nines represent the final steps needed to finish a journey. The last considerations, the missing element, final preperations.

In my mind the meaning is clear. Tarot is the
bridge for the the mammalian metacomplex to link
its feelings and experiences and emotions to its
mind and ideas, and thus finish the task of becoming a communicating species.

Tarot is the true origin of language.


The Law of One

Ok, channelling might not be a valid source for anyone, but there are some rare ones like those of Cayce or the Ra group here which I find trustworthy for myself:

In the early 80s there was a group effort of 3 people to channel a soul group involved in early Egypt. Recently also the tarot related material was put on the web as:

The Law of One, Vol.IV

It might be interesting that they state that the tarot was seen as the archetypes of the mind which only consisted of the major arcana, the minor arcana coming from Sumerian sources which were more astrologically oriented.
Even the major arcana only slowly evolved from a core set of 9 (I,II,V - VIII,VIIII,XII - XV,XVI,XVIIII) to the 21, the Batelêur XXII came later on. If you only want to scan the Ra site, you also can use Google with the usual keywords and the additional statement in the search string:

which only returns results from their site.



After looking at my entry again I thought it might be useful to add a bit of the terminology used in the Ra readings:

[b]The Archetypes of the Mind[/b]

[b]The Evolution of the Mind[/b]

 1  The Magician                    Matrix of the Mind
 2  The High Priestess              Potentiator of the Mind
 3  The Empress                     Catalyst of the Mind
 4  The Emperor                     Experience of the Mind
 5  The Hierophant                  Significator of the Mind
 6  The Lovers or The Two Paths     Transformation of the Mind
 7  The Chariot                     Great Way of the Mind

[b]The Evolution of the Body[/b]

 8  Justice or Balance              Matrix of the Body
 9  Wisdom or Sage                  Potentiator of the Body
10  Wheel of Fortune                Catalyst of the Body
11  The Enchantress                 Experience of the Body
12  The Hanged Man or The Martyr    Significator of the Body
13  Death                           Transformation of the Body
14  The Alchemist                   Great Way of the Body

[b]The Evolution of the Spirit[/b]

15  The Devil                       Matrix of the Spirit
16  Lightening Struck Tower         Potentiator of the Spirit
17  The Star or Hope                Catalyst of the Spirit
18  The Moon                        Experience of the Spirit
19  The Sun                         Significator of the Spirit
20  Judgement                       Transformation of the Spirit
21  The World                       Great Way of the Spirit

22  The Fool                        The Choice