Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Golden Dawn and the Tarot

I have seen it written among the blogs and I believe elsewhere that the Golden Dawn was first to link the tarot with spiritual pursuits. Prior to this, the tarot was used for fortune telling.

My research of late has found this to be incorrect. Papus wrote Tarot of the Bohemians (1892) in which he outlined how the major and minor arcanas both reflect the tetragrammaton. Though, he was a member of the Golden Dawn Paris temple. I find his book curious as not only does he not mention the tree of life but his system of numerations does not compare to same. Then again, I am only a third of the way through. It was fun to see the link between Papus's diagrams and Tyson's diagrams on on the interplay of forces associated with the tetragrammaton.

Alphonse Levi was the first to link the tarot to the tree of life. While his associations were somewhat altered by the Golden Dawn. Given that he died before the Golden Dawn was founded, it is safe to assume that the Golden Dawn built on his work, not the other way around. It is possible there various people knew one another. For instance, Levi died while Mathers was in his twenties.

In the 16th century Jacob Cammerlander outlined the moral and spiritual associations with each of the tarot pips. Given the Golden Dawn was founded in 1888, it is unlikely that he appropriated their concepts.

This is in no way to say that the Golden Dawn folks didn't have a huge influence on the way many of us look at tarot cards merely they were not the first to connect the tarot to a spiritual practice in print. Given the spiritual/religious connection can be traced back to the 16th century, I believe it is safe to assume many an unknown practitioner found a similar use for the cards long before the Golden Dawn was conceived.


Jason Miller, said...

Have you read Husons Origins of the Mystical tarot?

He left behind that nefarious witchcraft image of the 70's and turned out a spectacular book on tarot. In it he links the origins ofthe major arcana to Christian Mystery Plays and the Mirnor arcana to the Picatrix and decons of the zodiac.

Frater POS said...

You may be surprised to learn after my rant about the first of his books I read, he is on my source list. I just haven't reached that yet.

given the qabalistic nature of what I am doing, I doubt he'd play a huge role. On the other hand, if it gives me a paragraph or an expandable idea. Who knows?

I have enough ideas for literally two books.

Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

I must admit that is one of those so-called facts that people trot out that disturbs me because it is so wrong. I do not know why more people in our community do not know the history of the material that we are working with.

Frater POS said...

Well there is a lot of history to know! And, you can work with certain things without knowing its history. Knowing that little factoid will not likely improve my tarot reading skills. Those in ignorance of it are unlikely to be affected.

Then again, there is lots of supposition around the idea of using the cards as astral gateways. Personally, I'd like a little understanding of the folks that helped build those paths.

Suecae Sounds said...

Indeed it is as you say: not the Golden Dawn that came and created the spiritual associations alone of the Tarot. But do they really claim that today?

Frater POS said...

Suecae, my Golden Dawn group claims almost nothing. We only claim to practice in the 'style of' etc...

I know of no GD group that claims the GD made the link between the tarot and spiritual practices beyond fortune telling. However, I have seen other writers claim as such.

While it was not the point of my research, I came across facts that contradicted those claims. So, I posted.

I doesn't matter to me one way or the other.