The History of Tarot Readings

tarot card historyAs you might already know, tarot cards are essentially a deck of playing cards famous in numerous parts of Europe and sporadically throughout the world. The history of tarot cards is quite interesting and has captivated hobbyists, scholars, historians, as well as spiritualists for the longest time.

Origin of the cards

Today, we have sufficient history of the tarot cards. The cards are believed to have been originated sometime between the 1420-1440 eras in Italy. It was created amidst numerous experiments. It is also known that the cards had significant importance in the early renaissance Italian culture.

Why were the cards created?

The earliest decks of tarot were not designed for mysticism. The cards were designed to play a game that is similar to the game of bridge played today. For this reason, the cards had cups, polo sticks, coins, and swords along with a court with 2 male underlings and a king. Later, the tarot cards included the fool, queens, and the trumps to make up a deck consisting of 78 cards in total. Today, the trump cards are called Major Arcana while Minor Arcana are the suit cards.

Major Arcana contains 22 cards and their designs can be traced back to 1440. The three decks which are known as the Visconti Trumps are believed to be the forefathers of all the tarot decks that are available today. Major theories say that the game was created for the nobles initially. However, when the cards remerged in the later centuries, they were thought to be tools for divination.

Tarot in the 15th century

In the 15th century, the card makers from Marseilles, France started the process of the standardization of the Trumps. Before this took place, people that played Trumps had the ability of dictating the cards that were to be included, eliminated, or substituted. Conservative nobles considered particular cards including the Tower, the Devil, and the Death, as offensive. As a result, religious leaders tried to ban Trumps.

Rebirth of Tarot

The rebirth of the cards, as a method used in divination, took place in 1781 because of Antoine Court de Gebelin. According to him, the cards had an Egyptian origin and consisted of mystical knowledge. He believed that symbolism of the Trumps contained knowledge that had been encoded purposefully. He put forward a theory that Tarot cards were the key to all of the lost Egyptian wisdom which had been written by the Egyptian God of knowledge, Thoth. From this point, the Trumps also started to evolve. It was believed that these changes were introduced by all of those secret societies that had produced the cards.

In 1799 the ‘Rosetta Stone’ which translated the hieroglyphs of the Egyptian was discovered. However, this did not provide any support to Antoine’s theory of the cards being Egyptian. Yet, the belief was sustained until it was extended in 1857 when people started to belief that Romany wanderers, called Gypsies were descendants of Egyptians and that they carried the cards while they travelled through Europe.

More theories in the 19th century

Famous occultist known as Eliphas Levi, in the 19th century produced a relation between the Kabbalah, which is the Hebrew conformity of mysticism, and the Tarot cards. As a result, a new belief originated that Israel was the country important for the origin of the tarot cards.

Additionally, it was also believed that the cards consisted of knowledge and wisdom from the famous Tree of Life. The new belief successfully brought together all of the 78 cards as components of a mystery that could reveal secrets in divination.

However, no hard facts were available for the support of the new theory. Beyond this point onwards, esoteric and magical groups considered Tarot as timeless bodies of knowledge which held great significance for everything related to mysticism.

Since then, Tarot cards have been related to all of the magical systems, as well as to all of the religions that exist today. The tarot cards consist of archetypal imagery that crosses the temporal, linguistic, geographical, and cultural barriers.

Tarot in the 20th century

The credit of the renaissance of the tarot cards in the 20th century is given to Arthur Edward Waite. Today, Waite’s version of the tarot cards is considered to be the standard deck. Additionally, it is the most famous deck of the century particularly because it is understood easily and is rich in symbols.

If you have never experienced a tarot card reading, put it on your “to-do” list, as it’s always fascinating to have a reading done!

Resources:

  • August 30, 2016
  • Blog