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University Dissertations on Tarot

This section provides a listing of known tarot-focussed theses submitted for Honours, MAs, or PhDs. If a dissertation has been omitted, please do let me know.


2010 PhD, Saybrook University, San Francisco

Reese, Joan
Examining Intuitive-Creativity via Reading Tarot Cards in a Person-Centred Climate

Abstract: The interactions of intuition and creativity, referred to as intuitive-creativity, are widely reported as significant to innovations across professional and research domains. Intuitive-creativity is essential to decision making in ambiguous, complex, unprecedented circumstances and to actualizing potentiality. Yet, mainstream academic psychology has not provided a model for intuitive-creativity. A pivotal purpose of my doctoral research was developing a practical model of intuitive-creativity for decision making. Research questions included: Can research participants intentionally invoke intuition, creativity, and interactions between these processes via reading Tarot cards for the purpose of realizing new perceptions, ideas, and understandings about a subject of inquiry?

I designed a qualitative human science methodology with data collection procedures that included three purposefully selected participants reading Celtic Cross layouts of Tarot cards in a person-centered climate. Their experiences reading Tarot cards were: no experience, beginning practices, and 25 years of personal use. I served as a person-centered facilitator-researcher during the data collection phase. Participants framed opened-ended questions about personally significant, complex issues that they had been unable to fully grasp and work out via prior learned knowledge and usual problem solving strategies. They reported experiencing intuitive understandings and creative interpretations of intuitions that they had not realized before their readings and that they perceived as enhancing decision making about the issues that were the subjects of their readings. Research results and findings showed positive interactions of processes of intuition and creativity. Reading a Celtic Cross layout of Tarot cards displays important components of models for intuitive-creative decision making and for developing intuitive-creative intelligence.

This dissertation introduces the term intuitive-creativity as interactive processes of intuitive understanding and creative interpreting of intuitions. A pivotal purpose of this study was developing a practical model of intuitive-creativity for decision making and actualizing potentiality. Research questions included: Can intuitive-creativity be intentionally invoked for such purposes? If so, what capacities and processes attended intuitive understanding and creative interpreting of intuitions?

A qualitative human science methodology integrating compatible components from experiential, hermeneutic, phenomenological, and thematic analytical strategies was used. Data collection procedures included three purposefully selected participants reading Celtic Cross layouts of Tarot cards in a person-centered climate. Participants framed opened-ended questions about personally significant, complex issues that they had been unable to fully grasp and work out via prior learned knowledge and usual problem solving strategies. They reported experiencing intuitive understandings and creative interpretations of intuitions that they perceived as enhancing decision making about the issues that were the subjects of their readings.

Qualitative thematic analyses using an inductive strategy were utilized to distinguish, describe, and interpret capacities and processes attending the participants' experiences of intuitive understanding and creative interpreting of intuitions. The essence of intuitive-creativity was revealed via an implicit level of nuanced transacting themes that the participants used to educe, clarify, deepen, expand, and/or evolve intuitive understanding and creative interpreting of intuitions. The transacting themes that emerged are actualizing intentionality, aware self-monitoring, empathic communicating, integrative introspecting, intuitive projecting, metaphorical probing, mindful imagining, open-ended questioning, predictive receiving, reflective converging, resonant verifying, responsive synchronicitizing, transdimensional percolating, and transformative reorienting. Throughout their readings, all participants experienced these themes and their interactions and they were each inspired and encouraged by their own actualizing intentionalities.

Results and findings showed positive interactions of processes of intuitive understanding and creative interpreting. They displayed components of a model of intuitive-creativity with applications to decision making and actualizing potentiality. They suggest the potential of such models for developing and strengthening the processes and capacities involved when intentionally educing and using intuitive-creativity in complex, changing circumstances.




2009 MFA, Colorado State University

Dial, Tabitha
Identity and the Creative Process Inspired by Tarot with Poetry by the Poet

Abstract: Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell explored methods of encountering one's Other, or the anima / animus, while journeying towards enlightenment, a theme that recurs as part of the larger mono-myth expressed in dreams, world mythology, and the symbols and images of the subconscious. Jung particularly considered Tarot and its symbols as a device that can lead its users toward the anima / animus, the countersexual force within oneself. This paper gives a nod to the thoughts of Jung and Campbell while sharing a poet's exploration of the effect of Tarot on personal identity and transformation during the process and experience of writing poems inspired by Tarot as an MFA thesis at Colorado State University. Special attention is given to poems written in response to the Universal-Waite (1990) King of Pentacles, Knight of Pentacles, The Empress, The Hanged Man and how the knight archetype moves among the poems.




2007 PhD, University of Queensland

Farley, Helen Sara
Tarot: an evolutionary history
(former provisional title: The evolution of tarot card symbolism)

Abstract: This thesis will constitute a cultural history of tarot, tracing the changing patterns of use and the symbolism displayed on tarot cards from the deck’s first appearance in Early Modern Italy until the present day. It begins with a description of the structure and the origins of tarot and the ordinary playing card deck from which it evolved. Some popular theories of tarot’s origin are briefly examined, including the hypothesis that grants tarot an Egyptian provenance. An investigation of the documentary sources detailing tarot’s first appearances follows, pinpointing its beginnings to Milan in the first quarter of the fifteenth century. An accurate time and place of origin, and a knowledge of the prevailing attitudes and beliefs current in Early Modern Italy, help to determine the significance of the symbolism at that time.

The imagery of the three Visconti-Sforza decks which constitute the oldest extant tarot cards is examined. The trump sequence and the symbolism displayed on the trump cards come under particular scrutiny. The symbolism displayed elsewhere in Italian Renaissance art is considered in order to determine the significance if any, of that symbolism. Many scholars have ascribed an esoteric significance to tarot imagery but such conclusions are unjustified and in fact, the symbolism on the cards was common in Renaissance art and can be readily explained without referencing esoteric currents operating in Early Modern Europe. I will show that during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, people were primarily concerned with natural divination as a means of knowing the mind of God; hence the popularity of astrology, chiromancy and oneiromancy.

Tarot was not considered a suitable tool for divination. It was not until the end of the eighteenth century in France that tarot was used as an esoteric and fortune-telling device. The factors surrounding the change of function of the deck and how this change influenced tarot symbolism will be outlined. Antoine Court de Gébelin, Etteilla, Éliphas Lévi and Papus were significant authors in the development of occult tarot. Their theories of tarot origin and interpretation of its symbolism will be considered. Significant influences included the French fascination with all things Egyptian and the rejection of traditional Christianity. Éliphas Lévi was the first to ascribe correspondences to tarot, linking the deck with other occult systems particularly those of astrology and kabbalah.

Tarot was no longer known as a game and the modifications of the deck by esotericists made it unsuitable for such a purpose. The next significant development of esoteric tarot occurred in England under the influence of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn which counted among its members William Butler Yeats, Aleister Crowley and Arthur Edward Waite. Waite’s deck became the most popular deck ever in the history of tarot. Noteworthy contributions added by the English authors included revised lists of correspondences which remain in use today and the association of the deck with the Grail legends erroneously ascribed a Celtic provenance. Under the influence of the Golden Dawn, the positions of trump VIII and trump XI were exchanged in order to better facilitate the trump correspondences with the kabbalah. Also, Waite was responsible for illustrating the minor arcana cards in order to facilitate divination; the first time this had ever been attempted. The final part of this thesis will look at the uses and depictions of tarot in the New Age. The New Age is syncretistic and eclectic; its thought derived from several different streams of religion and culture. Again, tarot reflects this syncretism in its symbolism with decks utilising imagery of a diverse range of cultures and esoteric streams.

In the true nature of the New Age, tarot also combines several different ideas so that astrological tarot packs or feng shui tarot packs are common. Tarot divination has shifted in nature from simple fortune-telling and use in ritual magic to divination facilitating self-development through healing and transformation.




2001 PhD, University of Stockholm

Gudmundsson, Magnus
Tarot. New age i bild och berättelse.

(Tarot. Illustration and narrating in the New Age)

Abstract: In the course of my dissertation work, I have sought knowledge about what New Age is, contains, and conveys by looking at practice and rhetoric, how the participants act and reason regarding their commitment, as well as how the contents of the field is discussed. I have put an emphasis on the small details: the objects, the rituals, and the narrating. Using the tarot cards as a starting point, the purpose is to analyse and disclose practices and structures within New Age with the help of theories about cultural reserves, text, and discourse.

The dissertation starts from one sole New Age practice: tarot. Tarot cards are used and interpreted according to a particular ritual and manual. The cards can be bought in New Age shops and in ordinary bookshops. They are used privately, in groups, and professionally. In the right situation the cards form the basis of discussions, give rise to reflections, and are also seen as a link to an occult reality. The reading of the tarot cards inspires to reflect upon everyday issues as health, money, and relations. The tarot readers interpret symbols and pictures as well as mediate imaginary worlds. Tarot is one example of practice within New Age. Tarot is said to be an ancient practice dating back to Old Egypt and the Middle or Far East. There exist a great many sources and references aiming at legitimising the authenticity of the cards. Today, the practice of reading cards can be found in New Age.

A hundred years ago the reading was performed by poor or outcast women. Rider Waite Tarot and Thoth Tarot are examples of how tarot cards have been designed differently. The tarot card Death illustrates a central theme within New Age: changes in man and society. A meeting between a professional tarot reader and her/his client will end up in a dialogue regarding life, death, love, money, and work. The conversation primarily turns on the present and the past. The reader talks about earlier lives that are said to have influenced the client’s present situation. The Tarot reading demands a special setting, e.g. incense, rituals, or evocative music. The set-up of the tarot reading differs depending on who is participating, their actions, and the actual narrating.

The tarot readers vary their linguistic behaviour to achieve certain purposes. What is central to the practisers is the individual experience. It is based on the latter that beliefs are put together. They refer to energies, holism, conscious outsiderness, reincarnation, and extraterrestial beings/deities/forces. These themes are in one way or another common to most people who act within the New Age field. Despite its disparate composition, New Age contains some dogmatic themes.

Within society there is an order of discourse that is governed by and influence the way we act, talk, and think. Discussions about and within New Age is thusly governed and influenced by this order of discourse. New Age receives, or at least has received, a good deal of attention in media, which may be due to the marginal but challenging role of the field. This has, among other things, lead to practisers feeling obliged to clarify and legitimise their actions. New Age illustrates the conflict in our time between the rational and the irrational, between science and faith.




1999 PhD, Université de Bourgogne (Dijon)

Jouvin, Jean-Pierre
Imagination et Alchimie à la Renaissance: L'exemple du Tarot de Marseille

(Imagination and Alchemy in the Renaissance: the example of the Marseille Tarot)

Abstract: Le tarot de Marseille est un jeu psycho-spirituel créé au XVe siècle. Il appartient à la résurgence platonicienne et hermétiste, contemporaine de Marsile Ficin et de Nicolas de Cusa. Son inspiration implique un rappel de doctrines qui avaient été assimilées aux siècles précédents, à savoir le péripatétisme arabe et le judaïsme. Cette époque charnière, bas Moyen âge / Renaissance, connaît la querelle Avicenne / Averroès dans laquelle Dominicains et Franciscains spirituels joueront un rôle majeur. Elle vit le développement de l’alchimie, qui, dans une perspective de prophétisme joachimite, proposait une doctrine du salut et la résolution du problème de la pauvreté.

Cela donna naissance à un type nouveau d’intellectuel, l’intellectuel mystique. Le jeu offre, sur un mode symbolique, sur fond de psychologie avicennienne, une démarche de conversion de l’âme, qui, grâce à l’imagination active, se dévêt de ses « écorces », atteint progressivement au salut et à l’illumination.

L’époque ficinienne, découronnée de son ontologie, est une époque riche en productions et manifestations « imaginales » ; le jeu, qui lui est contemporain, est un rappel de la fonction « imaginale » de l’âme. Il peut, de par sa nature symbolique, faire redécouvrir ce que l’intellectuel des XIIIe / XIVe siècles, connaissait.

[translation - may need some corrections]: The tarot of Marseilles is a psycho-spiritual game created in XVth century. It forms part of the Platonic and hermetic resurgence, contemporary to Ficino and Nicolas of Cusa. Its inspiration calls to mind doctrines that had been assimilated during the previous centuries, specifically peripatetic arabism and Judaism. This transition period, the low Middle Ages/Renaissance, saw the quarrels between Avicenne/Averroès in which spiritual Dominicans and Franciscans played a major part. It saw the development of the alchemy, which, from the perspective of joachimite prophecy, proposed doctrines of salvation and a resolution of the problem of poverty.

This gave rise to a new type of intellectual, the mystical intellectual. The game offers, from a symbolic mode, grounded on avicennian psychology, a journey towards the conversion of the soul, which, dues to active imagination, sheds its "bark", and reaches gradually with salvation and illumination.

The Ficinoan epoch, de-crowned of its ontology, is rich in its imaginative representation; the game, which is his contemporary, calls to mind the "image" function of the Soul. It can, by its nature symbolic nature, allow us to rediscover what the intellectual of XIIIth/XIVth centuries knew.




1997 MA, Lesley College Graduate School

Lemont, Suzan E.
Journey Into the Mirror: The Phenomenological Use of Tarot in the Expressive Therapies

Abstract: This thesis explores the use of Tarot, an ancient and mysterious system of divination which uses symbols depicted on cards, in an expressive arts therapy practice.

The thesis proposes a phenomenological use of Tarot (working with the perceptions and phenomenon presented by the client) over the traditional use of reader/therapist- imposed interpretation.

The value of Tarot in an expressive therapy practice will be demonstrated through examples of individual and group sessions using Tarot in a therapeutic way, and from personal journal entries and art work.




1994 PhD, University of Pennsylvania

Olsen, Christina
Carte Da Trionfi: the development of tarot in fifteeth century Italy

Abstract: This dissertation analyzes the development and play of tarot cards (carte da trionfi) in fifteenth-century Northern Italy, beginning with their origins in playing card decks imported from the Islamic East, then moving to the popularity of tarot decks at the courts of Milan and Ferrara, and concluding with the decline in taste for hand-painted tarot packs after 1500.

Through close examination of images of pastimes, legal and religious treatment of different types of recreation, and game treatises I argue that tarot was ideologically redefined as an aristocratic, moral, and private recreation in opposition to the playing-card deck's associations with the lower classes, gambling, and the public spaces of the city.

Final chapters on memory and gender detail tarot's reconceptualization within court culture first as an intellectual and then as a feminine pursuit that shaped "one's character" in moral, social, and sexual terms.




1994 MA, Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, California

Semetsky, Inna
Introduction of Tarot Readings into Clinical Psychotherapy-Naturalistic Inquiry

Abstract: This paper is based on research conducted between 1992 and 1994 under the auspices of the Behavioral Board Science Examiners in California, USA, and for the purpose of satisfying requirements for the Master of Arts Degree in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling. In the current global climate permeated by diverse beliefs, disparate values and cultural conflicts (natural disasters notwithstanding), an integrative approach to therapy is paramount for maintaining public mental health. The purpose of this paper is not only to contribute to the desensitization of some preconceived ideas regarding Tarot but also so that the author may share the practical knowledge she have initially obtained for herself and which can be used as a means towards achieving people's well-being and emotional security, as well as making sense of different and conflicting experiences. The research subjects' verbal reports, as their immediate self-reflection on each individual reading, constitute the focal point of this paper.




1982 PhD, University of Oregon

Gates, Charlene Elizabeth
The Tarot Trumps: Their Origin, Archetypal Imagery, and Use in Some Works of English Literature

Abstract: assistance in locating an abstract appreciated




1975 MA, University of Delaware

Parsons, Melinda Boyd
The Rediscovery of Pamela Colman Smith

Abstract: assistance in locating an abstract appreciated