As one of the few American Tarot game players, I'm displeased at the culturally biased coverage the Tarot deck often receives in the popular media. Bruce Spotleson's column in Vegas Inc is a recent example of how many journalists and editors would rather give free advertising space to those claiming "psychic" or "clairvoyant" powers instead of giving readers balanced and informative content regarding these cards. I worked for Bruce Spotleson at Las Vegas CityLife a number of years ago and I thought he had higher journalistic standards then what I see displayed here.
"A look ahead from the realm of the paranormal"http://www.vegasinc.com/news/2012/jan/30/look-ahead-realm-paranormal/
Contrary to popular belief sadly unchallenged by the mainstream media, Tarot cards were not originally intended for fortune telling. Tarot was made for card games which are enjoyed today in places such as France, Italy, Switzerland, and central Europe.
Bruce Spotleson and others in the media should do more research on Tarot cards.
A good place to start would be the Extraordinary Claims website.
Tarot is a system of divination and fortune telling using a deck of cards.The Evidence
Playing cards first appeared in Europe late in the 14th century, most likely coming from Egypt. The first known tarot cards were created in the 15th century in northern Italy to be used in trick-taking games called “triumphs” (later called trumps in English). The English/French word tarot derives from Italian tarocchi, whose origin is unknown. Later, tarot cards become associated with mysticism and magic.
Cartomancy is the act of fortune-telling or divination using a deck of cards. There are many different tarot decks used in cartomancy, with the meanings of the cards varying greatly from reader to reader.
The Skeptic’s Dictionary puts it well: “There is a romantic irresistibility to the notion of shuffling the cards and casting one’s fate, to putting one’s cards on the table for all to see, to drawing into the unknown, to having one’s life laid out and explained by strangers who have the gift of clairvoyance, to gamble on the future, and so on. Centuries of scientific advancement and learning have not diminished their popularity…”
The James Randi Challenge offers $1 million to the first person who can prove a paranormal claim under controlled conditions and this offer remains unfulfilled. Although many people claim to possess extraordinary abilities, only a minuscule portion of them dare to come forward and be challenged. One has to wonder why. In any case, those who do always fail to deliver on their claims.
Various tests of the validity of tarot readings have taken place under controlled scientific conditions, and no one has ever achieved a better outcome than what one would expect from random chance. In the study titled “Testing the Validity of Tarot Cards” (2004) by I. Ivtzan and C. French, the participants failed to distinguish between “real” tarot readings and readings based on a random collection of cards. Ironically, believers in Tarot fared worse in this task then the non-believers.Conclusion
There is no evidence to support that tarot cards are anything other than a simple deck of playing cards."
Another good source of information on the Tarot comes from the International Playing Card Society"Tarot - a diversion
The study of the development of playing-cards has further been bedevilled by overmuch attention to tarot packs. To the best of our knowledge, the first packs of cards in Europe comprised 52 cards in four Italian-type suits each with three court cards (king, knight, and foot-servant), and were used for games of skill involving trick-taking, as well as for gambling games, which were often prohibited. Very soon, the idea of adding extra cards to act as permanent trumps came into being, and the tarot pack was born. At the same time a queen was interpolated between the king and the knight, so that, with the extra 22 non-suited cards, a pack of 78 cards was created. Such packs have continued to be used for their original purpose right through to the present day.
In the course of their long life, many variations have been tried: the pack has been extended to 97 cards for Minchiate by adding more trumps; shortened to 63 cards by dropping low-value numeral cards; converted to using French suit-signs; shortened to 54 and 42 cards by dropping numerals; but always with the object of playing trick-taking games. Many of these variants are still in use for just that purpose.Cartomancy and the occult
It is the choice of subjects for the trump cards which has been the focus for so much attention by both scholars and occultists. Though playing-card historians still do not have a satisfactory explanation of the sequence of subjects, many of the occultist theories have been discredited. For instance, the tarot pack was known in Europe in the early 15th century, before the arrival of the gypsies. This rules out the proposed connection with Egypt first put forward in 1781, which forms the foundation for much of the later occult speculation. The earliest known use of Tarot packs for fortune telling was in Bologna, around 1750, using an entirely different system of meanings, and the use of ordinary packs of playing-cards for cartomancy does not date from much earlier than this. Unfortunately, some occultists and cartomanciers continue to ignore these facts.Tarot gets a new look
With the conversion of the tarot pack to the French suit-system, the trump cards, with their no longer understood imagery, were replaced by other sequences of pictures: animals, mythological subjects, genre scenes. The value of each trump card was now indicated by a large numeral (the forerunner of corner-indices), so that the pictures had no function other than decoration. However, a few sets of pictures found favour with card players, and gradually the range of such tarot packs narrowed down."http://www.i-p-c-s.org/history.htmlWhat's the harm?
The following was posted on the Board Game Geek website which illustrates the problems created when Americans are misled by the media into believing that divination is the only use of Tarot cards."Subject: What game(s) will you NOT play simply because of the theme?
Tarot. It has such a bad rap because of the fortune-telling thing I could never own such a deck. I'd just feel weird buying a pack of them, too. Never mind that I'd not use them for fortune-telling, ANYWAY. It'd just sit in the back of my closet like a sore thumb, even though I have heard of some games that sound interesting. I know way too many conservative people (southern baptist, KY) that to them even having a pack of tarot cards would be like drinking or gambling or pornography, except worse by a power of ten since it involves communicating with the devil or his demons and witchcraft....
It's even worse than being an artist (AKA, me) and drawing from a live nude model and everyone thinking that it is pornography. You can't explain to such people that there's a difference in intent, so better not to mention it at all or at worst choose something else to draw. With tarot cards the line is even blurrier for most people; there are so many other great regular card games I can't see any real reason to try games with tarot cards given the confusion."
Americans already know about so-called "psychics" reading Tarot cards so it is a "dog bites man" type of story. Why shouldn't there be some coverage of how some people are playing actual card games with Tarot?
James D. Wickson
Tags: bruce spotleson, greenspun, las vegas, mystic mona, tarot, vegas inc