The earliest evidence of fortune telling dates back to 4000 BCE where it was practiced in China, Egypt, Chaldea, and Babylonia.
Today, fortune telling involves everything from astrology and numerology to palm reading and physiognomy. One of the most popular forms of forecasting is Tarot card reading.
The history of Tarot is as interesting as the ornate images found on the cards themselves. To learn more about it, keep reading.
1. Tarot Cards Come from Traditional Playing Cards
Playing cards as we know them today came to rope in 1375. They were introduced by Islamic soldiers who had used them for centuries in their societies.
When Islamic soldiers invaded Northern Italy, Sicily, and Spain in the 1500’s, they brought with them the ancient game of Mamluk. Although they weren’t Tarot cards, this is where Tarot evolved from. In fact, all modern Western card games are derived from Mamuk cards.
2. the Tarot Deck Was Used for a Game Called Triumph
Around 1400, Tarot cards began to take a closer form to what we know today. This is when Mamluk cards were being used to play a game known as “cards of triumph” in both Italy and France.
In one letter to the Duke of Milan, the differentiation between triumph cards and regular playing cards is made for the first time in written history. These cards were decorated with elegant symbols and figures.
In these new decks, there were 4 suits. For each suit, cards were numbered 1 to 10. There were also cards for the queen, king, knight, and page – very similar to what we know today. Also in these decks were 22 picture cards that didn’t belong to any suit.
3. in Italy, Tarot Was Also Used for Storytelling
Triumph spread throughout Europe in the 1500’s. But in Italy, it evolved as a game known as tarocchi appropriatii.
In this game, every player was assigned a trump card. The dealer, or person who assigned the trump cards, had to tell a poem. The poem was an explanation related to the personality of the person who the card was assigned to.
It’s this game of creativity that gave rise to Tarot as we know it today. But it wasn’t until later that it took on an occult significance.
4. Tarots Link to the Occult
Today, Tarot card is seen as a form of divinity. When laid down and interpreted by a Tarot reader, they are used to tell the future. Many people mistakenly believe that this is a form of entertainment or New Age phenomenon.
Rather than something that developed in modern times, Tarot took on its occult significance as far back as 1781. This is when French and English occultists adopted the card game as part of their belief system. A book written by Jean-Baptiste Alliette in the 1700’s is the first to talk about Tarot as a form of divination.
These occultists believed that the symbolic pictures had a deep meaning. They began to interpret the meaning of the symbols and figures in a way that would lead to Tarot as we now see it.
5. the Reinvention of Tarot
One of the most famous occultists who ever lived tried to reinvent the Tarot cards and their interpretations.
Aleister Crowley founded his own religion in the late 19th and early 20th century. His changes to Tarot involved adding parts of his own religion as well as aspects of the Jewish mystical practice of Kabbalah.
This deck is known as the Thoth deck. It’s not the most popular form of Tarot but it’s still commercially available.
6. Throughout the History of Tarot, There Have Been Many Different Decks
Speaking of people who tried to re-invent Tarot, that’s happened throughout its history.
Today, Tarot is a deck of 78 playing cards with a specific structure. There is the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. The Major has 22 cards and the Minor is made of 56 cards.
That’s the typical Tarot deck but there have been many variations on this. Even today new variations are being created.
Tarot is popular worldwide and there are thousands of Tarot decks to choose from. Each with their own unique symbols, figures, and interpretations.
7. Technology Determined the Popularity of Various Decks
Although there are thousands of Tarot decks to choose from, there are a few that are more popular than others. That’s because technology has had an impact on the popularity of Tarot decks.
Mass production has allowed certain designs to become more popular. For example, hand-crafted Tarot decks and decks designed by artists are less widely available than decks you can purchase at any given occult store.
The most famous decks are likely the Rider-Waite deck. Published by occultists William Rider and A.E. Waite, this deck came out around 1909. Since then, it’s constantly been in print and widely available to the amateur Tarot reader.
Another one of the more famous Tarot decks is the Tarot de Marseille deck. This deck goes back to the 17th century. It’s one of the most commonly used designs in the world.
8. Tarot Is Going Through an Evolution
Since Tarot is now popular worldwide, there have been attempts to make it more inclusive. The medieval origins of Tarot mean that the traditional symbols and images used to reflect a backward history. New decks try to avoid imagery that evokes patriarchy, sexism, classism, and racism.
9. Tarot’s Links to Esoteric Systems
Beyond the occult. Tarot has been linked to various esoteric systems throughout its history.
For example, in 1781, Antoine Court de Gebelin linked Tarot to ancient Egypt. He believed that the symbolic designs were drawn from religious texts of ancient Egypt. He also said that the deck was brought from Egypt to Europe by gypsies.
Although he was incorrect, this linkage opened the doors for other associations with esoterism. Today, some Tarot enthusiasts link Tarot to astrology, numerology, the Four Elements, as well as Kabbalah.
There’s also been an association between Tarot and Myers-Briggs personality types. None of these have proven to be the original intention of the card designers, but the perspective of the Tarot reader deeply influences how cards are read.
10. General Interpretations
Tarot can be interpreted differently based on the deck as well as the belief system of the interpreter, However, there is a typical structure to follow.
Tarot tells the journey of the hero and each card acts as a representation of an experience, theme, or moral. And you can learn more about your own journey with free tarot.
More Interesting Facts
Tarot is an ancient game that has roots dating back over 500 years. The history of tarot involves many evolutions and it’s still evolving to suit the needs of society today. With symbols and figures that are more inclusive of the people who use them, diving the future has stepped into the 21st century.
For more interesting facts and trivia, check out our blog.