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Tarot cards were invented in Italy in the early fifteenth century, and for almost four centuries used exclusively for playing games. In late eighteenth-century France, however, they were purloined from the card-players for fortune-telling and the occult. For a hundred years, the use of Tarot cards for divination, and their interpretation as enshrining an occult meaning, remained all but exclusively confined to France. Professional French fortune-tellers, French exponents and practitioners of magic, and the occasional French charlatan, developed uses for Tarot cards and baseless theories about them which were virtually unknown in other countries. The authors trace this phenomenon through the writings and activities of many advocates of Tarot occultism, including Court de Gebelin, Etteilla, Levi, and Papus, showing how an extraordinary variety of occult theories - from Hermetism to Rosicrucianism, from the Cabala to Freemasonry - was brought to bear on a pack of playing cards.
In the twentieth century Tarot divination has spread throughout the Western world; the very word 'Tarot' is now identified with the occult, fortune-telling, and cartomancy. This book tells the fascinating story of how Tarot divination was born and grew to maturity in a single country.
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