I had to read on when the words “Torah and Tarot” landed in my inbox mid-pandemic. 

Walter Paice from Jonathan Prince Studio/Berkshire House, the mystery man behind the email, wrote about a theory by scholar Stav Appel explaining that one of the original decks of tarot cards contained secret Judaic content and was most likely the creation of Crypto-Jews, Jews of faith who were forced to observe Judaism in secret due to religious persecution.

I have long been fascinated by tarot, feeling something so deeply Jewish and universally spiritual in the cards’ meanings, art and the ritual and tradition of reading them. I have also been long fascinated by Crypto-Judaism and the ability of a culture to survive in hiding.  

And as if the tarot and story hadn’t already hooked me, the team at Jonathan Prince Studio/Berkshire House were looking to use augmented reality to tell this story! I knew this would appeal to my artistic collaborator and AR/VR coding husband, so in early 2021, Mike and I met the mysterious Walter over Zoom.  

Mike and I became engrossed as Walter showed us the demo of the “Secrets of the Tarot” augmented reality app. Holding his phone in front of the tarot card, locusts began jumping off the card and a red band began to run like a river of blood. We watched in awe as each section of the card walked us through what quickly became clear was the entire Passover Exodus story.

Walter explained that this was just the first card and that the studio was searching for people who might want to join them on this journey in revealing the Jewish lore and legends hidden in the 22 picture cards of the Jean Noblet Tarot de Marseille, created in the 1600s. 

And where did this whole journey start?  

Jonathan Prince, a world-renowned sculptor based in the Berkshires, came to know Torah scholar Stav Appel through a networking group. Jonathan was interested in thinking about mixed-reality art when Stav happened to share this incredible Crypto-Jewish tarot card theory. 

It’s in those conversations that “Secrets of the Tarot” was born, bringing ancient stories to life through modern technology.

Now, JArts is proud to present “Secrets of the Tarot” with creators Jonathan Prince of Berkshire House, scholar Stav Appel and Walter Paice, now in his own company, Monsolo.

We hope that by using the mobile phone technology you already own, you will join us on this journey to uncover the hidden stories in the cards left behind by Europe’s Crypto-Jews, Jews of faith who strove to maintain their traditions through means that would avoid detection by the “Holy Office of the Inquisition.”      

Stav’s research is understood through the “Torah in the Tarot” card set. And now, “Secrets of the Tarot” is the augmented reality project that will bring these stories, entirely unrecognized for 400 years, to life.

Currently, you can order a deck of the “Torah in the Tarot” cards online.

JArts will be announcing the augmented reality app and event launch this fall. Sign up here to get our emails!

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