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BTP24: Tarot History Lesson with Robert Place


If you've ever delved into the origins of Tarot, you might have heard all sorts of stories about the Tarot cards coming from the ancient Egyptians or even the depths of Atlantis.

Well, in this podcast, we are setting the record straight with a lesson in the real history of Tarot.

Now, I have to admit, Tarot history is not my strength so I brought on a very special guest who is an artist and author known for his work on Tarot history, symbolism and divination. Not only has he created numerous Tarot decks such as the Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery, he is a total history buff when it comes to Tarot. My guest is none other than Robert Place.

In this interview, you'll learn:

  • How one vivid dream shoved Robert into the world of Tarot
  • What modern Spanish playing cards have to do with the Tarot
  • The real history of Tarot – and no, it doesn't include ancient Egypt!
  • How the Tarot has evolved over the past 600+ years

Let's get into it…


Podcast Transcript

Brigit:  You’re listening to the Biddy Tarot Podcast, and this is Episode 24:  A Tarot History Lesson.


Welcome to the Biddy Tarot podcast, where you will learn how to connect more deeply with your intuition and live an empowered and enlightened life with the Tarot cards as your guide.

Listen as Brigit and her guests share their very best tips and strategies to help you read Tarot with confidence.

And now, here is your host Brigit Esselmont.


Brigit:  Hello and welcome.

If you’ve ever delved into the origins of Tarot, you might have heard all sorts of stories about the Tarot cards coming from the ancient Egyptians, or even the depths of Atlantis.  Well, today we are setting the record straight with a lesson in the real history of Tarot.

Now I have to admit Tarot history is not my forte, so I brought on a very special guest who is an artist and author known for his work on Tarot history, symbolism, and Divination.

Not only has he created numerous Tarot decks such as the Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery; he is a total history buff when it comes to Tarot.

So my guest today is none other than Robert Place.

Welcome Robert.  It’s so good to have you here.

Robert Place:  Thank you for having me.

Brigit:  Well, I can’t wait to hear more about Tarot history, but before we get into the history side of things, I want to know a little bit about you.

How did you get drawn to Tarot in the first place?

Robert Place:  I always say Tarot picked me rather than I picked Tarot, because it came to I had a dream back in the 1980s.

I had a dream that an inheritance was coming to me.  It was a really lucid dream.  I was walking through a room and there was a telephone table with a telephone on it – back in the 1980s we used to have things like that.

And the telephone in my dream rang, and it was a totally different dream – and then the telephone rang and it woke me up into a lucidity where I was thinking, ‘How can somebody call you in a dream?  It’s like interrupting in dream.  What is this?’

And I picked up the phone and a Dream Operator got on the phone, and she said that she had a person-to-person call for Robert Place, from England, and would I accept it – because I live in New York.  Back then, that’s how they used to do it.

And I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll accept it,” and then she put on this woman from a Dream Law Firm and she told me that I had an inheritance coming and would I accept it; and I’d know it when I see it.

She told me it was coming from an ancestor of mine in England and that it had a lot of power, but there was certain Karmic debt attached to it that I would have to take on with it.

And like a fool I just agreed right away, not even thinking it over.

And it was so vivid that when I woke up in the morning I thought, ‘Wow, it will be here.’

She said it will come in a box from England, and it’s called the Key.  That’s all she told me about it.

So I expected the box to be at the foot of the bed, that’s how vivid the dream was.

Within a day or so my friend Scott came over with his new Waite-Smith Tarot deck, and he showed it to me.  And as he walked through the door my head turned, and my eyes focused on the deck without even – I wasn’t even controlling my eyes or my head – and I realized instantly that that was what the dream was talking about.

So we looked through the cards and I thought, ‘Well, gee, I have to get one of these decks.’

I had seen them before, when I was in College, but I didn’t have one then.

Then, within another day, my friend Ed came over and he gave me a Marseille deck.  And he said that he had – he was an Astrologer and he’s very intuitive, and he had this feeling – he had this deck laying around and he just had this feeling that I was supposed to have it so he brought it over to me.

And then I went to a store and bought the Waite-Smith and starting working with them.

That’s how I got involved with the Tarot.

Brigit:  Wow, I love that story.  That is awesome.

I mean that’s something that you just can’t ignore, right?

Robert Place:  Right.

I guess some people would, but it was….

The thing is the dream was so vivid that I woke up in the morning like Boom!

My wife was looking at me going, “Why are you sitting up like that? What are you looking for?”

And I told her about the dream, and she was like, “Wow, that’s amazing.”

I mean this happened how many years ago and I still remember it vividly.

It’s an extremely vivid, lucid dream.

It’s what Jung would call a Big Dream – a life changing dream.

Brigit:  I’m also curious – you slipped in that there might be some Karmic debt related with it; has that manifested?

Have you seen that coming through?

Robert Place:   I used to make my living as a Jeweller.

I went to Craft Shows and I handcrafted silver and gold jewellery, and once I got involved in Tarot my business fell apart.

But I’ve replaced it now with designing Tarot decks and created a new business.

Brigit:  So tell me, what’s been the journey so far from that amazing dream to now?

Robert Place:  Originally I read a lot of books.

I just couldn’t read books fast enough.  There were stacks of books all over the place, and that’s why, I think, my jewellery business started suffering – because I wasn’t really working as much on the business as sitting around reading about Gnosticism, and Mysticism, and Alchemy, and Neo-Platonic Philosophers.

And I was putting all this together, and I just had this craving because as I looked through the Tarot I wanted to know more about it.  And I saw all these mystical symbols and things that meant something to me because I always was an artist and an art historian.

And then I read some books on Tarot and none of them made any sense.

They didn’t seem to understand – they would say things that I knew as a historian couldn’t be true; like the cards came from ancient Egypt.  That’s just impossible, because they didn’t have – if we define cards as something made on paper – they didn’t have paper in ancient Egypt. They had papyrus.  They didn’t make cards out of it because it didn’t lend itself to small cards.  The edges would fray, and you couldn’t play a game with them.  They made long scrolls with papyrus, because that’s how it held together best.

And so it’s like you have to understand the whole history of the Tarot is tied up with the history of cards.  And most of what the Occult historians were saying didn’t make any sense physically. It just was impossible.

So then they try to come up with other things.  Some of them knew that and they would make up things like:  Originally they were painted on columns in a secret temple in Egypt; or they were engraved on gold plates – because they knew they didn’t have paper.

But there’s no evidence to support any of it.  They’re just making stuff up. No-one ever found that temple.  No-one ever found those plates.  Everybody’s trying to one-up each other.

So I realized that I just had to work with the cards.  And I remembered in College that a woman I knew was using the Waite-Smith Tarot, and she used to do the Celtic Cross spread so I started with that.

But then I realized that I had to expand on it, and from my dream – see, what my dream was telling me besides that I was going to get involved in the cards, or I should get involved in the cards, is that the cards were a way of giving yourself a dream while you’re awake.

So that became my procedure for how I would work with the Tarot as an artist, and as somebody who has always – like my main form of Divination was really Dream Divination, before that.  So this is now a way to give myself waking dreams.

So I developed a technique where I would use three cards as one message, as if they were a dream, and interpret them like a painting.  Put all three cards together and look at the direction of figures, and how they’re interacting with each other.

And that’s what I teach in my classes even today.  That’s my main technique and I build off that with three cards for each place in the reading.

Brigit:  I love that.

Tarot’s a dream.  I think that’s such a beautiful way of seeing the cards.

Robert Place:  It’s so simple, yet difficult sometimes.

Because sometimes my students want me to say, “This card means this,” or, “This card means that, and always means this.”

And I’m telling them they actually have to look at the pictures in front of them, as the artist drew them; and every artist is going to interpret it differently, so every deck you have will be slightly different.

And you have to look at how the pictures interact.  And you have to be there in the present moment, right then, without any safety net.

Brigit:  And I know that can be really hard for people starting out with Tarot, particularly if you like structure because you are like, “What does it mean? What does it mean?”

Robert Place:  list of correspondences that basically the Occultists made up.

Brigit:  So, tell me a little bit about the history of Tarot.

We know it didn’t start in ancient Egypt; when is that first point that we do have hard evidence that the Tarot was here.

Robert Place:  Well the oldest evidence we have of a Tarot if – see the problem is, how do you define a Tarot?

Because if you say:  A Tarot is this specific deck which has four suits which are the Cups, the Swords, the Coins, and Staves; and then has this fifth suit which they call the Major Arcana, or Trumps, which would be the more accurate, historical title.  And then in what is called the Major Arcana, there are 21 cards that are Trumps actually.  And there is one unnumbered card, that’s a Fool – which is a wild card and not really a Trump.   So there are two different types of cards.

And they were originally designed in Renaissance Italy, to play a game.

But the thing is, in the early 1400s they were starting to create games where they had Trump cards added to the regular deck of cards.

The regular deck of cards with four suits developed in Spain and Italy – like in Sicily – some time by the 1300s.  We’re not sure exactly when, because firstly they didn’t have paper in Europe, so they couldn’t make cards until paper was introduced by the Islamic cultures in Spain.

So paper was first introduced in mid-1200s.  And then along with paper the Islamic culture brought cards, because they already had cards.  There was a deck called the Mamluk deck.

And if I describe the Mamluk deck you will see how similar it is to the Minor suits in the Tarot, because there are four suits and the suits are Cups, Coins, Scimitars, and Polo Sticks.  And each suit there are 10 what we call pip cards – from Ace to 10 – with the repetition of the suit symbol; and there are three Royal cards.  There is the Vizier and his Lieutenant, and his second Lieutenant – so the Royal male.

And you will see, to this day, the regular Spanish playing card deck is based on that.  It’s got a King, a Knight, and what we tend to call the Page in the Tarot, but really would be a Knave or maybe a Squire.  The Squire would be an apprentice Knave, and the Knave would be a lower-class servant.  So we have different names for those.

And it also has the Ace to 10 pip cards and the same suits, except that they changed the Polo Sticks into basically Sticks – they look like clubs; and the Scimitar got straightened out into a straight European looking sword.

And because they’re European they could make – on the Royal cards – they could draw figures of people, where the Islamic deck just had the names written on the Royal cards because they didn’t want to draw pictures of people because of their religious prohibition.

And you find similar decks in Italy.

So those decks already existed in the 1300s, and they existed in, not only Spain and Italy, but they existed in Switzerland and Germany.

And then in Germany and Switzerland they started playing with the suits’ symbols and coming up with new, more creative ideas about it – and then on into Holland.

So by the time we get to the 1400s, there are quite a few – the regular playing cards are in Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, all through that whole area- in fact some of the Spanish decks were actually printed in Switzerland.

One of the oldest Spanish decks we have, we know are from the early 1400s, were actually printed in Switzerland for the Spanish market.

Now, coming around in the early 1400s, people started creating this new game where they added Trumps.  So we have to look:  Where’s the oldest evidence?

Now, the oldest evidence is in Italy.  There’s a deck called the Marziano deck, which is possibly created sometime around 1410 to 1430.

So that we could say is the birth of the Tarot, because that’s the oldest reference to a deck with Trumps.  So if we define the Tarot as a deck with Trumps added, that is the first one we know of.

But the thing is, it doesn’t fit that allegory we use with those – everybody knows that in the Tarot there are mystical figures.  There’s the Wheel of Fortune, and the Emperor, and Death, and the Hanged Man; and there’s the World, and the Sun, and the Moon.  There are all these different allegorical figures.

Well this deck didn’t have any of those.  There were 16 Trumps, and they were all classical Gods from Jupiter down to Cupid.  And they’re all ranked – all 16.

The simple answer is:  Okay, so they added the Trumps to the regular playing card decks with the suits based on the Mamluk deck, which became the Italian and Spanish suits of Coins and Cups and Swords and Staves.

But this deck didn’t have that.  The suits were Eagles and Doves and Turtle Doves and Phoenixes.  And they were supposed to represent different Virtues.  And we have this – its very designer – the designer who designed it, Marziano, was the tutor and Astrologer for the Duke of Milan.

So the original deck was probably hand-painted.  We have so many samples from the early 1400s of beautiful, luxury decks that were hand-painted, and gold-leaf added, and tooled.  And these types of cards were probably not used very much.  They tend to be works of art that were given to gifts to Nobles; where the kind of cards that were more common were just drawn on paper, and later printed, and then were distributed more widely and used for playing cards in the streets.  And then they probably didn’t last very long.

We have very few samples.  In fact, most of the samples we do have, like the one – remember when we were in the Metropolitan Museum and I showed you some of the earliest Tarot cards they had?

Brigit:  Yeah, they were amazing.

Robert Place:  Yes, but remember they were on a sheet, and they weren’t cut out?

Brigit:  Yes.

Robert Place:  Okay, that’s because they never were used.  That’s why we have them.

They never got cut out and used.  And the thing is, what happened is, those were probably rejects.  And paper was very valuable, so they used the paper, even though it had printing on it, they recycled it and used it inside the cover of a book to make – basically what we call – we usually say cardboard, but it really isn’t cardboard.  It’s called paste-board, because they would paste layers of paper together to make a stiffer piece of paper, and that was inside the book.  And then would have leather stretched over it for the book cover. And so when the books were restored later and we open them up, it’s like a time capsule.  We find all these printed pages in there that were just recycled – basically rejects.

Now, the things is, we could say the Tarot developed then, but when did that allegory that we’re so familiar with develop?

Well, it seems like it just sort of evolved over that century – over the 1400s.

And so we see later, in Milan, where most of our early examples come from, we see the Cary Yale Visconti deck has Trumps that look more like the ones we’re used to, but they also have other ones.

Like you can see it has the Strength card with a woman and a lion; it has an Emperor; it has a World card; a Death card; Wheel of Fortune.  But then it has cards for Faith, Hope, and Charity, so it seems like there’s other allegories added to it.

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And a lot of those cards are missing, and we only have 11 of the Trumps, so we don’t really know all the ones that were there.

And they’re not numbered, and they have no names written on them because when they were first made no-one needed to number them because the hierarchy was already suggested by the figures and by the culture.

You see, the original name for the deck was called Carte da Trionfi, and trionfi is the type of parade. It was a very popular parade that started in ancient Rome. It’s basically a triumph.  When a conquering General came back, it’s sort of like the tickertape parade.

But the triumph had a certain organization to it.  It would start from the lowest to the highest. So you start with the conquered – all the goods that you stole from the people you conquered – the booty; and then you have the conquered army and their General in chains; and then you’d have the General who won, and he’d be in his chariot with his army around him and he’s coming in victorious with all these other people in chains in front of him.

So there’s this idea that each figure trumps the one that went before.

The word trump comes from triumph, in French.

So these parades were very popular in the Renaissance when they became more allegorical – became a way of organizing all these different aspects of society, these abstract qualities like the virtues and which virtue is higher than which; and then different roles in society like the Emperor and Empress and the Pope.

And you can start to see how these are the characters we see in the Tarot.

So, we’re basically saying that the Trumps in the Tarot are one of these triumphal parades, so there’s a natural hierarchy to the figures from the lowest to the highest – from the Fool to the World.

But it’s not just the World, it’s the World made spiritual; made sanctified; made beautiful.

Then we get to the Visconti Sforza deck, which is made around 1450 has all those Trumps we’re used to seeing, except for the Devil and the Tower.  And, again, they’re not numbered or labelled so we don’t know if there was a Devil and Tower and they’re missing, or it never was there.  But that is getting closer to our allegory.

And then, as we go on, there’s the deck that we saw at the Met, which was wood-block printed deck, has those 21 Trumps – and the Fool – and that was possibly printed as early as 1465.

But then again the allegory is not exactly the same, because we’re used to the certain order we know from the Waite-Smith deck. I call it the Waite-Smith deck of course because Pamela Colan Smith designed, so I always try to give her credit, instead of just going “the Waite deck.”

So the thing is the order we know from that deck is based on the Tarot Marseille, which is the French version.  And the French version is really the order that was common in Milan; where that deck that we saw at the Metropolitan was from Ferrera, so the order is slightly different.  And that actually has numbers on it, so we know the order.

So what happened is, in 1499 the King of France, King Louis – XII I believe – he conquered Milan, and Milan was now part of French territory.  So the Tarot came from Milan, into France at that time.  They brought many cultural ideas from Italy into France at that time, and they started making Tarot decks in France; and, of course, they based it on the order from Milan, and that became known as the Tarot Marseille, because Marseille was a city where they made lots of Tarot decks.

But Tarot Marseille just means a French style deck.

And that became the standard that Occultists discovered later in the late 1700s; and then became the model for the Golden Dawn; and then Waite and Smith, of course, who were members of Golden Dawn, used that model.

But they made one change, because they wanted to do their Occult ideas.  They wanted to have a correlation between the Trumps and the signs of the Zodiac, and the Elements, and the Planets; and they switched the position of Strength and Justice making Strength Number 8, and Justice Number 11 – switching their positions from the way they would have been in the French deck.

I hope I covered stuff quickly enough for you.  If you want more details just let me know what you want me to talk about.

Brigit:  I’m always curious about it – at what point were Tarot cards used for Divination and prediction?

Because it sounds like they weren’t originated – when they were made they weren’t intended for that.

Robert Place:  The first intent was to play a game, which is the Ancestor Bridge.

Because in Bridge you have to – if you play with a four suit deck, you have to assign one of the suits as the Trumps suit – but this is a deck that has a natural Trumps suit.

And there were similar games being played in Germany too – Trumps games.

And by around 1500 – so the name of the game changed to Tarocchi, in Italian – which is where Tarot comes from.  So all modern names for the deck – which is basically Tarot in every language even though they pronounce it differently – come from Tarocchi, which is the Italian.  So that’s the original name of the deck.

And I think they called it Tarocchi instead of Trionfi because it was getting confusing, because there were Triumph games being played – like Bridge – where you assign one of the suits as Trumps.

What were we trying to get to?

Why were they used for Divination, right?

So the things was, originally all cards were used for Divination.

The main reason people used cards were to play games – mostly gambling games.  But they also used them for Divination.  Before that, dice held that same role in ancient cultures.  Dice were used for gambling and Divination.

If you read the Iliad and the Odyssey, you can see how dice were being used for Divination in ancient Greece to make decisions.

Like, when Odysseus lands on an island, he’ll take his dice and put it in his helmet and then throw it down, and try to decide how to split up his men or which way they should go – make commanding decisions with dice.

So what happened is, in Renaissance now the cards were introduced – cards being another gaming item like dice, quickly were used for the same thing.  So regular four suit decks, we have evidence – at least going back to early 1500 – that they were used for Divination.

And we have some evidence from the 1500s that Tarot cards were used for a type of Divination called Tarocchi Appropriati, which was basically a type of parlour game where you would assign each woman at the party one of the Trump cards.  And then the Poet would have to make up a poem explaining why the woman was Justice, or Temperance, or whichever card was assigned to her.

So you see how the card was being used to describe people’s character, which I think is related to Divination.

But there are so many different forms of Divination.

And then it wasn’t until the Court de Gebelin, the French Occultist, in 1781, wrote in his book – he was writing an Encyclopaedia Monde primitive – in which he was trying to develop his theory that he basically believed that because he could see similarities in cultures all around the world, in their religion and philosophy and magical practices, that there had to be some common source for all of this going back to ancient times.  So he called the book Monde primitive, meaning primitive world, but not primitive in the sense of savage, but like basic or before modern culture.

And he really felt that there were these Enlightened Masters that lived in ancient times, and that they had passed on their knowledge to us somehow; and one of the last cultures to be in touch with them was ancient Egypt.

And so he developed this idea, when he saw Tarot, that this was really a book of hieroglyphs from ancient Egypt.  And he wrote his theory down in his Encyclopaedia, and then that became the basis for all these ideas about the Tarot.

Then, later, in the next century – in the 1800s – Eliphas Levi, who felt that the Kabbalah was the essence of magic, felt that the Tarot had to be married with the Kabbalah.  And he thought that because there were 22 cards in what he called the Major Arcana – in the Keys – that these 22 cards had to correspond with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  And in the Kabbalah, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each one is linked to an Astrological sign, a planet, or an element.  And so now the cards could have these same correspondences.

And that became the basis of the Golden Dawn method that you find a lot of people – that formula that a lot of people try to use.

The trouble is that Levi’s formula – and other people who developed the formula – including the Golden Dawn – all developed it slightly different, in that they came up with different correspondences between the letters and the Trumps. So they all can’t be right, and of course they’re not all right because it had nothing to do with the artist that really designed the deck.

So from the beginning I was thinking:  Who were these people that designed the deck? They were artists like me, and what were they thinking?

And that’s really what I was after from the beginning when I first had my dream and started playing with the cards.  I wanted to know who made these cards, and what were they thinking?

And what I found is, they were Renaissance artists.  And Renaissance, by the very name, was a re-birth of ancient philosophy and art.  And that’s all the arts of the Renaissance were imbued with this philosophical insight.

And Tarot was just like all the rest of the arts from the Renaissance.  It wasn’t just about being beautiful; they had to have profound meaning and philosophy.

And we even see that in the Marziano Tarot, because we have a letter that Marziano wrote to the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, and he was talking about designing the deck, and he said, “Is it right for the Duke to play cards – such a frivolous pastime?”

And he says, “Well, it is right if the game contains a profound philosophical message.  And this deck has that.”

So right from the beginning, the oldest deck we know, you can see how it was being imbued with a philosophy.  And I think that’s what captures people’s imagination – that philosophy, that mysticism in the cards – which is intended to be in there.

Brigit:  I think that nowadays, I think that’s where people are getting the most out of Tarot – when they’re looking at it from more of a philosophical perspective, and more spiritual perspective, versus more of a fortune telling way of looking at Tarot.

And certainly it sounds like that has been something that has been carried over these centuries, so that when artists are designing the cards, it’s coming from a deeper spiritual place; as well as honouring the history of the Tarot cards.

I’m curious, these days we’re seeing a crazy amount of Tarot decks being created with all sorts of themes and so on – what’s your personal perspective, knowing the history of Tarot, and then seeing some very modern decks coming through; do you think that they honour the history?

Or are we looking at kind of like a new wave of Tarot coming through?

Robert Place:  I would say – see, the Waite-Smith deck is the first modern Tarot deck.  And what happened after the Waite-Smith deck is that a lot of people just thought that was the original deck.

You see a lot of artists just want to make their own deck, and they call them Waite-Smith clones now because they’re all very strongly based on the Waite-Smith.

So a lot of artists or people who are getting involved in Tarot might just really want to create their own version of the Waite-Smith deck, and so they’re just using that as the model.  So it really doesn’t go back to – they don’t know much about the history before that.

Whereas the most popular Occult deck before the Waite-Smith, was the Etteilla.

Etteilla was an Occultist that lived in France in the late 1700s.  He knew about Court de Gebelin’s book and what he had said about the Tarot, and he was interested in Divination himself.  He was an Alchemist.  And he was an Art Dealer who dealt in engravings, so he hired an Engraver to re-create Tarot as an Occult Tarot, and re-structured the whole thing with what he felt was Egyptian – the true Egyptian meaning of the cards.

And so all through the 1800s, that was the most popular Occult Tarot in France; and it wasn’t until the Waite-Smith came out and became world famous that people started thinking that was the Tarot.

So I really think that’s – a lot of people don’t even know that in the Marseille deck that Justice and Strength are switched in a different position – Waite-Smith switched their positions.

I mean most people don’t know much about it.

And a lot of decks come out – like I know that in ?????  they hire very fine artists who make graphic novels – they are really competent artists, but most of those people they hire are just making a Tarot deck to make it a work of art.

In fact in Italy a lot of people are like that, because I was invited to the Tarot Museum in Riola a few years back – in fact at the grand opening I cut the ribbon at the Museum and gave Opening Day lectures there – and I taught people how to read the cards.  It’s like most of the people at the Museum – the whole Museum of Tarot – and they don’t read cards.   They just look at it as a work of art, because that’s what it is.

In Italy the cards are part of their tradition; and cards are a work of art.

And they were also used for Divination but that’s not its main purpose.

And all kinds of artists would design Tarot cards for the Museum – and they’re playing with the allegories and the symbolism of it.  And they really loved the symbolism.

Brigit:  It’s interesting – there are so many different ways of looking at the Tarot cards without it having to be purely about Divination.

Are there some historical decks that are available now?

What would you recommend if someone was going, “Yes, yes, I love this Tarot history,” and they want to find out more about some of the decks that were around a while ago – what would you recommend?

Robert Place:  Firstly, if they want to know more about what came before the Waite-Smith, and what it was based on, they should have a copy of the Tarot of Marseille.

And there are all different copies now.  There are some very good copies.

Then if they want to find out more about the history of the Occult Tarot, they could get the Grand Etteilla, which is still being printed.

And then if they want to know more about the history of cards, any of my decks relate to the history.  And then they could get my books and read them.

Besides The Tarot:  History, Symbolism, and Divination, I have Alchemy and the Tarot – which I meant as a companion book to The Alchemical Tarot, but it’s a very good – it’s much more than that.  It goes into the whole history of Alchemy and the Tarot, and why the symbolism would coincide, because the Tarot wasn’t meant to be an Alchemical text but it was sharing in the same Neo-Platonic, mystical symbolism that Alchemy does.  So they relate to each other.

And that was the basis of my Alchemical Tarot I designed; and then the Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery is much more trying to get into the Neo-Platonic philosophy in Tarot.  And it’s in the cards visually.

I also have a book, The Fool’s Journey, which is a catalogue of an exhibition I put on for the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum, several years ago.  I did a whole presentation – a show of the history of the cards.  We had reproductions of some early cards; then we did have historic examples of the Etteilla.  The very first Waite-Smith deck was there.  And we had a copy of Court de Gebelin’s book.  So we had a lot of historical pieces.

And then I went to the Museum and gave lectures on the history there.

In fact, the opening lecture that I gave at that Museum, they said was the most well attended lecture from a Curator they ever had.

Brigit:  Wonderful.

Robert Place:  I don’t think it was just me; I think everyone was so glad they were actually doing something on the Tarot.

Brigit:  I think also that the Tarot is coming back in fashion, dare I say it.

I think there is such a growing interest in Tarot.  And I think it’s just wonderful that it’s kind of – it’s almost got a resurgence, in a way.

Where can people find out more about you, and connect more with you?

Because I’m sure – you’ve just shared such a wealth of knowledge, and I’m always fascinated hearing not just your personal stories, but the stories with the Tarot – so where can people find out more about you?

Robert Place:  First of all my main website right now – I’ve been trying – I had so many websites I’ve been trying to close down, but the main website I use is

Brigit:  And can people find out about your classes there as well?

Robert Place:  Yeah.

But also if they really want to hear what’s going on more on the spur of the moment, they should friend me on Facebook.

And then they could also sign up – they should give me their email for my newsletter and then I’ll be sure to send them announcements as I do things.

Brigit:  So it’s simply Robert Place, on Facebook?

Robert Place:  Robert Place on Facebook.

And the website is

Brigit:  We’ll be sure to include those links in the show notes as well so everyone can access that quite easily.

And you are teaching mostly in New York, or are you teaching elsewhere as well?

Robert Place:  I teach at the Open Centre, in New York.

But basically I teach wherever people invite me to come; so just this last year I was Melbourne, for the Tarot Guild, and I was teaching there.

I was in Salt Lake City last year too.  And then I was supposed to go out with – the fellow who organized that was trying to get together something for Los Angeles – but he hasn’t done it yet.

So it’s just a matter of when people want to put it together.

I’ve taught in Italy; I’ve taught in Australia; I’ve taught all over the United States. [00:33:40]

Brigit:  [00:33:44] Well, we’ll make sure that everyone pops over to your website, or to Facebook so they can find out what else is coming up in your agenda.

Well thank you so much, Robert.  I have appreciated this conversation so much, and I find it all so fascinating.

And for our listeners, if you’ve enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please head on over to iTunes and leave a review, and also remember to subscribe to get the latest podcasts.

So, Robert, again thank you very much and I’m wishing everybody a wonderful, wonderful day.

Robert Place:  Thank you.

Brigit:  Thank you and goodbye.


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