Tarot and the Millennium: The Story of Who's on the Cards and Why - Review by Michele Jackson

In Chapter One, this book makes a bold assertion: "Tarot tells the story of the Second Coming of Christ and the Millennium." The book opens with an account of Antoine Court de Gebelin's discovery that the Tarot was of Egyptian origin. He contrasts this with Dummett's assertion that the cards have no meaning. From this introduction, Betts leads us down a winding road through  history (much of it before the earliest cards are documented) to support his claim that the tarot images are derived from the story of the Apocalypse.

Chapter Two describes the author's experience with Tarot. Chapter Three explains how the author discovered the link between the Tarot of Marseilles and the Bible. In this chapter he begins to describe the correlation between the images on some cards and the Book of Revelations. The remainder of the book continues to explain how the author correlates individual cards with the Book of Revelations and with an image he refers to as "Ancestor." The author makes some convincing arguments, but he has a tendency to wander off into history, providing much more information about historical events than is needed to make his point. One gets the impression that he finds the various historical subjects interesting and then assumes that his audience shares his enthusiasm for whatever topic he is discussing. Consequently, we are told of Frederick II's use of Astrology, and what he did in his leisure time. None of this is necessary to make Betts' point that Frederick represents the Emperor. Some of his arguments are less than convincing, such as his assertion that the Empress represents the Empire. He provides almost no support for this assertion and seems to expect us to accept it as readily as we accept his more detailed arguments. Betts asks his readers to withhold judgment on his overall theory, until they have completed the book. I won't spoil it for you; suffice it to say that I found some of Betts arguments more compelling than others.

One thing that sets this book apart is its use of the Internet. At the end of each chapter we are provided written references and references from the Internet World Wide Web. URLs are provided, and a master list with links to all of the URLs cited is available on the author's web site, so that you don't even have to type them in. One has to be leery of using Web Sites as references as there is no guarantee of accuracy but many of the links are from university libraries and the on-line Catholic Encyclopedia. Hopefully these are more accurate than those found on someone's personal web site.  Still there are no guarantees. One also has to deal with the problem of broken links as web pages change over time. Portions of the book that consist of translations by the author are also provided in their original language for those who wish to check the accuracy of the translated portions.

I recommend this book to those interested in Tarot History. There is a dearth of books on this aspect of Tarot and this book is an interesting addition. The book is lavishly illustrated with black and white images and reads fairly quickly, despite its 377 page length.

Tarot and the Millennium: The Story of Who's on the Cards and Why
Author: Timothy Betts
ISBN: 0-9641020-5-6
Publisher: New Perspective Media, 7 Plumtree Rd. Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275-5911

You can get more information or order this book here


This book purports to be about something. It agrees with de Gebelin that Tarot has meaning and that the design hypothetically - but disagrees that it's Egyptian. The symbolism of Tarot cards has been reused on a number of occasions since ancient times. The symbolism on Tarot cards has been reused on a number of occasions since ancient times. It's not unusual in such borrowings for symbols themselves to remain unchanged while their meanings are reinterpreted. Thus, the same dolphin that adorned Nero's palace in ancient Rome was transformed into an icon of Christ as friend, savior and guide of souls. De Gebelin neglected to check these other possibilities and missed a stunning discovery.

I believe that Tarot represents a medieval retelling of the story of Jesus Christ's Second Coming and the ensuing Millennium. Tarot is not about the hoary past, it's about the future and the end of history! This is, and is not surprising. On the one hand, the Second Coming has been one of the most familiar themes in western civilization for almost 2,000 years. If you knew absolutely nothing about Tarot and had to guess it's meaning, this would be a good bet. On the other hand, cars like The Fool, Emperor, and Lovers seem to have nothing to do with the Second Coming - at least not to our eyes. A preliminary answer to this objection is that thinking has changed considerably in the almost 600 years since Tarot was created. We're more naive about the last times now. We find it difficult to interpret the cards correctly for three reasons: first, late medieval and early Renaissance people postulated elaborate scenarios for the last times that only a handful of scholars are familiar with today; second, many mediaeval meanings of familiar symbols were forgotten in the Renaissance; and third, entire categories or modes of medieval thought are held in little repute today.

Tarot and the Millennium pg. 14 and 15

Review Copyright 1997 Michele Jackson
Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes