Kemetic Origins of Tarot

The following is a partial chronology of the development of the tarot deck extracted from The Egyptian Tarot by Giordano Berti and Tiberio Gonard, which is paraphrased here. An interest in Egyptian tarot cards and the belief in an Egyptian origin of tarot is connected to a revival of Egyptianism that traversed Europe between the mid fifteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. This revival movement was tied to the myth of the Book of Thoth and the spread of the magical/religious literature called Hermeticism. As Hermeticism spread throughout intellectual communities it became a religion defined by a devotion to an esoteric world view and reinterpretation of sacred texts. It began to develop in Alexandria, Egypt from around the fourth century BC when Egyptian disciples of the Cult of Isis and Greek priests began philosophical speculations on the origins of the world, which included the relationship of men to gods and demons and the significance of the manipulation of matter. Writings from this group emerged as a discourse from the Egyptian god Thoth, the Divine Scribe. Thoth was often depicted in human form with the head of the Ibis bird. Eventually, other gods and wise men from Egypt, along with Iranian magicians and Jewish prophets, added to the wealth of knowledge. Egyptian magic was incorporated into the practices of the Christians through the Book of Thoth. The books were highly revered, and on certain important dates were carried through the streets in procession before an adoring public. By the third century AD, Christian scholars began to question the Book of Thoth because they included the Egyptian magical incantations meant to animate statues of the gods. During the Middle and Dark ages the knowledge of Thoth was suppressed. Origins of Egyptian magical practices were lost. Around 1439 Cosimo de Medici came into possession of old hermetic texts and had them translated, yielding Corpus Hermeticum (1463). This began a revival of interest in the ceremonial use of magic. However, by the 1600s, European philosophers were being imprisoned and sentenced to death for attempting to restore Egyptian wisdom to the world. But Egyptian ideals refused to die, and by 1728 Michael Andrew Ramsey, founder of Freemasonry in France, wrote an imaginary description of the “Mysteries of Isis,” Isis being the Egyptian goddess of magic. In 1731 Jean Terrasson wrote of the adventures of an Egyptian prince who endured initiations carried out inside the Sphinx and Great Pyramid. Egyptomania was in full force once again. And this time, it led to the rediscovery of a game of cards ... the tarot. Sometime between 1773 and 1784 it was declared that the Book of Thoth was real and within its pages were found the figures of the tarot cards. Devised by the god Thoth, tarot cards were used by priests to explore and predict the destiny of the Egyptian nation.

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