The History of Tarot
February 24, 2021
Since the beginning of civilization humans have developed methods to gain insight into the future; today the art of reading Tarot cards is one of the most universal forms of divination. One would think the origins of these mystical cards would be seeped in mysterious and ancient knowledge. In the case of the Tarot...it began as a rather mundane and unassuming parlor game played by the wealthy throughout Italy and France. In the late 14th century wealthy aristocrats would commission artists to paint custom cards to play a game at times called Tarocho meaning Foolishness.
In the early development of the cards there were four suits not unlike modern decks: Staves/Wands, Disc/Coins, Cups, and Swords. It wasn’t until later years that Italian artists created additional cards along with the suits to expand the game and they were called Triumph Cards. These cards each had their own names - Death, Empress, and more...all early versions of the Triumph Cards later would be known as the Major Arcana in the modern Tarot card decks. On a side note, with the advent of the printing press, these decks became more widely available.
It seems that in the late 16th century, was the first time it was suggested that the Tarocho could be used as a tool for divination. As the 17th century drew to an end, more formal meanings were given to each card and in or around this time card spreads were being developed for specific divination purposes. In 1781 the first book of complex analysis of Tarot for divination was published and written by Antoine Court de Gebelin. Much of this work explains the connection between the images of the Tarot and the esoteric secrets of the Ancient Egyptian priests and mythos of Isis, Osinis, exc. There was no evidence of these claims then or now of this connection, but that did not stop the enthusiast of the time from embracing de Gebelin’s interpretations as the true meanings of each card. In fact the Marseille Tarot deck was based on de Gebelin’s work.
Even though Antoine Court de Gebelin’s words were greatly received that doesn’t mean that there was no push back or opposition. French occultist Jean Baptiste Alliette created his own work of Tarot divination in response to de Gebelin’s. In 1791 he created the first Tarot deck that was only to be used for divination purposes. Jean Baptiste is considered to be the first modern professional Tarotist. Along with his work in Tarot, Alliette also studied and wrote books on palmistry, astrology, and several other occult subjects. Jean Baptiste is even credited for laying the foundation of the Minor Arcana cards and reverse card interpretations.
After Jean Baptiste Alliette’s death a group of his devoted students continued on with his legacy. Then the Art of Tarot reading reached the Order of the Golden Dawn. Two of its members Arthur Waite and artists Pamela Coleman-Smith created the Rider-Waite deck in 1909. Today there are hundreds if not thousands of decks readily available. The Art of Tarot reading may have humble beginnings, but it has evolved into a greatly accessible spiritual tool for humanity all over the world. It has come a long way over the centuries and I’m sure it’ll continue to morph for centuries to come.
Katrina The Good
A Little About Katrina the Good: Katrina is an aspiring and talented writer with a passion for blogging. As the resident blogger for The Spirit Realm Network, she focuses her talents on a variety of thought-provoking topics, everything from the Paranormal to Cryptozoology. By day, Katrina can be found working on the frontlines as a health care provider fighting the battle on Covid. The Spirit Realm Network is proud to have her as part of the network and we all look forward to many more thought-provoking articles from her.