The architecture of the Tarot deck

Written by  on July 27, 2017 


Traditionally, scholars and authors divided the Tarot deck into Major and Minor Arcane.
Each group of cards has its role and function in the Tarot deck.
The second line of the ‘Emerald Tablet’ of Hermes Trismegistos stated: “That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing” – which commonly became known as ‘as above, so below’.
So, the basic architecture of the Tarot deck is built upon the same principle.
The cards of the so-called Major Arcane represents the so-called ‘heavens’, the ‘gods’, respectively the planetary influences.
The cards of the so-called Minor Arcane represents the ‘life on Earth’, our day by day existence and struggles.
It’s important to bear in mind these aspects when you decide to read with only the Major or Minor Arcane. Depending on the type of the question you ask, one might suite you better than the other.
Generally speaking, reading only with the Major can be helpful in so-called ‘spiritual’ matters, respectively when you need guidance in issues that involves ‘higher powers’.
As we know, early authors such as Eliphas Levi only dealt with the cards of the Major Arcane. The so-called ‘divination’ originally may referred to peak into the unknow of the higher forces of the universe, contrary to the ‘fortune telling’ with ordinary playing cards.
Also, must be noted that the cards of the Major Arcane were used for Magickal rituals, respectively the Tarot spreads are considered to be of Magickal power.
Levi, not accidentally, called the part of theoretical description of his book “Dogma’ and the practical part ‘Ritual’. Aleister Crowley’s interest into Tarot originated from his interest in practical Magick, spell casting and communication with the ‘spirits’ in the tradition of John Dee and Edward Kelley.
The spell casting tradition by using playing cards and Tarot cards and particular spreads is an aria of the Tarot not seriously – academically if you prefer – researched and documented so far, and it mainly remains a mystery and a secret, considered by the (self) emancipated ‘modern man’ only a medieval superstition. Still, these practices are very alive and commonly used by the Romanian gypsy witches – and probably not only the Romanians – up to our days.

For so-called ‘mundane’ or ‘earthly’ – practical, financial, relational – issues you can use only the Minor Arcane cards.
In the ‘fortune telling’ practice, some use 52, others 36 or 32 cards.
The 52 cards represent the Major Arcane minus one Court Card, the King or the Knight – as you prefer.
In the case of 36 cards you have two options.
You can remove the Court Cards and the Aces and you will be left with the 36 cards representing the 36 decans of the Zodiac.
Or, you can remove the Kings or the Knights, and the 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s and you will obtain a pack of 36 cards.
In the French fortune-telling tradition, they use only 32 cards, so you will have to remove also the 6s.
Although the meaning and interpretation of the fortune-telling cards and Tarot cards differ, you may use the interpretation you are familiar with.

In the basic architecture of the Tarot deck the Court Cards represents the link between ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’.
The threefoldness of the world is also one of the oldest esoteric notions. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa built his entire work on this concept in his “Three Books of Occult Philosophy”.

Excerpt from the book ‘The Unified Esoteric Tarot’ by Attila Blága. Full or partial use of this text for commercial or non-commercial distribution by any means whatsoever is strictly prohibited unless expressly authorised by the author.

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