The history of tarot cards is a subject of debate amongst its followers. Some people claim the card game began in China; others argue its origins in India, still others believe it all started in Egypt. All three arguments, however, find the eventual; migration of tarot into Italy and France where there are actual records of its rules, symbols, and uses.
It is believed that although tarot existed long before the 15th century, it was sometime in the mid 1400s that the game of tarot became popular enough amongst the upper classes to produce evidence that today is seen as valid.
It is in Northern Italy and Eastern France where we find the first tarot decks. These decks included four suits of number cards (1-10) in addition to a king, queen, knight, and “special cards” with symbolic pictures of the Wheel of Fortune, Death, and the Moon.
Originally the tarot cards were used to play a game of trumps with the special cards serving as eternal trumps, outranking all the others. It is assumed that the special trumps eventually evolved into a ranking system of their own, thereby giving particular value to the symbols contained in the pictures.
As the game spread throughout Europe, the pictures were changed to reflect the culture and customs of the host country. Though the pictures changed, the artists took note of the particular elements in each picture and were careful to maintain those elements, thus causing a hub-bub around them that heightened their value and meaning.
One objective of tarot history is to trace the changes the cards have undergone throughout the centuries. In so doing, we are able to identify consistent themes indicating a common thread in the human experience. This leads us to believe that the pictures on the cards have a deeper meaning and purpose than merely serving as game pieces.
In early Christianity, all cards were deemed “tools of the devil” because people often replaced church-going with card-playing. The tarot cards were especially considered workings of the devil because of the added quality of the symbolism and hidden meaning. This propelled tarot into the underworld of secret and eventually into the Occult.
Occult, which literally means “hidden world”, was considered “devil’s work” by the established church, primarily because of the mystery surrounding occult beliefs. Even today, the mainstream church poses heavy warnings against the occult for fear of its dangers on the human soul.
Because of its cross-county journeys through the centuries, its varied symbols, and its associations with the occult, tarot cards remain a mystery yet today. The history of tarot cards is a fascinating study and one well worth your time as it is full of rich stories from many exotic places. However, if you prefer a history grounded in facts with supporting evidence, the history of tarot cards should remain for you, a legend of many dimensions.
Author: Charlie ReeseThis author has published 39 articles so far.