In this, his last novel, Huxley uses a lifetime of thinking about human possibilities to create an island utopia that illustrates his hopes for the future of humankind. The Indian Ocean island of Pala is a kind of paradise, created with the inherited wisdom of its two founders, a Buddhist Raja and a commonsensical Scottish physician. The goal of life on Pala is to merge with the clear light, not to accumulate possessions; the island’s philosophy is a mix of Eastern thought (particularly tantric Buddhism, which does not retreat from the world, but uses it for higher purposes), Western science (but with limited technology), unrepressed sexuality, and constant mindfulness. (The island’s fauna include mynah birds trained to say, “Attention! Attention!”) Huxley’s ideas about childrearing, psychedelic visions, and tending to the dying were far ahead of his time, and his portrait of a utopia in which those ideas are implemented will intrigue anyone who is interested in a more spiritually directed society.
The word tarot is derived from the Italian word tarocchi, which has no known etymology. There are many theories regarding its origin. It may be derived from the name of an Italian river, the Taro. Or perhaps it is of Arabic origin, as playing cards originated in the Middle East, becoming common in Europe by the year 1377 C.E. 18th century occultists claimed the name Tarot came from the conjunction of two Egyptian words meaning “royal road,” which indicated that the tarot was the path to wisdom.
"Tarot cards do not tell the future; rather, tarot is a tool for spiritual guidance and enables the person receiving the reading to connect to his or her inner wisdom," she told INSIDER. "Tarot readings help a person understand what he or she needs to know about a particular situation. Decks are best used as a tool of inner wisdom and guidance, as readings give a person insight to past, current and future events based on the person's current path at the time of the reading. The cards do not necessarily reveal what will happen, but instead, allow a person to gain an understanding of a situation and determine the best course of action based on what is known and what the cards show."
Even the earliest known tarot decks weren’t designed with mysticism in mind; they were actually meant for playing a game similar to modern-day bridge. Wealthy families in Italy commissioned expensive, artist-made decks known as “carte da trionfi” or “cards of triumph.” These cards were marked with suits of cups, swords, coins, and polo sticks (eventually changed to staves or wands), and courts consisting of a king and two male underlings. Tarot cards later incorporated queens, trumps (the wild cards unique to tarot), and the Fool to this system, for a complete deck that usually totaled 78 cards. Today, the suit cards are commonly called the Minor Arcana, while trump cards are known as the Major Arcana.
Building on Court de Gébelin’s Egyptian connection, Etteilla claimed that tarot cards originated with the legendary Book of Thoth, which supposedly belonged to the Egyptian god of wisdom. According to Etteilla, the book was engraved by Thoth’s priests into gold plates, providing the imagery for the first tarot deck. Drawing on these theories, Etteilla published his own deck in 1789—one of the first designed explicitly as a divination tool and eventually referred to as the Egyptian tarot.
However, using cards for playful divination probably goes back even further, to the 14th century, likely originating with Mamluk game cards brought to Western Europe from Turkey. By the 1500s, the Italian aristocracy was enjoying a game known as “tarocchi appropriati,” in which players were dealt random cards and used thematic associations with these cards to write poetic verses about one another—somewhat like the popular childhood game “MASH.” These predictive cards were referred to as “sortes,” meaning destinies or lots.
In 1918, Joseph Jastrow wrote about the tricks of Eusapia Palladino who was an expert at freeing her hands and feet from the control in the séance room. In the séance room Palladino would move curtains from a distance by releasing a jet of air from a rubber bulb that she had in her hand. According to the psychical researcher Harry Price "Her tricks were usually childish: long hairs attached to small objects in order to produce 'telekinetic movements'; the gradual substitution of one hand for two when being controlled by sitters; the production of 'phenomena' with a foot which had been surreptitiously removed from its shoe and so on."
But to balance such arcane decks, there are divinatory cards that offer little room for interpretation, like “Le Scarabée d’Or” or The Golden Beetle Oracle, one of Wolf’s most prized decks. “It’s just fantastically bizarre. There’s a little window in the lid of the card box, and when you shake it, the beetle appears, and points to a number,” he explains. “Then you find the corresponding number on a set of round cards, with beautiful script text on them, and read your fortune. Can you not imagine standing in a Victorian parlor in France, consulting the Golden Beetle? It was like performance art.”
Like common playing cards, the tarot has four suits (which vary by region: French suits in Northern Europe, Latin suits in Southern Europe, and German suits in Central Europe). Each suit has 14 cards, ten pip cards numbering from one (or Ace) to ten and four face cards (King, Queen, Knight, and Jack/Knave). In addition, the tarot has a separate 21-card trump suit and a single card known as the Fool. Depending on the game, the Fool may act as the top trump or may be played to avoid following suit. These tarot cards, without occult symbology, are still used throughout much of Europe to play card games.
In 1907, Hereward Carrington exposed the tricks of fraudulent mediums such as those used in slate-writing, table-turning, trumpet mediumship, materializations, sealed-letter reading and spirit photography. between 1908 and 1914 the Italian medium Francesco Carancini was investigated by psychical researchers and they discovered that he used phosphorus matches to produce "spirit lights" and with a freed hand would move objects in the séance room.
The Danish medium Einer Nielsen was investigated by a committee from the Kristiania University in Norway, 1922 and discovered in a séance that his ectoplasm was fake. In 1923 the Polish medium Jan Guzyk was exposed as a fraud in a series of séances in Sorbonne in Paris. Guzyk would use his elbows and legs to move objects around the room and touch the sitters. According to Max Dessoir the trick of Guzyk was to use his "foot for psychic touches and sounds".
Now that you have grounded yourself, please select the cards we will use for your Tarot card reading. Remember, I shuffle my deck and draw new cards for the Tarot spreads every day, and these cards represent each one as it was laid out in front of me. Please take a moment to pause between drawing your cards, and when you are done selecting your cards for your Tarot reading you will be whisked away to a detailed interpretation of each card and what it means in its position in the Celtic Cross Spread.