Before the mid-18th century, the only clear evidence of their use is in a trick-taking card game. However the titles were used in poems and pageants with symbolic intent. Since there were also instructional card games, it is likely that the cards were illustrated with this serious purpose in mind. It has been suggested, for example, that the cards indicated a "stairway to heaven" following Christian doctrine. However, since much the imagery is also occurs in secular contexts, including literature in a pagan context, these contexts, too, are part of the meanings of the cards. There is no one context, in other words, by which to interpret these cards, since use in a card game by itself does not provide any. So the history of a particular card is one of shifting meanings according to historical context at that time.
My first foray into this area was a blog entitled "22 Invocations of Dionysus," at http://22invocationsofdionysus.blogspot.com/, which began with Christian interpretations, then went to interpretations in terms of Greek and Roman writings about ancient Egypt that were known during the Renaissance, and then extended these to the context of writings and images from the Greco-Roman cult of Dionysus. I subsequently extended the range to include the contexts of Kabbalah, Pythagoreanism, and Alchemy, all from a 15th-17th century perspective. However the result is rather sketchy. So I have also written separate blogs on each of these perspectives, plus that of Plato as understood in the 15th-18th centuries:
- Dionysian (http://dionysisandtarot.blogspot.com/),
- Kabbalist (http://latinsefiroth.blogspot.com/),
- Alchemical (http://tarotandalchemy.blogspot.com/),
- Platonic (http://platonismandtarot.blogspot.com/)
- Pythagorean (http://neopythagoreanisminthetrot.blogspot.com/ --and for this one, the other 56 cards as well), and.
- Ancient Greek writings about Egypt (http://egyptinthetarot.blogspot.com/)
When I refer to a "Jungian interpretation", I do not mean only what Jung actually wrote or delivered orally about the cards, which is not much. He did attempt a study of them, enlisting the help of a couple of his students, but it did not get further than a few preliminary notes taken by one participant and one lecture, of March 1, 1933, in which he discussed, briefly, the trumps and, more extensively, the Devil card. From the notes taken by a student of a private discussion with Jung, it is clear that his main source of information was Papus's Tarot des Bohémiens, which included, besides many historical inaccuracies, small black and white images of the Tarot of Marseille and Wirth trump cards. For more on this point see Mary Greer's blog at https://marykgreer.com/2008/04/18/carl-jung-on-the-major-arcana/. For extensive quotations from Jung and his students regarding the tarot, see an earlier blog of Greer's, https://marykgreer.com/2008/03/31/carl-jung-and-tarot/, as well as Gerardo Lonardoni at http://www.letarot.it/page.aspx?id=194&lng=ENG. But in his lecture Jung said more in relation to the Devil card than these writers notice, for which see my post on that card. Others have taken up where Jung left off, of whom the most useful to me has been Sallie Nichols in her Jung and Tarot, written in 1980.
The current blog is being filled out card by card, post by post, over time. The date at the top of each entry is not when I first entered that post, but when I set up the blog. In that way. the tarot subjects will appear in their customary order on the right side of the page. I will put the date I inserted the content, and the date I last modified it, in the body of the post.