Tap to Read ➤

History of Tarot Cards

Manali Oak
Tarot cards are a popular source of divination. They are a part of many card games and moreover, are used for prophecy. Here's the history of these cards.
The word 'tarot' is commonly believed to have originated from the Arab word turuq, meaning 'four ways'. Tarot cards consist of twenty-one trump cards, the fool, and an extra card per suit along with the usual suit of playing cards. They are used in many parts of Europe to play card games and for purposes of divination.
The earliest use of tarot cards can be traced back to the 14th century. The popularity of these cards for fortune-telling is as old as a few centuries ago. The history of Tarot cards describes their evolution from decks of the olden days to the different types of decks today.
Tarot cards, which were an early form of today's playing cards, entered Europe in the 14th century. Feliciano Busi described these cards as being "from Saracinia" or Arabia. Back then, they were used to play a game called tarocchi.
Some theories suggest that the cards were created around 1410 to 1430 in Milan, Ferrara, or Bologna in northern Italy and that some additional trump cards were later added to the suit. These new cards were known as the triumph cards. They began to be used to play a card game similar to bridge.
The game of triumphs gained popularity in the northern regions of Italy and eastern France. The cards underwent certain changes in the pictures and symbols depicted on them. They soon became popular in Sicily, Austria, and Germany. This type of tarot cards exist in the form of fifteen fragmented decks painted in the 15th century for the rulers of Milan.
After hundreds of years from then, people who believed in occult started regarding tarot cards as means of divination. The French and the English people were fascinated by the mystical symbolism of these cards. This led to the cards being used as divination tools.
Most of the civil governments of those times had banned the use of playing cards but tarot cards were an exception. This makes evident the general acceptance of these cards.
During the olden times, mass production of tarot cards was not possible. They used to be hand-painted. With the invention of the printing press, they came to be produced on a larger scale. Antoine Court, formerly a Protestant pastor initiated the interpretation of tarot.
In 1781, he wrote a speculative history describing the use of these cards for divination. Gypsies were among the first ones to use these cards for divination purposes.
Alliette, a French occultist publicized the concept of using tarot cards for revealing the occult. He designed the first esoteric tarot deck. His design consisted of an addition of astrological ascriptions and some Egyptian motifs to the cards. He also added a divinatory meaning to the text on the cards.
By the 18th and the 19th centuries, the mystics and occultists began using tarot cards. Their use started after a study on religious symbolism by a Swiss clergyman called Antoine Court de Gebelin, was published. He proclaimed the name 'tarot' to have originated from the Egyptian word, tar that meant royal and ro meaning road.
He suggested that the word tarot signified a royal road to wisdom.
The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot was published. It replaced the traditional designs with portrayals of symbolic scenes. This deck remains popular in the English-speaking countries even today. The use of Tarot cards gave rise to the creation of oracle card decks that contain images of angels, goddesses, and Power animals, and are used for divination.
Tarot cards find use in card games and are popularly believed to serve as the means of understanding one's fortune. The pictures and symbols that are featured on these cards are associated with certain happenings in one's future. There is a wide variety in the tarot deck designs.
The emergence of tarot cards as a way of divination was an outcome of man's curiosity to discover the hidden future. The history of these cards stands testimony to the human tendency to know things ahead of time. Their popularity further iterates the fact that we are always in search of ways to unfold mysteries.