The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum (Archive Board)
October 21, 2021, 10:48:01 am *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: This is our Read Only Archive Board (closed to posting July 2011). Join our new vBulletin board!
 
  Portal   Forum   Help Rules Search Chat (Mux) Articles Login Register   *

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 21, 2021, 10:48:01 am

Login with username, password and session length
Donate!
The Cauldron's server is expensive and requires monthly payments. Please become a Bronze, Silver or Gold Donor if you can. Donations are needed every month. Without member support, we can't afford the server.
TC Staff
Important Information about this Archive Board
This message board is The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum's SMF Archive Board. It is closed to new memberships and to posting, but there are over 250,000 messages here that you can still search and read -- many full of interesting and useful information. (This board was open from February 2007 through June 2011).

Our new vBulletin discussion board is located at http://www.ecauldron.com/forum/ -- if you would like to participate in discussions like those you see here, please visit our new vBulletin message board, register an account and join in our discussions. We hope you will find the information in this message archive useful and will consider joining us on our new board.
Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Add bookmark  |  Print  
Author Topic: Defining what's tarot, and what's a non-tarot cartomancy deck/system  (Read 6555 times)
Balakirev
Journeyman
***
Last Login:November 08, 2009, 10:01:39 pm
United States United States

Religion: Witch. non-practicing Gardnerian. Shamanistic.
Posts: 123


Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Topic Start: November 04, 2009, 09:47:35 am »

But that does NOT mean that anything that's a divination system built on cards is tarot, though.  THAT is my argument.  And that seemed to be what you were saying to start off.

What do you define as the physical components necessary to call something a tarot deck?
Logged

Welcome, Guest!
You will need to register and/or login to participate in our discussions.

Read our Rules and Policies and the Quoting Guidelines.

Help Fund Our Server? Donate to Lyricfox's Cancer Fund?

HeartShadow - Cutethulhu
Assistant Board Coordinator
Senior Staff
Grand Adept Member
****
Last Login:April 15, 2013, 06:53:07 pm
United States United States

Religion: FlameKeeper
TCN ID: GenevieveWood
Posts: 8627


I am the Pirate Teddybear!

Blog entries (0)

WWW
« Reply #1: November 04, 2009, 09:49:44 am »

What do you define as the physical components necessary to call something a tarot deck?

Well, suits and a major arcana, absolute minimum.

If it's just a bunch of cards without an order and a story to them, it's a bunch of cards.  Which is fine, but different.
Logged




FlameKeeping website: http://www.flamekeeping.org
Balakirev
Journeyman
***
Last Login:November 08, 2009, 10:01:39 pm
United States United States

Religion: Witch. non-practicing Gardnerian. Shamanistic.
Posts: 123


Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #2: November 04, 2009, 10:07:34 am »

Well, suits and a major arcana, absolute minimum.

If it's just a bunch of cards without an order and a story to them, it's a bunch of cards.  Which is fine, but different.

I don't think we have any argument about the importance of some defining structure, a series of suits, and a division into major and minor arcana.  But I'm not admittedly clear in my mind what in my previous comments would have led you to believe I don't find these extremely basic elements absolutely essential.  The non-Rider-Waite decks I mentioned above--Haindl, Tarot of Transformation, etc--have all of these.  Have you perhaps encountered people before who equated the tarot with doing whatever they wanted?  Because my experience to date has been exactly the opposite: plenty of individuals insisting that the only genuine tarot must be patterned after Rider-Waite.  In my opinion, this shows a misunderstanding both of tarot history and of the commercialization of the tarot system in recent years. Smiley

Logged
HeartShadow - Cutethulhu
Assistant Board Coordinator
Senior Staff
Grand Adept Member
****
Last Login:April 15, 2013, 06:53:07 pm
United States United States

Religion: FlameKeeper
TCN ID: GenevieveWood
Posts: 8627


I am the Pirate Teddybear!

Blog entries (0)

WWW
« Reply #3: November 04, 2009, 11:47:10 am »

I don't think we have any argument about the importance of some defining structure, a series of suits, and a division into major and minor arcana.  But I'm not admittedly clear in my mind what in my previous comments would have led you to believe I don't find these extremely basic elements absolutely essential.  The non-Rider-Waite decks I mentioned above--Haindl, Tarot of Transformation, etc--have all of these.  Have you perhaps encountered people before who equated the tarot with doing whatever they wanted?  Because my experience to date has been exactly the opposite: plenty of individuals insisting that the only genuine tarot must be patterned after Rider-Waite.  In my opinion, this shows a misunderstanding both of tarot history and of the commercialization of the tarot system in recent years. Smiley



Probably because you said this:

Quote
I'm not sure why a non-78 card deck couldn't be called tarot, though.  For that matter, I'm not sure why it must have 4 suits, 4 court cards for each, X many majors and Y many minors.

Makes it look like you don't think stuff like suits matters.
Logged




FlameKeeping website: http://www.flamekeeping.org
Balakirev
Journeyman
***
Last Login:November 08, 2009, 10:01:39 pm
United States United States

Religion: Witch. non-practicing Gardnerian. Shamanistic.
Posts: 123


Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #4: November 04, 2009, 02:48:46 pm »

Probably because you said this:

Makes it look like you don't think stuff like suits matters.

Four suits, no.  They're used to represent the elements in modern decks.  But until the late 19th century they simply were card suits, with no other relevance.  With the latter as history, it's relatively easy to make as good a case for a different number of suits as for a different number of court cards.  After all, the early Chinese system of medicine claimed there were five, not four basic elements to the universe.  My point being that there's no universality on a fixed number of elements or their presence in the tarot. 

Logged
SunflowerP
Moderator
Grand Adept Member
***
Last Login:October 18, 2021, 03:24:57 pm
Canada Canada

Religion: Eclectic Wicca-compatible religious Witch (Libertarian Witchcraft)
TCN ID: SunflowerP
Posts: 5485


Blog entries (0)

WWW
« Reply #5: November 04, 2009, 10:12:10 pm »

I started this in the "Creating my own Tarot deck" thread, but decided it ought to have a thread of its own.

Is there something inherently wrong with doing a tarot deck that, like the Haindl, Javan, Tarot of Transformation or William Blake decks, is aimed at someone who wants to work for a genuinely different experience?
Nothing wrong with that at all.

I note, though, that all of the decks you cite as examples of difference (with the exception of Javan, which I'm unfamiliar with, and couldn't find any references to) are 78-card decks, and are very clearly variants of tarot.  They're excellent examples of just how much room for variation there is within the scope of tarot - but they don't affect the point I and others are making, that not all cartomancy decks are tarot.

Quote
But in this case we're dealing with a term that's commercially defined and inconsistently applied even by those who perpetuate it.  That's why I prefer a broader definition of tarot, one that allows me to account for the Italian States decks, as well as modern decks that don't endlessly simply offer new Rider-Waite decks in different dress-up.
Hmm - I think perhaps we're arguing past each other, addressing our particular pet peeves rather than each other's points.

I'm certainly not saying that, to be called tarot, a deck must be slavishly adherent to the Rider-Waite-Smith template - where that has led is to a plethora of decks that adhere to the structure but omit the substance, and don't offer a distinct substance of their own in its place.  (One of the more point-to-able ways in which this happens is iconography - R-W-S iconography is omitted, but instead of presenting a different iconographic pattern peculiar to that deck, it lacks a coherent iconographic pattern altogether.  Not everyone works with the iconography, so this isn't necessarily a Horrible Sin, but I strongly suspect that it's not done intentionally, but from ignorance.)  Here, the question isn't whether it's tarot, but whether it's done well or poorly - conversely, a non-tarot cartomancy deck can be outstandingly well done; I might recommend it enthusiastically as an effective and useful cartomantic system, and have a higher opinion of it than I do of many modern tarot decks, but I don't consider it tarot.

I was going to say, "I, too, prefer a definition broad enough to allow...," but that's not strong enough.  I flatly reject any definition that doesn't include the both the many medieval/early modern variations, and the modern adaptations such as those you mentioned above.  As such, I prefer to place far more weight on what tarot/playing card historians have to say about it.

When an artist decides to apply a different theme/storyline to the major arcana, to add cards to the majors, to re-order the majors, to rename the suits, etc, they're creating variations on the broader theme that is tarot - in all those cases, they're starting with pre-existing tarot structures and making changes to that.  When an artist chooses to devise a deck that doesn't rely on existing tarotic structures, it's not tarot.  (Possibly another criterion for whether a deck is tarot or not might be whether it can be used to play a trick-taking game of the sort for which tarot cards were traditionally used.  I don't think it'd be necessary for it to be a game that's interesting/entertaining to play, for a deck whose primary purpose is divination, but it should have viable game mechanics.)

It may help in understanding where I'm coming from if I provide some examples of non-tarot cartomancy decks:  Morgan's Tarot, the Brian Froud-illustrated Faeries Oracle, Medicine Cards (and many other animal/totem/aboriginal-peoples themed oracles, often, alas, very superficial and appropriative), the Goddess Guidance Oracle (another popular oracle theme), the Celtic Tree Oracle, and the Lenormand cards (which, like tarot, are a system that has generated a range of variant decks).  (I see, in collecting those links, that there's also a Tarot Lenormand - they're not in any way, as far as I can see, a Lenormand deck, nor even a syncretism of the two systems; they're simply a tarot deck that uses a Lenormand-ish artistic style.)

This is probably more detailed info than you needed, Balakirev, but I got to thinking that this convo was an excellent springboard for a conversation about defining tarot.  In fact, I think I won't hit post, I think I'll copy this and paste it to a new thread.

Sunflower
Logged

Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs!
I do so have a life.  I just live part of it online.
“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others
to live as one wishes to live.” - Oscar Wilde
My blog "If You Ain't Makin' Waves, You Ain't Kickin' Hard Enough", at Dreamwidth and LJ
Perzephone
Master Member
****
*
Last Login:February 26, 2010, 01:55:04 am
United States United States

Religion: Unorthodox Pagan
Posts: 670


Quantum Paganism for a New Millenium

Blog entries (0)

perzephone


Ignore
« Reply #6: November 04, 2009, 10:51:50 pm »

What do you define as the physical components necessary to call something a tarot deck?

For me, it's a deck of cards with a structure of four suits, court cards and a Major Arcana. The four suits are usually numbered 'pips', ace through ten, the court cards may have three or four people represented, and the Major Arcana are archetypal symbols. Everyone keeps referring to the Rider-Waite deck, but even the RW was still loosely based on the Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck, which in itself was probably a tarocchi game deck that was adopted for fortune telling.

Anything else, that does not have a basic 'playing card' deck structure, to me, is an 'oracle' or 'divination' card set, not a Tarot card set. I have a Medicine Wheel oracle card set, and a Thoth Tarot deck.

YMMV, and I will probably be argumentative about it when confronted Tongue
Logged

Tana
Staff
High Adept Member
***
*
Last Login:July 26, 2013, 08:37:48 am
Germany Germany

Religion: I'm my Lady's own
Posts: 3407


fence-riding, free-flowing, shamagic = crazy

Blog entries (4)

WWW
« Reply #7: November 05, 2009, 01:48:20 pm »

(I see, in collecting those links, that there's also a Tarot Lenormand - they're not in any way, as far as I can see, a Lenormand deck, nor even a syncretism of the two systems; they're simply a tarot deck that uses a Lenormand-ish artistic style.)

Just jumping in to second your notion.
It was a nice try to use the Lenormand symbols, but it didn't worked out too well.
So this is really just one of the many Tarot designs, not a child of Lenormand and Tarot.
Logged

'You had to repay, good or bad. There was more than one type of obligation. That’s what people never really understood.….Things had to balance. You couldn’t set out to be a good witch or a bad witch. It never worked out for long. All you could try to be was a witch, as hard as you could.' Terry Pratchett 'Lords and Ladies'

(The FB button in my profile does not work, if you like go and add me: Tana Adaneth, the one with the Doom Kitty avatar Wink)

Only shallow people know themselves. (Oscar Wilde)
Balakirev
Journeyman
***
Last Login:November 08, 2009, 10:01:39 pm
United States United States

Religion: Witch. non-practicing Gardnerian. Shamanistic.
Posts: 123


Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #8: November 06, 2009, 10:14:23 am »

I note, though, that all of the decks you cite as examples of difference (with the exception of Javan, which I'm unfamiliar with, and couldn't find any references to) are 78-card decks, and are very clearly variants of tarot.  They're excellent examples of just how much room for variation there is within the scope of tarot - but they don't affect the point I and others are making, that not all cartomancy decks are tarot.

I just don't think we've defined yet what could be the limits of the tarot, and thanks to this discussion, which has got me considering it, I'm wondering whether there truly are any beyond "structured card deck with symbols designed for divination."

Consider: we have Renaissance Italian decks was no fixed number of majors, and no fixed idea--many had city architectural sites within them.  We have French 18th century decks that aside from the majors are to all intents and purposes simply playing cards.  When do the elements start defining the minors, and the archetypes start defining the majors?  The mid-to-late 19th century.  I'm feeling as though if we remove the 19th century's take, we're back to a point where there's no good reason to have 78 cards, or 4 suits, or court cards.

I'm not suggesting this would be anybody's preferred type of deck.  I'm not the kind of person who would go around telling people what they should do--quite the opposite.  So when people tell me what a tarot deck must have, I ask myself, why?  If tradition is our guide, then tradition shows us a pre-19th century definition of tarot much broader than the one that's used, today.  If we don't use the past as a definition of what the tarot physically is, then what are we to use?  I'm not arguing, here: just asking.

Quote
When an artist decides to apply a different theme/storyline to the major arcana, to add cards to the majors, to re-order the majors, to rename the suits, etc, they're creating variations on the broader theme that is tarot - in all those cases, they're starting with pre-existing tarot structures and making changes to that.  When an artist chooses to devise a deck that doesn't rely on existing tarotic structures, it's not tarot.

The catch point for us all, I suspect, is what each of us who really thinks about it means by those structures.  If we accept the Renaissance Italian and 18th century French decks, then the tarot can include 1) minors that are just pips, 2) majors that include local landmarks which "mean" nothing for divination purposes.  What I'm getting at is that neither is conducive to divination, because what we now call tarot decks were before the 19th century not used for divination.  So do we limit ourselves to an historical starting point for defining tarot tradition with the 19th century?  And if so, must we use card attributions derived from the GD and other contemporary systems?

If not, what's to stop us from calling a tarot an attribution system with 5 suits, as in the Chinese medical system?  Okay: here's a non-physical tarot in my non-physical hands that's just like that.  What stops it from being a tarot?  It's got 8 majors for the 8 Immortals, and the suits employ cards based on the I Ching tetragram combinations.  (I'm just winging the creation of this, so please don't be offended by my non-existent deck's superficiality.)  There are even court cards, based on revered figures of Chinese bureaucracy and mythos.  (The Chinese are kind of...unusual in their love of well-oiled bureaucratic machines.  At least, to us.)  It looks to me as though this is a tarot deck.  But with 5 suits, is it?

Quote
(Possibly another criterion for whether a deck is tarot or not might be whether it can be used to play a trick-taking game of the sort for which tarot cards were traditionally used.  I don't think it'd be necessary for it to be a game that's interesting/entertaining to play, for a deck whose primary purpose is divination, but it should have viable game mechanics.)

I seem to recall reading a GD paper (in Regardie's GD stuff published by Llewellyn, back when Llewellyn published real information Wink ) about a game you could play using the tarot.  I admit though that for me, one of the deciding factors on what makes a deck "real" is if I can use the cards for pathworking.  One reason I tend to gravitate towards self-enclosed tarot universes, and find RW clones so boring.  Though I also admit I have far too many of the latter, because I'm a sucker for good art and symbols. Smiley

Quote
This is probably more detailed info than you needed, Balakirev, but I got to thinking that this convo was an excellent springboard for a conversation about defining tarot.  In fact, I think I won't hit post, I think I'll copy this and paste it to a new thread.

The new thread was a great idea. Smiley And it really isn't too much information, because I think we can do one of two things: either state respective immutable positions on the tarot, for greater understanding, or see if our positions are mutable, and whether it's worth exploring where the boundaries of the tarot may lie.  Personally, I'm up for either, or both.  I do hope you (and others, here!) are interested in figuring out what makes a tarot, tarot.

Logged
Balakirev
Journeyman
***
Last Login:November 08, 2009, 10:01:39 pm
United States United States

Religion: Witch. non-practicing Gardnerian. Shamanistic.
Posts: 123


Blog entries (0)



Ignore
« Reply #9: November 06, 2009, 12:04:07 pm »

It's got 8 majors for the 8 Immortals, and the suits employ cards based on the I Ching tetragram combinations.  (I'm just winging the creation of this...

I certainly was!  Which explains why I messed up such an elementary fact as the I Ching trigrams. Wink
Logged
SunflowerP
Moderator
Grand Adept Member
***
Last Login:October 18, 2021, 03:24:57 pm
Canada Canada

Religion: Eclectic Wicca-compatible religious Witch (Libertarian Witchcraft)
TCN ID: SunflowerP
Posts: 5485


Blog entries (0)

WWW
« Reply #10: November 08, 2009, 05:19:56 pm »

The new thread was a great idea. Smiley And it really isn't too much information, because I think we can do one of two things: either state respective immutable positions on the tarot, for greater understanding, or see if our positions are mutable, and whether it's worth exploring where the boundaries of the tarot may lie.  Personally, I'm up for either, or both.  I do hope you (and others, here!) are interested in figuring out what makes a tarot, tarot.
It seemed like something that a divination SIG on a forum with scholarly inclinations really oughta have - and to the best of my recollection, we don't.

In considering your post, and what I wanted to say in reply, I noticed that (despite your earlier comment on wanting a definition that accounted for the older decks and their variability), you keep circling back to phrasings like "with symbols designed for divination" and "can use the deck for pathworking", which don't really accommodate those older decks.  That made me wonder if we're looking for a single answer to the question, or if we should divide it into esoteric and mundane.

Some specific points from your post:

Consider: we have Renaissance Italian decks was no fixed number of majors, and no fixed idea--many had city architectural sites within them.  We have French 18th century decks that aside from the majors are to all intents and purposes simply playing cards.  When do the elements start defining the minors, and the archetypes start defining the majors?  The mid-to-late 19th century.  I'm feeling as though if we remove the 19th century's take, we're back to a point where there's no good reason to have 78 cards, or 4 suits, or court cards.
By roughly 1600, the number of majors seems to have stabilized to 22 (except in the case of the Minchiate of Florence, which became its own distinct "line" of cards/games); I haven't run across any indications of decks with more or fewer than four suits, or whose suits lacked court cards.  I'm guessing that the Italian decks you're speaking of here were earlier?  But that's still quite a while before the 19th century.  Also, when you say "no fixed idea", is that in contrast to allegorical significances in contemporary and/or earlier decks, or to modern symbolic cohesiveness?

I'm wondering why you imply that the French 18th century decks (Tarot de Marseille family?  Or do you have others in mind?) were unique in being "to all intents and purposes simply playing cards"?

And, while the correspondences of the elements with the suits does indeed begin with Lévi in the mid-1800s, I'm doubtful about dating "archetypes defining the majors" to the 19th C.  If you mean "archetype" in the Jungian sense, Jung didn't coin his usage until the early 20th (see "archetype" in OEtymD - not that the naming is necessary to the concept, but the concept seems to me to be present in the allegorical references that arise in the tarot trumps pretty much from its beginning.

Quote
If tradition is our guide, then tradition shows us a pre-19th century definition of tarot much broader than the one that's used, today.  If we don't use the past as a definition of what the tarot physically is, then what are we to use?
Quoting this bit simply to agree with it.

Quote
The catch point for us all, I suspect, is what each of us who really thinks about it means by those structures.  If we accept the Renaissance Italian and 18th century French decks, then the tarot can include 1) minors that are just pips, 2) majors that include local landmarks which "mean" nothing for divination purposes.  What I'm getting at is that neither is conducive to divination, because what we now call tarot decks were before the 19th century not used for divination.  So do we limit ourselves to an historical starting point for defining tarot tradition with the 19th century?  And if so, must we use card attributions derived from the GD and other contemporary systems?
I don't consider conducivity to divination a necessary quality in what makes a deck a tarot deck - though it's relevant to what makes a tarot deck (or any other pack of cards) a cartomancy deck.

That said, there are quite a few references to pre-19th-C use of tarot cards for fortune-telling.  (Which begs the question of whether fortune-telling and divination are synonymous, or two different things, or are not identical but have overlap in greater or lesser degree - possibly worthy, or even necessary, of discussion, but a whole topic in itself.)

And, tarot not only used but designed for divination predates the 19th C, with Etteilla's deck.  That'd be a nitpick if it were just about the dozen give-or-take years by which it predates that century-turn, but it predates the founding of the GD by a century, so it's one way in which card attributions aren't limited to the GD and its contemporaries.  Etteilla, and his contemporary Court de Gebelin, mean that there's a strong case for placing the historical starting point of the esoteric tradition of tarot (or, the modern esoteric tradition, if one counts the allegorical and cosmographic components of medieval tarot as esoteric) in the 1780s.

(On another tangent, that of the mundane, card-playing tradition of tarot:  while in English-speaking countries "tarot" virtually always refers to the esoteric tradition, in many other European countries the card games are still played.)

Quote
If not, what's to stop us from calling a tarot an attribution system with 5 suits, as in the Chinese medical system?  Okay: here's a non-physical tarot in my non-physical hands that's just like that.  What stops it from being a tarot?  It's got 8 majors for the 8 Immortals, and the suits employ cards based on the I Ching tetragram combinations.  (I'm just winging the creation of this, so please don't be offended by my non-existent deck's superficiality.)  There are even court cards, based on revered figures of Chinese bureaucracy and mythos.  (The Chinese are kind of...unusual in their love of well-oiled bureaucratic machines.  At least, to us.)  It looks to me as though this is a tarot deck.  But with 5 suits, is it?
A pretty problem!  I would say that it's not a tarot deck, but not because it has five suits; it's because - aside from you, its creator, taking inspiration from traditional tarot structure to organize it into majors + minors in suits with court cards - what you're organizing is not derived from the tarot tradition, in any way or from any point in that tradition's history.  (OTOH, it's more tarot-inspired than any non-tarot cartomancy deck I can think of.)

Sunflower
Logged

Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs!
I do so have a life.  I just live part of it online.
“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others
to live as one wishes to live.” - Oscar Wilde
My blog "If You Ain't Makin' Waves, You Ain't Kickin' Hard Enough", at Dreamwidth and LJ

Donor Ad: Become a Silver or Gold Donor to get your ad here.

Tags:
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Add bookmark  |  Print  
 
Jump to:  
  Portal   Forum   Help Rules Search Chat (Mux) Articles Login Register   *

* Share this topic...
In a forum
(BBCode)
In a site/blog
(HTML)


Related Topics
Subject Started by Replies Views Last post
DruidCraft Tarot Deck...
Magic and the Occult for Beginners
Brann Druce 13 7796 Last post May 13, 2011, 09:20:34 am
by Ana
Making Your Own Tarot Deck « 1 2 3 »
Magic and the Occult for Beginners
hobbitatheart 31 10221 Last post August 26, 2008, 06:31:42 pm
by Chanah
Your Favorite Tarot Deck
Divination SIG
Hydra 4 3564 Last post April 04, 2009, 04:49:59 pm
by RhiannonWhiteMare
Creating my own Tarot deck? « 1 2 »
Divination SIG
Waldfrau 23 7261 Last post November 04, 2009, 10:31:20 pm
by SunflowerP
Should I design my own Tarot deck?
Divination SIG
Unmutual 6 2251 Last post April 30, 2009, 08:01:15 am
by Unmutual
EU Cookie Notice: This site uses cookies. By using this site you consent to their use.


Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2006-2008, Simple Machines
TinyPortal v0.9.8 © Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
Page created in 0.093 seconds with 48 queries.