Tarot History – From Card Games to Popular Philosophy

tarot cards, crystal ball and candleTarot is a pack of cards used to tell someone’s future, fortune. They are used as a spiritual tool for divination and meditation. A tarot deck now is constructed from 78 cards, divided into two sections, Major Arcana (for long term prophecies) and Minor Arcana (for everyday issues).

The Origin of “Tarot”

There have been countless theories where does the word and term tarot originated from. Some link it with geographical names, some with mythical names, but the closest and widely accepted theory is the one presented by Idries Shah. According to his theory, the word is derivation of the Arab word “turuq”, whose meaning is four ways.

The Beginning

In the early beginnings of tarot history, the cards were used for playing games. Tarot was a card game for the upper class. The name tarot is first mentioned in the 15th century, and the game was popular in Italy and France. The deck back then contained 16 picture cards, painted with images of Greek Gods and Goddesses.

How the Industry Helped

It sounds ironic, but the global industry helped popularize tarot cards. In the early beginnings of tarot history, cards were hand-painted. This meant low number of decks produced, and just a selected few could get their hands on tarot cards. However, the invention of the printing press helped make mass production possible.

The Tarot of Today

Long gone are the days when tarot cards were used for card games. After the industrial revolution and popularization of cards, more people have started using them as a tool for personal growth and development. Nowadays, tarot cards are used for divination and as a symbol system. Tarot cards are not the only to make the transition from card games to fortune telling. There are other cards as well used for fortune telling. However, tarot’s design and an older pedigree is what helped the cards to gain popularity. The mere fact that there are hundreds of decks, and thousands of online tarot readings, speaks enough of the popularity of tarot.

Common Myths Associated with Tarot History

As tarot cards are considered occult cards, there have been several misconceptions about the tarot history. Here are some of those.

– They are not known as cards of the devil. During medieval time, this title was given to all playing cards by the church. It has nothing to do with fortune telling.

– Gypsies are not the ones that brought tarot cards in Europe. Gypsies are often associated with fortune telling, but they are not the one responsible for tarot’s rise in Europe. Tarot cards existed even before Gypsies came to the continent.

– Tarot cards do not originate from ancient Egypt.


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