Today, most people see the Tarot as a means of fortune-telling, or 'divination'. Strangely, we know less historically about this aspect of the cards than any other. Judging by the comparatively few historical references to divination as opposed to gambling, the practice did not become common until some time after the introduction of the cards themselves. Possibly the Romany, or 'gypsies', came across the game of Tarocchi on their travels in Europe and decided to use the cards for fortune-telling. Or individuals developed the concept (the earliest written references are individual interpretations, though they might have derived from some earlier system, not written down but in general use) and the Romany took it from them. People used to believe that the Romany themselves brought the cards from Egypt. The fact is, the Romany probably came from India, and they arrived in Spain a good hundred years after Tarot cards were introduced in Italy and France.
In the section on readings we will consider just what divination does, and how such an outrageous practice could possibly work. Here we can simply observe that people can and have told fortunes with anything - the smoky innards of slaughtered beasts, bird patterns across the sky, coloured stones, tossed coins, anything. The practice stems from the simple desire to know, in advance, what is going to happen, and more subtly, from the inner conviction that everything is connected, everything has meaning and that nothing occurs at random.
The very idea of randomness is really very modern. It developed out of the dogma that cause and effect is the only valid connection between two events. Events without this logical joining are random, that is, meaningless. Previously, however, people thought in terms of 'correspondences'. Events or patterns in one area of existence corresponded to patterns in other areas. The pattern of the zodiac corresponds to the pattern of a person's life. The pattern of tea leaves in the bottom of a cup corresponds to the outcome of a battle. Everything is connected. The idea has always claimed its adherents,
at all, rather it represents the absence of any specific number, and therefore we can say that it contains all numbers within itself. It symbolizes infinite potentiality. All things remain possible because no definite form has been taken. 1 and 2 are the first genuine numbers, the first reality; again, a fixed state. They form the archetypes 'odd' and 'even', and therefore represent all opposites, male and female, light and dark, passive and active, etc. But 21 combines these two numbers in one figure.
Look at their postures. The Magician raises a magic wand to heaven. Besides the ideas of spirit and unity, the phallic wand symbolizes maleness. The High Priestess sits between two pillars, a vaginal symbol as well as a symbol of duality. These two pillars appear again and again in the Major Arcana, in such obvious places as the temple in the Hierophant, and in more subtle ways, like the two lovers on card 6, or the two sphinxes harnessed to the Chariot. But now look at the World. The dancer, a female figure (though
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