Jung and Tarot


In Dierdre Bair's recent biography of Carl Jung (Jung: A Biography, c. 2003, ISBN # 0-316-07665-1, published by Little, Brown), she writes the following:

"Both Hanni [Hanni Binder, a patient of Jung's] and Gret [Gret Baumann-Jung, his daughter] used several different sets of cards when they taught him how to consult the tarot before they settled on the Grimaud cards of Antoine Court de Gebelin, the Ancien Tarot de Marseilles. Jung thought it was the only deck that possessed the properties and fulfilled the requirements of metaphor that he gleaned from within the alchemical texts." (p. 549)

This is the first direct reference to Jung's actually learning to read tarot that I've encountered. The statement was made in an interview with Binder, who went on to say that Jung never gave a seminar on tarot, and never wrote anything about it. He learned to read the cards between 1950-1952.

I wonder what he would think about the plethora of decks and imagery available today. My guess is that he would find RWS-style decks with illustrated pips interesting, and that he would be very intrigued by the Thoth deck, but that he would still gravitate toward the TdM.

(Edited to say that I posted this thread in the H&I forum due its historical content and specific reference to the TdM -- but if it would fit better in another forum, my apologies to the moderators and please feel free to move it.)


This is really amazing, Astraea, thank you !


I have a copy of the Binder notes taken when the Tarot was discussed by Jung, which quite frankly do no more than barely describe the Marseille deck - no more.

With regards to quotes by Jung on the Tarot, there are only two direct references I have managed to find when I looked for the same a number of years ago - in two letters separated by a period of 30 years (1930 and 1960).

I have also quoted these, if anyone is interested, in the thread: 'Carl Jung's deck?'.

I suspect, given his various interests and the high likelihood he would also have been aware of the WCS deck during that time, that he may have stuck to the more 'raw' representations as found in especially the Marseille... but neither that view, nor another, would be of much import unless one also considered that his opinion on the matter was ultimately highly important (I personally do not value jungian thought as much as many appear to).

Nonetheless, it's great to know that Hanni Binder has been interviewed on the matter and that there exists some record of the same in the book.


Thank you for that link, JMD -- I find the information very intriguing. Several years ago, I studied with a woman who learned astrology from Gret Baumann-Jung in the 1950's; she said that Baumann-Jung had told her that Dr. Jung had an acquaintance with many systems of divination, but did not linger over any of them -- his interest was primarily in the underlying patterns of the psyche, rather than particular divinatory forms. Baumann-Jung did not specifically mention tarot, so I was pleased to find the reference in Bair's book.


Thanks Astraea :)
I'm very interested in this matter.

I'd like to know more about Ms. Hanni Binder.
Was she a professional cartomancer or something??


Hi, Kenji. I would like to know more about this, too. JMD has provided the most information I've seen on the subject in the thread he links to in his post (above). I do not know if Ms. Binder was a professional cartomancer. The woman with whom I studied has passed away, and few of Dr. Jung's contemporaries are still with us -- hopefully, some of them will have left a record that opens this door a little wider. If I am able to uncover additional information, I will definitely post it here.


Thanks again, Astraea!
When something gets clear on my part,
I'll make a posting, too. :)


Excellent! Thanks, Kenji.


Astraea said:
This is the first direct reference to Jung's actually learning to read tarot that I've encountered. [/B]

Here is a quote from Jung, appearing in _Visions: Notes of the Seminar given in 1930-1934 by C. G. Jung_, edited by Claire Douglas. Vol. 2. (Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XCIX, 1997), p. 923.

“Another strange field of occult experience in which the hermaphrodite appears is the Tarot. That is a set of playing cards, such as were originally used by the gypsies. There are Spanish speciments, if I remember rightly, as old as the fifteenth century. These cards are really the origin of our pack of cards, in which the red and the black symbolize the opposites, and the division of four—clubs, spades, diamonds, and hearts—also belongs to the individuation symbolism. They are psychological images, symbols with which one plays, as the unconscious seems to play with its contents. They combine in certain ways, and the different combinations correspond to the playful development of events in the history of mankind. The original cards of the Tarot consist of the ordinary cards, the king , the queen, the knight, the ace, etc.,—only the figures are somewhat different—and besides, there are twenty-one cards upon which are symbols, or pictures of symbolical situations. For example, the symbol of the sun, or the symbol of the man hung up by the feet, or the tower struck by lightning, or the wheel of fortune, and so on. Those are sort of archetypal ideas, of a differentiated nature, which mingle with the ordinary constituents of the flow of the unconscious, and therefore it is applicable for an intuitive method that has the purpose of understanding the flow of life, possibly even predicting future events, at all events lending itself to the reading of the conditions of the present moment. It is in that way analogous to the I Ching, the Chinese divination method that allows at least a reading of the present condition. You see, man always felt the need of finding an access through the unconscious to the meaning of an actual condition, because there is a sort of correspondence or a likeness between the prevailing condition and the condition of the collective unconscious.
“Now in the Tarot there is a hermaphroditic figure called the diable. That would be in alchemy the gold. In other words, such an attempt as the union of opposites appears to the Christian mentality as devilish, something evil which is not allowed, something belonging to black magic.”

It shows that he had certainly thought about the significance of some (or all) of the Tarot trumps, but that he had not really learned much about the history. It's interesting that he places the union of opposites (a deeply important aspect of his psychology) and alchemical gold with the Devil. Probably he is referring to the gold and union to be found in the process of integrating the Shadow.

Mary K. Greer


Thank you very much for posting these notes. Jung had a great appreciation for exemplars of psychic processes, and it does seem clear that he viewed tarot symbolism with respect, in that light -- though, as you say, his historical knowledge of the subject was limited. My understanding from the Bair biography is that he relied principally on Binder for background information concerning tarot, and probably not a great deal was known of its authentic history at the time; but, as you say, his interest was in the psychological significance of the images and the ways in which they spoke to the integration of the personality: alchemical gold. Oh, to have been able to speak with him about such things! Thank you again for this post.