The report on Giordano Berti's lecture at the World Tarot Congress is from Giordano Berti himself! He is generously providing the lengthy notes from his presentation to Tarot Passages readers--in English! Hopefully, in the near future, I will be able to link to this article on his site, which will also include the corresponding images.

Many thanks to Giordano Berti and his translator, Elizabeth O'Neill, for this valuable article.    --     DW



the evolution of the 22 allegoric Triumph cards

as a transformation into an esoteric language

English translation by Elizabeth O’Neill


The Triumph cards of the Tarot and the mystical philosophies

I believe that these iconographic comparisons are sufficient to clear up the unfounded opinions of those academics who see in the allegories of the ancient tarots a reflection of hermetic, neo-platonic and cabbalistic conceptions. Apart from anything else, these theories do not take into account certain historical facts of extreme importance.

Firstly, when the first Tarots appeared, around 1440, the hermetic philosophy had not yet begun to spread in Europe. In fact, the famous books attributed to Hermes Trismegistus arrived in Florence from the Byzantine Empire in 1460 and only in 1465 did the priest Marsilio Ficino publish the translation, known then as Corpus Hermeticum. The same Marsilio Ficino, during those years, translated some books of Plato, until then unknown. These books were also brought to Italy by Byzantine priests.

Any relationship between the first tarots and the Hebrew Cabbala needs to also be excluded, given that at the beginning of the 15th century Hebraic mysticism had not yet begun to spread amongst  Christian intellectuals because of widespread anti-Semitism. Only at the end of the century did the cabbala begin to be known outside of the Hebrew world. Thus, for those who underline the possible coincidence between the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and the 22 Triumph cards of the tarot, they should remember that the closest coincidence is in fact the 22 titles of the Apocalypse of Saint John, a work that, as we have seen, contains certain allegories directly linked with the Triumph cards.

This, in summary, is the historical reality. Therefore if we want to understand the reasons why the tarots became the sacred language of modern esotericism we need to follow the traces of their evolution.

Part 1 - Sacred languages and Esoteric allegories

Part 2 - The Esoteric Tarots: A Deviation?

Part 3 - A Few Iconographic Comparisons

Part 4 - The First Tarot Decks

Part 5 - Evolution of the Visconti-Sforza Tarot

Part 6 - From a Game of Chance to Esotericism

Part 7 - Etteilla’s “Book of Thoth”

Part 8 - Eliphas Levi and the First Kabbalistic Tarots

Part 9 - The Esoterical Language of Tarot in France

Part 10 - Early Occultistic Tarot in English Magical Tradition

Part 11 - Conclusion

Part 12 - Biographical News about Giordano Berti

Text © 2002 Giordano Berti