Like most topics within the occult and spiritual realm, there is some debate about the origins and history of the Tarot. In this article, we will explore what the Tarot is, how it possibly came to be, and what it has become in modern times.
What is the Tarot?
Today, people most commonly use the Tarot for foretelling the future but, with imagination, its potential uses are infinite. Full of symbolism, each card is a message, a framework, a guide, and an inspiration. Its pictures represent the stages of human development and the experiences we share throughout our journey. Besides divination, the Tarot can be used for anything.
In the most technical of terms, the Tarot is a deck of cards, similar to playing cards, consisting of 78 cards that split into two different sections known as the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. There are 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana that divide into four suits: Swords, Cups, Coins (or Pentacles; or Discs), and Wands (or Rods). Each suit contains 10 cards plus four court cards which are the Page, the Knight, the Queen, and the King. Some decks use slight variations in the names associated which each card.
There are many different and diverse superstitions and beliefs that surround the Tarot. For some, the Tarot is a tool for divination and, for others, a way to explore their own psyches and inner selves. Some believe anyone can use the Tarot others believe you need psychic abilities to interpret them. In the same way, some may view them for entertainment purposes only while others use them to connect with the Spirit world. Whatever your beliefs are about the Tarot, they have something to offer everyone.
History of the Tarot
The possible origins and history of the Tarot vary widely in detail and imagination. However, no matter where the Tarot came from, mystical or not, its origin does not affect its capabilities.
The most widely accepted history of the Tarot is that it originated in Italy during the Renaissance period as a card game or pictorial memory game. However, since the 17th-century, people have hypothesized other origins.
Here are some fun theories of the origin of Tarot:
- The Major Arcana cards come from ancient Egypt and their images are inscribed on a long hallway beneath the Sphinx.
- The Romany Gypsies brought Tarot to Europe in their travels.
- The Tarot is a surviving remnant of the lost continet of Atlantis.
- The Tarot is what’s left of the only book to survive the burning of the library of Alexandria.
- 13th-century alchemists created the tarot to preserve their knowledge.
Where the Tarot Began
The history of the Tarot most likely begins in Italy but the first accounts come from records in Berne, Switzerland, 1367 detailing banned card games. It seems that the Tarot spread quickly across Europe.
Since it was so long ago, we don’t know much about what the first cards looked like. Yet, a German text by John of Rheinfelden from 1377 describes that the decks contained 4 suits consisting of 13 cards each. The court cards were the King, Ober, and Unter and some decks included a Dames or Queen.
There is no evidence of the trump (major arcana) cards until 1440 in the Italian cities of Milan, Ferrara, Florence, and Bolonga where it seems the trump cards were first introduced. They were called trionfi which became “trumps” in English. The new decks that included their version of the major arcana were known as carte de trionfi.
The Oldest Tarot Cards
Since the printing press did not exist yet, the earliest tarot decks were hand-painted which is why only a small number of them are thought to have been produced. There are no complete tarot decks from the 1400s in existence today however, individual cards from the era still remain.
A collection of incomplete tarot decks from the 15-century still exists today known as the Visconti-Sforza tarot. They are located in various museums, libraries, and private collections around the world. This collection has influenced modern tarot decks from their composition to their interpretations.
The Tarot began as a simple card game that became so much more. It is clear that they have held our fascination for a very long time. No matter its origins, or how ordinary they may seem, the Tarot’s images of today can open up our imaginations and help us access wisdom and messages from ourselves, our past down loved ones, our Spirit Guides, or anything else.
Today’s Uses for the Tarot
The Tarot evolved from a 15-century card game to a tool used by psychics, spiritualists, and enthusiasts all around the world. It has become a guide portraying human consciousness and life experiences.
Most people think that the Tarot’s only purpose is to tell the future but they are so much more than that. For me they have been a tool for healing, providing insight into my inner thoughts and feelings.
Ideas For Using the Tarot
As I mentioned at the start of this article, your imagination is the only limit to how you can use a Tarot deck. Here I’ve listed a few:
- Fortunetelling; foretelling the future
- Obtaining more information about a situation
- Brainstorming a new idea, concept, project, or business plan
- Creating characters and storylines for writing
- Writing prompts
- Exploring your inner self or psyche
- Obtaining information about a decision
- For visualizing and manifestation
- Getting inspiration for a new idea or project
- Exploring your inner self and current situation
- Getting to know yourself on a deeper level
- Gaining insight into someones feelings and motivations
- Exploring your past and its influence on the present
- Playing a game
There are so many beautiful and different styles of decks in existence today and the internet has made them more accessible than they have ever been. Likewise, the internet has also made it possible for experts and enthusiast to share their knowledge and passion for the Tarot, creating communities and connections that anyone can benefit from.