Tarot at RUC: A Diplomatic Encounter

On Tuesday the 14th of April 2015 Roskilde University Library has hosted an unusual event. A group of 13 diplomats representing 13 countries, called ‘The Ambassadors’ Wives’ participated in a 4-hour lecture on historical and cultural significance of the tarot cards. Some 2 years ago the university took over the greatest collection in the world of tarot cards and esoterica (books and artefacts) from the generous collector and historian K. Frank Jensen. Jensen and his wife have also been present at what can easily be called the inauguration of the collection at the library. The illustrious participants had the occasion to hear how the tarot, apart from its associations with fortunetelling, is also a cultural text of great value and significance.

After an introduction to the background of the collection by K. Frank Jensen, I talked about my work as the president of the collection, focused on placing the tarot in the context of the university. Why study the tarot? Well simply because a tarot pack of cards contains history, cultural history, art history, philosophy, hermetic philosophy, semiotics, cultural anthropology and folkloric practices, psychology consciousness studies, and above all, poetry.

In the humanities and the social sciences we research into these fields, so the question was, why not look at these cards in a new, fresh, and non-prejudiced way? This question was tackled head on and not in the slightest the diplomatic way. The tarot has been a tool that has greatly participated in the creation on knowledge, so indeed, why not give it the attention that it actually deserves, apart from its proliferation in the media as a ‘dubious thing’.

The presentations were followed by lunch, courtesy of the Romanian Embassy represented by Sorina Ardeleanu, who has been instrumental in organizing the event, and the event ended with a general discussion of practices of divination with cards. The only conclusion one can draw from this event is that it lived up the title of magic.

Check this album filled with pictures from the event.


A short update: At the time I left the university, on March 1, 2017, the university had acquired 50 percent of the collection. Frank was in the process of helping with releasing it to the library according to a system of cataloguing it according to his own devices. When he died in September 2016, this process stalled. As I am not related to the collection anymore, I cannot predict to what extent Frank’s dream will be realized. But I can say this: without the missing 50 percent of the collection, which is the most valuable 50 percent, the beautiful vision cannot be sustained.


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