Out of Africa: Tarot's fascination with Egypt

Farley, Helen S. (2011) Out of Africa: Tarot's fascination with Egypt. Literature and Aesthetics, 21 (1). pp. 175-195. ISSN 1036-9368


Mention 'tarot' and images of an exotic and mysterious gypsy fortune-teller spring unbidden to consciousness. Dark eyes flashing, she reveals the trumps one at a time, each a strange portent, preternaturally speaking of life, love, loss, and death. The gypsies, themselves enigmatic and of uncertain origin, were allegedly charged with carrying the tarot deck from a doomed Egyptian priesthood with the forethought to encode their most esoteric secrets in a game, a seemingly harmless pastime. How often have we heard that tarot's difficult birth occurred in an Egypt ancient and mystical? And though tarot scholars have known about the real origins of the deck in the Renaissance court of a northern Italian city for some two hundred years, still that link with Egypt remains obdurate. This beguiling myth, never convincingly verified by its perpetrators, began in the desire for pseudo-legitimacy through an ancient though
false lineage and the dogged persistence of a pre-Rosetta infatuation with all things Egyptian. This article explores the origins of this persistent belief.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published verison due to publisher copyright policy.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - USQ Other
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2012 11:36
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2014 22:34
Uncontrolled Keywords: Egyptian religion; Renaissance; origin of tarot; gypsies; supernatural; predictions; fortune telling
Fields of Research : 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220315 Philosophy of Religion
21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210399 Historical Studies not elsewhere classified
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170111 Psychology of Religion
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950404 Religion and Society
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/20717

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