Book Review – A History of the Occult Tarot 1870 – 1970

A History of the Occult Tarot – 1870 – 1970

A Book Review: The authors of this book reveal how Tarot didn’t always have mysticism and fortune telling attached to it. When it was invented in Italy in the fifteenth century it was simply a pack of cards used as a game. Esoteric interpretations of the cards only began in the late 18th century.

cover - history of occult tarotThis is the sequel to A Wicked Pack of Cards (reviewed in a recent post) and it traces the influence of occultists on Tarot’s designs and interpretations from 1870. During that period the use of Tarot was largely confined to magical orders and esoteric groups.

This isn’t an easy book to read. The first part contains detailed information on Hermetic literature, Jewish mysticism, the Cabala, and the Rosicrucians. Then it delves into spiritualism, Theosophists and the magical group called Golden Dawn. None of this makes for very satisfying reading—it’s just a drawn out history lesson that offers some background information about where particular pieces of information derived from and it highlights the dodgy reputations of all involved!

It’s not until chapter 8 that we start to learn about A.E. Waite’s influence on the Tarot. The following chapters, however, are once again preoccupied with the personal lives of occultists associated in any way with Tarot.

This book was supposed to be about the development of Tarot and the way that occultists drove its evolution to becoming a spiritual and divinatory tool, unfortunately, it spends too much time exploring the lives of these magicians and most of the time it ignores the cards altogether.

Title: A History of the Occult Tarot 1870 – 1970
Authors: Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett
Published by: Duckworth
Hard cover: 379 pages
ISBN: 0-7156-3122-5

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