Today's Tarot Blog Hop subject is Oracular Anomalies, those cards that do not match the standard, yet nevertheless actually work. I must admit that I struggled to find a card that fitted into this scheme. Either there were none because each deck is a creature onto itself, and therefore correct in its own way; or there was a blizzard of cards to pick from because most decks stray from the initiatic system which I trained with.
Then it finally hit me at the eleventh hour, it is the initiatic system that I am used to using that is the anomaly.
As most of my readers know, I am a student of the Hermetic Golden Dawn, a lodge organization that sprung out of 1888 London. During one's studies in Golden Dawn, the student memorizes a set of attributes assigned to the Tarot, including astrological, elemental, and sephirothic attributions. In addition, the Major Arcana are each associated with a Hebrew letter.
|Golden Dawn attributes of the Major Arcana on the Tree of Life.|
|Paths of the Tree of Life, as mapped out in the Golden Dawn system.|
So how is this an oracular anomaly?
Simple, the Kabbalah in the hands of the traditional Jews never had anything to do with the Tarot. Not a single word about the Tarot can be found in the Kabbalah before the nineteenth century. So all the Kabbalistic attributions of Golden Dawn are actually wrong...well, at least as far as the traditional Jewish Kabbalists are concerned.
So how did the idea that the Tarot was connected with the Tarot come about?
The association of the Tarot to the Kabbalah, in the form of the Hebrew letters, was first put forth by Louis Raphael Lucrece de Fayolle, the Comte de Mellet, in a small essay included in the 1781 printing of Volume Eight, Book One, of the Monde Primitif, analysé et comparé avec le monde moderne (The Primitive World, analyzed and compared with the modern world), assembled, contributed to, and edited by Antoine Court de Gébelin.
In his essay, the Comte de Mellet associates each of the twenty-two Major Arcana with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Gebelin adds fuel to the fire by claiming that the Tarot is a book of mysteries handed down though the ages from Ancient Egypt, another "fact" that is actually false. Both French and English occultists would inherit these ideas, and build systems around these fairy tales.
So why does a system of Tarot attributions built on mistaken ideas work?
In the case of the Golden Dawn Tarot, I believe it is because the human mind steeped in the attributions, learns to communicate with oneself, and the spiritual universe, using those attributions. It does not matter that the symbols assigned to the Tarot cards are a recent invention, and have no actual correspondence to the older mystery system that they are linked to---what matters is that the human mind communicates though symbols and associations. In other words, the mind is quite willing to act as if the fairy tale of the Tarot being a Kabbalistic tool is actually true.