I believe Eliphas Levi was the first person to use the Tarot for this purpose. My memory of this is a little vague (no, not of the 19th century!) because it's my recollection of a radio documentary of about 15 years ago on the topic.
Levi also linked the Major Arcana (or Trumps) to the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet; prior to this generally only parallels with Egyptian religious thought had been drawn.
Levi was also responsible for the upsurge of interest in the Qabala in 19th century France; he prepared new translations of Sefer Zohar at least, and may have done so for other books (as I say, my memory of this is vague). Thus he drew parallels between the Qabala and the Tarot. Believe it or not, I think I still have the radio documentary on tape somewhere if anyone needs to know more.
>From : [log in to unmask]
To : [log in to unmask]
Date : 20 December 2000 19:26:51
Subject : Re: jews and xns ca. 1000
In a message dated 12/20/00 12:34:01 PM Eastern Standard Time,
>[log in to unmask] writes:
>> There was a recent author on the West Coast (USA) who wrote a book on the
>> origin of the Tarot Cards, and found among other things that the modern
>> usage for divination is an 19th century invention by a spiritualist;
>> whereas the original deck was a game similar to hearts/trumps based on the
>> apocalyptic imagry found in Revelations, most possibly because such imagery
>> was easier to remember for the illiterate, among whom the game was popular:
>> card games being invented in N. Italy in the 14th-15th centuries.
>> I wish I could remember or find the gratuitous copy the author had sent;
>> but alas!
>> He was or is on the web somewhere; do a search under Tarot Cards for more
>> Sincerely in Christ,
>> Br. Alexis Bugnolo
>Thank you Br. Alexis. This makes sense. I thought it was striking that the 22
>cards of the Major Arcana “matched“ the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
>But I believe Rev. has 22 chapters, so it might very well be by way of that.
Director, 1509 Society
email: [log in to unmask]
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