All discussions of tarot on this blog are specifically anti-supremacist. As a person of European descent, I reject the narrative that tarot is a purely European phenomenon or that it should be used only by “white” people. I understand that some of my ancestors, specifically those from places like Alsace and the Rhenish Palatinate, may have used these decks for game play and I am interested in what the imagery of those decks has to say about the world in which my ancestors lived. But I reject any claim that tarot is only authentic to those descended from Europeans, or that tarot decks need to feature Europeans to be legitimate.
The four-suited card deck was not invented by Europeans. It was co-created over several centuries by people across East and Central Asia, the Middle East, and northern Africa before arriving in Europe in the 1300s. The specific contribution of Europeans is the 22-card trionfi, or trumps, now often known as the Major Arcana. In discussions of historical and present-day tarots, there is no room for Euro-centric purism. As a card game and as a tool of divination, tarot is by the people and of the people; it continues to change and be enriched as it encounters new cultures. And that is as it should be.
Those of us who are of European descent have to be vigilant to make sure that our culture is not mis-appropriated by those who would distort our history and our sacred tools in order to build white supremacist and white nationalist narratives. That is why from March 2021 going forward, discussions of historical tarot decks, like Tarot de Marseille and the Visconti-Sforza deck, will link to this statement.
Beautiful – thank you! I stand with you (as a fellow white person Tarot reader) in this commitment. As I understand it, my ancestors (coming from what is now the UK) actually had nothing to do with the invention of any of this, and were, rather, beneficiaries of the spread of cards and cartomancy across Europe from and by people of other cultures. My ancestors would have used other things for divination purposes. And yet I see faces that look like mine on so many historical and modern decks, even the one designed by the multiracial queer artist of the most popular modern deck (and certainly my first love in Tarot decks), working as she did for a white man at a time when modern Tarot had not yet been “diversified” as it has been now.
Thank you for highlighting the co-creation of Tarot and its current popularity and evolution. I am grateful to have come across this tool for my own spiritual development, despite the fact that it was not passed down to me through my own cultural lineage. And I will continue to stand for its ongoing co-creation/evolution/expansion as a tool for all people to use in ways that support them and reflect their own history, life experience, and dreams for the future. ✨❤️🌈
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Thank you!! 🙂 And yes, to be clear, I was not passed this tradition of divination from my ancestors, either. Some of them are from the Scotland, Wales, England, and Ireland and others are from France, the Netherlands, and what is now Germany. My ancestors from the Continent *may* have used the cards for game play, but I would have to do more research about the spread of the cards across Europe to see if that was even possible. What I am fascinated by, and will probably be blogging about soon, is how the trionfi in early decks reflect Europeans’ understanding of the world in which they lived. So in that sense, thinking about the cards historically helps connect me to my blood ancestors.
Tarot is a living tradition, it changes all the time and has always changed every time it encounters a new culture. That’s what is fantastic about it. Even tarot decks just made for game play are varied in the number of cards and the images they use. It’s in flux all the time! I’m recognizing now my need to honor the roots of tarot while being part of the queer anti-supremacist culture that has been emerging around it the past several years.
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