In the latest issue of The Playing-Card Thierry Depaulis makes the following remark in a footnote on the first page of his essay: “The Tarot de Marseille: Facts and Fallacies” pertaining to the meaning of ‘Tarotist’.

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While he rightly points out one of the cultural differences between the different approaches to tarot, he neglects to say that the reason why the Tarotists and the Tarologues may not be interested in the history of the cards is because they are busy with reading the cards. The Tarotist does not necessarily need history in order to read the cards. What she needs is a method for reading the cards.

Basically you cannot hold it against people the fact that they prefer one thing over the other, divination over history. Tarotists are not historians. They are card readers, and most of them acknowledge themselves as such. Passing judgment on how they supposedly intuit things about the history of the cards or ‘know’ things about the cards that no one else does without actually getting their ‘sources’ right is to stretch the prejudice against a practice that is not your own practice. I actually happen to know Tarotists who, while insisting on reading cards than on digging out facts about the provenance of the cards, also know history. What I myself appreciate in such readers is the fact that while they are obviously capable of keeping with the facts, they have more to say than a historian simply because they know something about the history of divination, which is not something that a ‘straight’ historian wants to bother with.

Just for fun, and since the Tarotists are not held in high respect by the historians, I’ve asked the Tarot de Marseille to tell me what name would do. 

I’m using here a newly reconstructed deck by someone who fits Depaulis’s definition of both a Tarotist and a Tarologue. Wilfried Houdoin both holds the tarot to have a secret code, and he also believes he has found a key. Whatever the man thinks, I find that we can use his deck and some of the ideas behind it. Just because someone may be wrong historically does not mean that they cannot offer something for the rest of us to think about. As far as I’m concerned, if an idea is interesting, I’m interested. This goes for my appreciation of Depaulis’s own historical insights too.

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The three cards, The Hanged Man, The Emperor, The Wheel of Fortune, suggest that no matter what you’ll call yourself some authority will always think it wrong. Therefore you can call yourself a fortuneteller.

I’ll take this. As yet I have to see a historian accusing a fortuneteller of ignorance. What a relief.


Note on the deck: Tarot de Marseille, Edition Millenium, as reconstructed by Wilfried Houdoin, 2011

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7 thoughts on “TAROTIST: A NAME

  1. enrique enriquez says:

    “The word ‘tarology’ was coined several years before it had any meaning. Empty, it was left exposed to the elements and was found years later completely filled by salt. It is a tarologist’s duty to keep a pinch of this salt under his tongue at all times, as a savory reminder of the fact that ’pataphysics is the only science that can truly explain the tarot.”

      1. phil gaveshi says:

        I see your reading as:
        depaulis is the emperor,the rigid authority,hypnotised by what he is holding up. trying to hand down a proclaimation of what tarotists “are”.
        he is looking backwards.
        history is a hanged man.not going anywhere.
        meanwhile,the wheel of fortune is turning….
        the whole game is moving on.
        and intelligent tarotists are setting out to rove on
        la rove de fortvne……

  2. cameliaelias says:


    Iain Ismyfirstname: the trouble with some histories, is that they’re just written by biased story-tellers…
    8 hours ago · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias’ Taroflexions: Of course. This is in fact the most interesting aspect of history. More often than not a fact is also a story.
    8 hours ago · Like

    Iain Ismyfirstname: …maybe it can be said that everything is a story, and it doesn’t matter if its true or not – its about what it invokes inside the listener/reader… then our own biases kick in, and when we re-tell it to someone else, their bias kicks in too, and so …See More
    8 hours ago · Like

    Camelia Elias’ Taroflexions: That’s right. The names we call ourselves are our stories, just as the names others call us are our stories. Who can claim an authentic self beyond language? Language constitutes us, not ‘facts’, or the ‘truth’, or the ‘horror’ of some situations. It’s all language-games we play. If there is a truth then it’s in the way we respond to language.
    8 hours ago · Like

    Iain Ismyfirstname: one of my favourite words is – bed – because it looks like the object it describes… and i like that term, language-games… language-games multiplied by perception…
    8 hours ago · Like

    Paul Williams: Thank you for posting. Tarot Nihilism can appear to be so sexy to its adherents. It’s so easy to believe in nothing.
    7 hours ago via mobile · Like

    Fortune Buchholtz: I am naturally deeply loathe to disagree in any way with the great Depaulis – it would be like disputing the nature of light with Einstein. I might personally reverse his definition: the tarologue reads cards – well everyone reads cards, there’s nothing else you do with them but read them; even card players read them – while the tarotist is the one who insists the cards come from Atlantis, gifts of the “Gypsies,” who btw originate from the advanced civilization of Alpha Centauri, according to the Pyramids.
    6 hours ago · Like · 3

    Enrique Enriquez: Maybe LE PANDV and LEMPEREVR are respectively the descending and ascending characters in THE WHEEL (the will?), and therefore there is a third, momentarily higher name. A tarotist, a tarothat… who knows.
    6 hours ago · Like · 1

    Fortune Buchholtz: Enrique Enriquez, Depaulis as IIII turns his back to X, as he prefers a different point of view. That’s all.
    6 hours ago · Like · 2

    Markus Pfeil: A Tarotist replaced History with his story. That can go wrong where reference to other practices are concerned (or originality for method is claimed) but will not diminish or enhance the practice itself. Currently the Emperor does not hang readers for bad history or practise, but luck may change for originality witch is at stake here.
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like

    Bent Sorensen: I like Enrique’s idea of the tarot hat. You don’t wear it, it wears you. For a w(h)ile…

  3. cameliaelias says:

    The historians never liked storytellers, as if what they are doing is not storytelling. But then I have also seen the reverse, some Tarotists who see themselves as historians, or even write history books, but who in the end demonstrate very little capability of reading cards. Because of the hat(s) they wear, insisting on method as part of history and tradition, they are among the popular with the tarot population, but heaven only knows. What I want to see is that we create a space where some genuine and well-founded critique can happen without having to exchange indexical fingers, and always point at what is wrong with what others are doing simply because we don’t like their names, practice, and so-called lack of credentials.

  4. healingtarotnet says:

    Hi Camelia, I understand and love the passionate way you are telling it! In my opinion reading tarot is even more then a method. I think a historian is learning his history by books and a tarot reader reads from human life experience and uses the “zeitgeist” -history that is in his or her DNA. The passion how you are telling it fits so beautiful with the subject, I like it.

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