The four suits of the minor trumps represent also the major divisions of society: cups are the priesthood, swords the military, coins the tradesmen, and rods the farming class.
The Tarot cards were entrusted by the illumined hierophants of the Mysteries into the keeping of the foolish and the ignorant, thus becoming playthings--in many instances even instruments of vice. Man's evil habits therefore actually became the unconscious perpetuators of his philosophical precepts. "We must admire the wisdom of the Initiates," writes Papus, "who utilized vice and made it produce more beneficial results than virtue." Does not this act of the ancient priests itself afford proof that the entire mystery of the Tarot is wrapped up in the symbolism of its zero card? If knowledge was thus entrusted to fools, should it not be sought for in this card?
The Tarot cards must be considered (1) as separate and complete hieroglyphs, each representing a distinct principle, law, power, or element in Nature; (2) in relation to each other as the effect of one agent operating upon another; and (3) as vowels and consonants of a philosophic alphabet. The laws governing all phenomena are represented by the symbols upon the Tarot cards, whose numerical values are equal to the numerical equivalents of the phenomena. As every structure consists of certain elemental parts, so the Tarot cards represent the components of the structure of philosophy. Irrespective of the science or philosophy with which the student is working, the Tarot cards can be identified with the essential constituents of his subject, each card thus being related to a specific part according to mathematical and philosophical laws. "An imprisoned person," writes Eliphas Levi, "with no other book than the Tarot, if he knew how to use it, could in a few years acquire universal knowledge, and would be able to speak on all subjects with unequalled learning and inexhaustible eloquence. " (See Transcendental Magic.)
Eliphas Levi declared that by arranging the Tarot cards according to a definite order man could discover all that is knowable concerning his God, his universe, and himself. When the ten numbers which pertain to the globes (Sephiroth) are combined with the 22 letters relating to the channels, the resultant sum is 32--the number peculiar to the Qabbalistic Paths of Wisdom. These Paths, occasionally referred to as the 32 teeth in the mouth of the Vast Countenance or as the 32 nerves that branch out from the Divine Brain, are analogous to the first 32 degrees of Freemasonry, which elevate the candidate to the dignity of a Prince of the Royal Secret. Qabbalists also consider it extremely significant that in the original Hebrew Scriptures the name of God should occur 32 times in the first chapter of Genesis. (In the English translations of the Bible the name appears 33 times.) In the mystic analysis of the human body, according to the Rabbins, 32 spinal segments lead upward to the Temple of Wisdom--the skull.
The Tarot first appears in Irish mythology. The prototypes of the Tarot suits were brought to Ireland from four lost islands, one of which was called "Murias" (Lemuria). The Tarot links Ireland's Elders (the Druids) to Egypt.
Tarot cards, the forerunner to our playing cards, were used to pass on suppressed knowledge. Hence the reason why the church has so condemned the tarot cards and dubbed them evil. In the centuries which followed the elimination of the Cathars in France, the Tarot was circulated by traveling entertainers and gypsies. Some researchers say the Tarot cards were introduced to Europe by the returning crusaders who had acquired them from mystical sects in the Middle East and that is certainly true to an extent. But what is often forgotten is the role played by the gypsies and why they have been persecuted so often, not least by Adolph Hitler.