Gypsy with ScepterThe association between gypsies and the Tarot is deeply rooted in our minds today, although its origins are less familiar.

The gypsy custom of earning a living by predicting the future has very old origins indeed.

However, the Tarot was just one of the many methods of divination used by these people.

It was only during the Nineteenth century that an indissoluble link between gypsies and the Tarot was established.

The studies of occultists identified gypsies as the unwitting custodians of ancient knowledge.

The countless works and studies that were to follow contributed to this theory, thereby creating the typical association of the collective imaginary between gypsies and the Tarot.

The Theory of the Occultists

Medieval LionThe studies of occultists gave rise to the idea that ancient nomadic populations came into possession of the secret of the Tarot, considered to be a summary of primigenial knowledge.

Their migrations later allowed this ancient knowledge to be saved from destruction and favored its spread.

The words of Papus – a high-profile figure of modern esotericism – have provided a complete picture of the link between gypsies and Tarot hypothesized since the nineteenth century.


Extract from “Le Tarot des Bohémiens”
(“The Tarot of the Gypsies”)
by Papus

The Gypsies possess a Bible by which they earn their living, as it enables them to tell fortunes; this Bible is also a perpetual source of distraction, for it can also be used for games of chance.

Yes, the game of cards called the Tarot in possession of the Gypsies is the Bible of all Bibles. It is the book of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus, it is the book of Adam, it is the book of the primitive Revelation of ancient civilizations.

Whereas the Freemason, an intelligent and virtuous man, has lost this tradition; whereas the priest, although intelligent and virtuous, has lost his esoterism; the Gypsy, even if ignorant and intemperate, has given us the key that will allow us to explain all the symbolism of the ages with no difficulty whatsoever.

How can we fail to admire the wisdom of the Initiates, who made use of this vice to produce results that are more beneficial than those produced by virtue.

This Gypsy card game is a wonderful book, as seen by Court de Gébelin and Vaillant. This game, known as TAROT, THORA, ROTA, later became a foundation, a sum of the teachings of all the ancient peoples.

Papus (Gérard Encausse)
“Le Tarot des Bohémiens”, 1889