Mystical Origins of the Tarot

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Mystical Origins of the Tarot

Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage


Publication details

ISBN 0892811900

date of publication

May 26, 2004


Destiny Books


“Paul Huson brings to his quest for the origins of tarot the insight of an accomplished practitioner and the scholarship of a dedicated historical detective. The result is a fascinating ‘biography’ of the tarot images, tracking their shifting forms and attributions from their earliest appearances. Mystical Origins of the Tarot will undoubtedly be a classic in the field of tarot studies.”

An in depth overview of the tarot field, the book covers Huson's theory attributing the Trump imagery to medieval mystery plays and allegory, providing a card-by-card analysis of the historical origins of each Trump to back up his thesis, plus a comparison of its earliest documented interpretations by De Gebelin, De Mellet, Levi, Christian, Mathers, the Golden Dawn, and Waite. Huson also analyses and compares the "traditional" cartomantic meanings of the minors with several sources, the courts with the medieval "Nine Worthies" and their associated legends, and the pips collating the decans of Picatrix with the interpretations of Etteilla, Mathers, Golden Dawn, and Waite.

Author's comments

The idea for this book began life as a revision and update to The Devil's Picturebook, a tarot book I wrote in 1970 that saw publication by Putnams in 1971. But as I reread each chapter in Picturebook, I realized with somewhat mixed emotions that so much new light had been shed on the history of the subject since I wrote it that if I did write anything at all - and there was plenty to write about - it would have to be an entirely new venture. Unlike Picturebook, in which I speculated broadly on the tarot's possible associations to medieval and Renaissance myth and magic, my aim would be to track each symbol in every card of the deck, in both the trump cards and pip cards, to its historical origin, and then explore how its meaning in divination evolved from this source, if in fact it did:

  • First, what was the origin of the suit card symbols, and what did they stand for?
  • Second, what was the source of the trumps, and what was their original import? They were not simply conjured out of thin air.
  • Third and lastly, when and why did people begin using the cards for divination - that is, as a means of acquiring spiritual guidance or discovering hidden information?

Author's website


Rachel Pollack -

"A visionary new concept for deciphering the mystery of the tarot's origins and meaning."

Robert Moss -

"MYSTICAL ORIGINS OF THE TAROT will undoubtedly be a classic in the field of tarot studies."

Diana McMahon-Collis, Tabi Quarterly, December 2004 -

"MYSTICAL ORIGINS OF THE TAROT is clearly a stand alone book...A powerfully adept handling of the general way in which spiritual meanings and divination became associated with the tarot...The history of the tarot becomes an exciting adventure!...Like a good novel, hard to put down."

Sherryl Smith -

"Solid historical research delving into tarot's origins...I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in tarot's roots...If you ever wondered where our card meanings come from, Huson's comparison of divinatory meanings from various sources is a gold mine. For people interested in traditional cartomancy, this book is the best source we have in English for pre-Golden Dawn card meanings and spreads."

Bonnie Cehovet -

"Those who have the good fortune to read MYSTICAL ORIGINS OF THE TAROT are presented with a well researched, well written resource that allows them to follow the origins and development of tarot, including the background of the symbols on the cards...A book of great benefit, with the added bonus that it reads easily and is highly enjoyable!"

Paul Hughes-Barlow -

"For the first time in years I actually read through every description of every card, its history and development in a dance through the classics, the Bible, medieval ideas, right up to the Golden Dawn and A.E.Waite. Here, Huson does the reader a real service, listing the development of the divinatory meanings in chronological order, highlighting the contradictions between authorities, and identifying original sources...The most enjoyable and fascinating history of the tarot."

Nigel Jackson -

"The definitive study of tarot symbolism...A penetrating and rigorous process of historical analysis and thematic elucidation...Ranging with great erudition from Shia, Sufi and Magian symbologies, to Neoplatonic doctrines, medieval mystery-plays, 18th century cartomancers and scholarly art history, this packed study delivers such a veritable feast of fresh information and insight on the subject of tarot that beginners and veteran tarotists alike will find it a real treat to read and an indispensable resource for reference...This is very likely the definitive study on the subject. Highly recommended."

Helen Pilinovsky -

"One of the most comprehensive overviews on the topic that I have ever encountered...Scrupulously researched...I recommend the volume highly for both scholarly enthusiasts and beginning tarot-readers."