The earliest known Tarot decks did not have the now standard set of twenty-two Trumps and fifty-six minor cards in four suits. Rather they were sets of Trump sequences, with the earliest decks having e.g. fifty Trumps, like the Mantegna deck. This deck was created by fifteenth century engraver Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506), a worker of trionfi (triumphs, a name for engraved symbolic cards).
Interestingly Mantegna and his successors were influenced by the triumphal parades of Renaissance Italy, where a series of personified images ‘triumphed’, each over the preceding personification. This sequence would then manifest as the development of the Trump sequence in the Tarot. Coincidentally this also hints at the evolutionary development of the Qabalist working systematically up the Tree of Life, building on what has been before. This coincidence may be due to the association of the Trionfi with the memory theatre of Camillo, which presented a system of magical memory development harking back to the ancient world.
The connection between the Tarot and the Tree of Life is a comparatively recent one in the history of the Qabalah. The origins of this association may be found in the works of Antoine Court de Gébelin (1719-84). He published an essay by the Comte de Mellet (in 1781) with the first known suggestion of the connection between the twenty-two Tarot Trumps and the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and hence the Paths of the Tree. This association has become popularised, largely due to the influence of Eliphas Levi and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Following on from the attribution of the Trumps to the Paths of the Tree of Life, the sequence of cards 1-10 were attributed to the Sephiroth by number, and the court cards attributed to the appropriate Sephiroth to match the Parzufim (‘faces’) and letters of Tetragrammaton. These associations also included matching the suits to the Four Worlds through Tetragrammaton.
Tarot by the Four Worlds
The Minor Arcana on the Tree
|Sephira||Minor Arcana||Court Cards|
|Chokmah||4 Twos||4 Kings|
|Binah||4 Threes||4 Queens|
|Tiphereth||4 Sixes||4 Princes|
|Malkuth||4 Tens||4 Princesses|