Oswald Wirth was born on august 5, 1860 in Brienz, Switzerland. Around 1880 he went to Paris where he joined the army. After his military service, he worked both as an artist and accountant and got interested in the occult. He befriended the famous Italian artist and occultist Stanislas de Guaita. This friendship ultimately resulted in 1889 in the publication of the tarot deck Les 22 Arcanes du Tarot du Tarot dessinés a l’usage des initiés sur les indications de Stanislas de Guaita. (published by Georges Poirel). This was a limited edition of ca. 100 beautifully hand colored copies and is very rare. The exact quantity of this edition is somewhat unclear. It is interesting that another famous occultist from Fin de Siècle Paris, Papus, in the same period published (other)images of the cards of the major arcana of the tarot in his famous work Le Tarot des Bohémiens.
From the back of the box:
‘Witchcraft is the practice of natural and supernatural acts including evil power. In ancient times, the supernatural power of the witch was not always evil, but often was used for the power of prophecy. One of the most famous ancient witches was the Witch of Endon who lived in Palestine. The bible tells us that Saul, the first King of the Hebrews, consulted her before the battle with the Philistines. (I Sam. 28:7).’
- Page 1 of the instruction booklet
It is often said that The Tarot of Marseilles belongs to the older tarot decks known by mankind. Although that might very well be true, the tarot deck that preceded it and from which it probably originates, is the Visconti Sforza tarot deck, originally designed for entertaining the Italian courts. From there it ‘travelled’, with the French troops, (after the French conquered Milano in 1499.), to Switzerland and France where it then became the most well-known tarot deck for the French speaking territories. And until today, still is.
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