The Egyptian-Hermetic Connection

Regardless of the fact that paper was not invented until the 13th century, many people still believe that the Tarot has origins in ancient Egypt. The breadcrumb trail that seems to point to Egyptian ideas goes way back to the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes. The medium of the cards may not have existed, but the ideas in the Tarot are ancient philosophical ideas; the Major Arcana represent universal archetypes found worldwide.

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, known as Hermetica, enjoyed great prestige and were popular among alchemists. The “hermetic tradition” consequently refers to alchemy, magic, astrology and related subjects.

Hermes Trismegistus may be a representation of the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. Both Thoth and Hermes were gods of writing and of magic in their respective cultures. Thus, the Greek god of interpretive communication was combined with the Egyptian god of wisdom as a patron of astrology and alchemy. In addition, both gods were psychopomps, guiding souls to the afterlife.~

The Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck (originally published 1910) is arguably one of the most popular tarot decks in the English-speaking world. The cards, drawn by illustrator Pamela Colman Smith, were commissioned by academic and mystic A. E. Waite and published by the Rider Company. Both Smith and Waite were high-standing members of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was a society established for “the continued preservation of that body of knowledge known as Hermeticism or the Western Esoteric Tradition,” so we can assume that they would base the tarot deck they created upon Hermetic concepts.

The Six Characteristics of Esotericism

1. Correspondence
Everything in Nature is a sign that can be read. The microcosm and macrocosm interplay. Synchronicity can be found as signs from Nature and may lead to the understanding of the divine.

2. Nature is Alive
Nature is not just pieces of matter, it is a living entity that evolves and expands.

3. Imagination and Mediation
Imagination is a power that provides access to innumerable worlds and levels of reality; it is the intermediary between the material world and the divine.

4. Experience of Transmutation
Transmutation is Gnosis and the Illumination of the Self and Mind. Transmutation marks the birth of a new awareness: enlightenment.

5. Practice of Concordance
The belief that there is one common root from which all esoteric knowledge grows.

6. Transmission
Master-Disciple initiation into arcane knowledge.

These are the general principles that run like a thread, or more like a river, through the Tarot. One of the strongest concepts is the Hermetic idea of correspondence expressed in the common phrase: “as above, so below:”

As above, so below
These words circulate throughout occult and magical circles. They are recorded in Hermetic texts, although they originated in the Vedas.

The actual text of that maxim, as translated by Dennis W. Hauck from The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, is: “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” Thus, whatever happens on any level of reality (physical, emotional, or mental) also happens on every other level.

This principle, however, is more often used in the sense of the microcosm and the macrocosm. The microcosm is oneself, and the macrocosm is the universe. The macrocosm is as the microcosm and vice versa; within each lies the other, and through understanding one (usually the microcosm) a man may understand the other.~

~ Excerpt from The Tarot Key: Unlock the Secrets of Your Soul
Copyright 2015 Aliyah Marr

The Tarot Key
Unlock the Secrets of Your Soul

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The Fun, Easy Way to Learn to Read the Tarot

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