Tarot and Egyptomania

Farley, Helen S. (2014) Tarot and Egyptomania. In: Tarot in culture. Valleyhome Books, Clifford, ON. Canada, pp. 57-91. ISBN 978-0-9936944-3-1


The most enduring association of Tarot is with the mystical land of Egypt. This paper explores the nature of this erroneous connection; investigating its origins during the eighteenth and nineteenth century French occult revival with authors of esotericism including Antoine Court de Gebelin and Etteilla. This was a time of rampant Egyptomania in Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary France. Napoleon had taken teams of archaeologists with him as he conquered this ancient and exotic land, and they ensured a steady stream of mysterious artifacts found their way back to France to fan the collective post-Enlightenment imaginations of a people deprived of the spiritual comforts of the Catholic Church. Closely aligned with these theories of Tarot origins was the association of the gypsies with Egypt – many believing that 'gypsy' was in fact an abbreviation of 'Egyptian'. A little later, England was also in the grips of this fascination with Egypt and this tendency was similarly reflected in the writings of that country's writers on the occult: the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its members were the most influential perpetrators of the Egypt-tarot link.
This fascination with Egypt continues and even though the true history of Tarot origins have been more or less known for at least 200 years, modern authors often still claim Egypt as the home of Tarot, frequently implicating gypsies in its dissemination. This paper details the history of the association of Egypt with Tarot and looks at some of the contemporary decks that make this connection explicit.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published version due to publisher copyright policy.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Australian Digital Futures Institute (8 Dec 2010 - 6 Jul 2016)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Australian Digital Futures Institute (8 Dec 2010 - 6 Jul 2016)
Date Deposited: 11 May 2015 23:05
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2017 04:40
Uncontrolled Keywords: tarot; Egypt; French Occult Revival; new age; religious studies; religion and society
Fields of Research (2008): 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220315 Philosophy of Religion
16 Studies in Human Society > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220405 Religion and Society
Fields of Research (2020): 50 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 5003 Philosophy > 500316 Philosophy of religion
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4401 Anthropology > 440107 Social and cultural anthropology
50 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 5004 Religious studies > 500405 Religion, society and culture
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950404 Religion and Society
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/25003

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