Signs and Symbols

With the resurgence of the occult and the New Age movement has come a new interest in the Tarot card deck. The New Age Almanac explains:

"The tarot, however, began to take on occult associations and to be used predominantly for cartomancy, divination, or fortune-telling with cards. The person primarily responsible for the new developments in the tarot was a French Huguenot pastor, Antoine Court de Gebelin (1719-1784). In the 1 770s, de Gebelin became active in Parisian freemasonry circles and joined the Philalethes, a French Masonic occult order order derived from the teachings of Martines de Pasqually (d. 1774). He became an accomplished occult scholar. This French occult perspective came to be an essential building block in the revolutionary thought that would bring down the French government in a few years.

"Through his social connections, de Gebelin discovered the tarot. He immediately saw in them occult symbology, and tied them to ancient Egypt. As ancient Egypt disintegrated, the priests developed playing cards to hide their wisdom from the profane and at the same time ensure their survival. He concluded that they had travelled to Rome, kept in the possession of the popes who took them to Avignon. From Avignon they were disseminated throughout Europe. De Gebelin published his speculations in 1781 in the eighth volume of his multi-volume study of the ancient world, Le Monde primitif in which he begins to designate the occult symbology of the deck. De Gebelin is, for example, the one who originated the idea that the 22 Major cards were to be equated with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In an essay by an unknown associate appended to his own account of the tarot, de Gebelin suggested that the tarot be used as a method of divination. The idea was adopted by a fortune-teller known only as Etteilla, who in 1783 published a book detailing a methodology for tarot cartomancy, and over the next decade authored a host of books and pamphlets on fortune-telling using the tarot and other means. Cartomancy with the tarot grew increasingly prevalent during the decades of post-revolutionary France.

"Etteilla's students passed the practice of fortune-telling with cards to Alphonse-Louis Constant (better known under his penname, Eliphas Levi). Levi, the fountainhead of modern ritual magic, integrated the tarot into his magical teachings and aligned it with the massive body of occult symbolism. Through Levi's very popular writings, the use of the tarot flowed into the occult groups which flourished in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century, and the mastery of the symbolism of the tarot became a standard part of the training of a magician. The most famous of the accomplished masters of the tarot in France was Dr. Gerard Encausse (1865-1916), who wrote several influential books on the tarot and who was most responsible for lifting up an idea first proposed by de Gebelin, but given some expanded treatment by J. F. Vaillant, of tying The Tarot to the Bohemians (1889), written under the pseudonym Papus.

"In England, the tarot was integrated into the symbolism of that most famous of magical orders, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. One degree of the order's program of advancement included the member's construction of a complete tarot deck. Two of the order's members would create the two most popular decks used in the twentieth century. Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942) was the most scholarly member of the Golden Dawn. He was responsible for the English translations of several of Levi's works and he revised the first English translation of Papus' text. More importantly, with the help of an artist, Pamela Coleman Smith, he devised a new tarot deck complete with all 78 cards (i.e., both the major and minor cards), the first such comprehensive revision in more than one hundred years. He also authored an instruction book, The Pictorial Guide to the Tarot (1910), with which anyone could take a deck of cards and master their use as a basic fortune-telling instrument. It was the combination of the deck and the instruction book which gave the Waite deck its dominance in the field through most of the twentieth century.

"The second accomplished student of the tarot was Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), the order's nemesis. In 1909 Crowley began publishing the order's secrets, including their teaching on the tarot, through an independent journal, The Equinox. Crowley worked with Freida Harris in the design of a new tarot deck to which he composed a commentary much like Waite's The Book of Thoth. It was published in a limited edition in 1944, but the cards were not published until about 1960. Only after a new edition of The Book of Thoth appeared in 1969 did the Crowley deck begin to grow in popularity to rival Waite's deck. In choosing to name his deck after the Egyptian deity Thoth, Crowley asserted both his own preference for Egyptian magical symbolism and his belief in de Gebelin's claims as to the deck's Egyptian origin.

A Dictionary of Mysticism states:

"Tarot: A deck of playing cards, based on a system of occult symbols arranged in a pattern of 78 cards; 22 of these are tarot cards ('major arcana'), the other 56 are suit cards ('minor arcana'). These cards can be used for divination. The term tarot is applied also to designate such divination."

We are further informed by an occult organisation that the "Tarot has often been interpreted as a fortune telling device, but, as Gareth Knight reveals, it is also a profound and powerful system of High Renaissance magic!"

Since we've already covered the yin/yang symbol and the I Ching, I think it is interesting to note that The occult Explosion states: "The occidental counterpart to the I Ching is the tarot card deck. The most widely-spread occult tradition about the origin of the Tarot is that it was invented by a great international assemblage of esoteric scholars in Egypt...."" It adds: "Tarot and I Ching really have a lot in common...."

What is even more intriguing is that the Tarot is really the ancestor of the standard playing card deck that is used today. For instance one book on the Tarot reveals: "Even the common playing cards we know today are derived from the ancient tarot and vary widely due to their centuries of use as instruments of gambling."

Stewart Farrar, a witch, indicates:

"The Tarot consists of seventy-eight cards, and is clearly the ancestor of the bridge-player's pack. Fifty-six of them are divided into four suits-Cups (corresponding to Heart), Swords (Spades), Wands (Clubs), and Pentacles (Diamonds). Each suit has the Ace to Ten and the Knave- in between the Page and the Queen. (The Knight is sometimes called the Prince, and the Page the Princess.) The four suits represent the four occult elements-their usual allocation being Cups for Water, Swords for Air, Wands for Fire, and Pentacles for Earth...

In The Occult: A History we are told:

"Apart from the Greater Arcana [in the Tarot deck], there are also the fifty-six cards of the Lesser Arcana, the four suits that have become the ordinary playing cards of today, with its rods, (or wands), cups, swords and shekels (or pentacles) changing into clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds. It is worth observing in passing, that we have here two rod-shaped objects-wands and swords-and two circular objects-cups and money-and since one of the commentators mentions that wands and money were used in mediaeval methods of divination, it would not be inaccurate to see them as related to the yarrow stalks and coins of the I Ching. Each suit has a king, queen, knight and knave, as well as cards numbered from one to ten."

In Our Phallic Heritage we find that the symbols used on the playing cards are actually sexual connotations. This book explains:

"The symbols used on playing cards are the diamond, heart, club, and the spade, which was often the acorn. In sex symbolism the diamond and heart were female symbols, and the spade and club were male symbols. The two colours represented the sexes; red symbolised the male, and black the female. In the Orient are found the yang-yin (male and female symbols), similar to the Northern Pacific Railroad trademark with these colours. Possibly coincidentally, remember that in certain sections of the cities there were the red-light districts, and they operated in the darkness.

"Both sexes are symbolised on each card by having a symbol of one sex and a colour of the opposite sex. The trinity or complete family is seen in the three highest cards, which are the king, queen, and jack or knave. 'Knave,' like knabe in German, means 'boy.' Therefore, in cards, we have the father, mother and child, the natural trinity or perfect family. There are four suits to symbolise the male triad and female unit, forming the Arba-el, or the four gods. The thirteen cards in each suit represent the lunar months or menstruations in a year. They also represent the weeks in a season, and have been compared to the calendar, the colours red and black representing day and night; the four suits, the four weeks in a month, and four seasons in a year, or the four cardinal points of the compass; the twelve picture cards, the twelve months in a year; the fifty-two cards, the weeks in a year; and counting the jack as eleven, the queen as twelve, and the king as thirteen, the number of spots in the deck equals 364 and, with the joker, 365, the number of days in a year."

I think it would be informative to give the history and the real meaning of ordinary playing cards. The following is taken from The Gospel Standard.

"The first deck of cards was made for Charles of France in the year 1392. King Charles was an insane man. It is not generally known by card players that cards have a secret meaning, but after the following statements were made public, the members of the gambling fraternity of professional gamblers declared that they are absolutely true.

"The King card represents the enemy of God, the devil. The Ten spot represents the spirit of lawlessness and is in direct opposition to the Ten Commandments of the Bible. Closely associated with the ten spot is the Club card. When cards were invented the club was the weapon of the murderer. In those days there were no revolvers or machine guns. The Club card stands for murder. The Jack represents the lustful libertine who lives on the gains of the prostitutes. It represents the moral leper. There is a game of cards called 'the brothel game' in which the players use the secret obscene language of the cards and converse with each other merely by dropping a card.

"Now we come to the part that is even more shockingly wicked. The Queen card represents the Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord. In the secrets of cards she is called the mother of harlots. The Joker in card language represents our Lord Jesus Christ. Joker means fool! Jesus Christ is held up by the card players as a fool. And if this is not bad enough yet, the secret language of a deck of cards goes further and declares that Jesus (the Joker card) is the offspring of a lustful Jack, and the Queen mother, Mary.

"And there you have the true meaning of a deck of so-called innocent playing cards!"

As a little extra note, I thought it was interesting to find out that the President of the U.S. Playing Card Company (from 1929-1930) and the President of Standard Playing Card Company (in 1898) was Benjamin C. Hawkes-a Mason.

Many people play or gamble with the regular card deck but is any of this pleasing to Christ-especially in light of the blasphemy that is represented by these cards? Not only do the regular playing cards come from the occultic Tarot card background, but the meaning of the cards are an insult and offence to Christ and the Christian teaching of the Virgin Birth. Jesus did not have an illegitimate birth. Matthew states: "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matthew 1:23). He was also named Jesus "for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). He came to give His life as a sacrifice on our behalf so that we may have the privilege of receiving eternal life and having our sins forgiven.

I realise that many people had no idea what the cards which they were using meant, but now that you know, can you still use them? -- Masonic and Occult Symbols Illustrated, pp. 79-86.