The Tarot And The Tree Of Life
Legend has it that the tarot cards, one of the most popular fortune-telling devices in use today, originated on the 'lost continent' of Atlantis. The island's high priests are said to have designed the deck as a means of preserving their secrets in symbolic form shortly before the cataclysm which sent their advanced civilization to the bottom of the ocean.
Unfortunately, this colourful tale is not borne out by the facts. The oldest surviving tarot cards date from the 15th century and no earlier versions are known to exist. The fact that the cards have also been found to conform to Cabbalistic principles in a form which is characteristic of medieval Europe also suggests that they are not of great antiquity, although the wisdom teachings which they embody certainly date back to the origins of the western esoteric tradition.
The major and minor arcane
The 78 card deck of tarot cards is comprised of four suits (most commonly named Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles) corresponding to each of the four worlds of Cabbalistic tradition. Each suit has ten numbered cards, one for each of the sapphire which symbolize the divine attributes on the Tree of Life, and four court cards (King, Queen, Knight and Page) personifying the four elements of fire, air, water and earth within each of these realms. In psychological terms these four elements correspond to our intuition, intellect, emotions and the senses. Together the numbered cards and the court cards are known as the minor arcane.
In addition, there are 22 picture cards known as the major arcane which correspond to the 22 paths connecting the spirit on the Tree of Life. The archetypal characters and scenes portrayed on these cards are commonly interpreted as signifying the people who will have an influence on the life of the person for whom the cards are being read, and the incidents which will arise if events take their present course.
In contrast, the Cabbalistic tradition, which forbids fortune telling, views the major arcane as symbolic of the stages in every person's life from an innocent in the World, personified by The Fool, to the fully realized and integrated personality represented by the Magician who is depicted with the symbols of the four elements at his command. The events are then seen not as experiences arbitrarily dealt by Fate, but as the inevitable consequences of our predictable actions, provided that we act according to type.
Courtesy of New Age Living
Author: Paul Roland
ISBN 0 600 59768 7