The Fascinating History of Tarot Cards: Unraveling the Mysteries


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Last Updated on April 27, 2023 by Francis

Tarot cards are a popular tool used for divination and self-reflection. The precise origins of tarot cards are unclear, but it is known that they were invented in Europe in the 15th century. In this essay, we will explore the history of tarot cards and examine the earliest known examples of this fascinating form of fortune-telling.


The Origins of Tarot Cards

When was tarot cards invented? This question has puzzled scholars and enthusiasts alike for centuries. Some say that tarot cards have their roots in ancient Egypt, while others believe that they were first used in medieval Europe. The truth is that the origins of tarot cards are shrouded in mystery, and it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact time and place of origin.

The Egyptian Connection

Some people speculate that tarot cards have their roots in ancient Egypt, where they were used for divination purposes. The Egyptians were known for their interest in spirituality and the afterlife, and they believed that the gods communicated with them through symbols and signs. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, for example, contains many symbols and images that are similar to those found on tarot cards.

The European Connection

Others believe that tarot cards originated in medieval Europe, where they were used for playing games. The first documented use of tarot cards for divination purposes dates back to the 18th century, when French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette published his book “Etteilla, ou l’art de lire dans les cartes” (Etteilla, or the Art of Reading Cards). Alliette claimed that he had discovered the true meaning of tarot cards, and that they could be used to predict the future.

The Evolution of Tarot Cards

Over time, tarot cards evolved from simple playing cards to complex divination tools. In the 19th century, French occultists like Eliphas Levi and Alphonse-Louis Constant (also known as Eliphas Levi) began to use tarot cards for magical purposes. They believed that each card had its own unique energy and symbolism, and that by reading the cards, they could tap into mystical forces and gain insight into the future.

Key Takeaway: Tarot cards have a rich history that is shrouded in mystery, and their meaning and purpose can vary depending on the context in which they are used. While tarot cards are often associated with divination and the occult, they are simply a tool for gaining insight and understanding, and anyone can learn to read them with practice and patience.

The Rider-Waite Deck

One of the most popular tarot decks today is the Rider-Waite deck, which was first published in 1909. The deck was created by British occultist Arthur Edward Waite and artist Pamela Colman Smith, and it features 78 cards with intricate designs and symbolism. The Rider-Waite deck is still widely used for divination purposes today, and it has inspired many other tarot decks over the years.

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Modern-Day Tarot

Today, tarot cards are more popular than ever before. They are used by people from all walks of life, from professional psychics to ordinary individuals who are curious about their future. Tarot cards have also become a popular subject for artists and writers, who use the cards as inspiration for their work.

The Meaning of Tarot Cards

So, what do tarot cards actually mean? Each card has its own unique symbolism and energy, and the meaning of the cards can vary depending on the context in which they are used. Generally speaking, tarot cards are used to gain insight into the future, to explore the inner workings of the psyche, and to tap into mystical forces.

Key takeaway: Tarot cards have a fascinating history shrouded in mystery, with debates about their origins ranging from ancient Egypt to medieval Europe. Today, they are used more than ever before for divination and gaining insight into the future, the inner workings of the psyche, and tapping into mystical forces. Tarot cards are not evil or demonic, cannot predict the future with 100% accuracy, and are accessible to anyone interested in learning about them through books, classes, and online resources.

The Major Arcana

The tarot deck is divided into two main sections: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, each of which represents a major life event or spiritual lesson. The cards in the Major Arcana are often associated with archetypes and universal themes, such as the Fool (representing new beginnings) and the Death card (representing transformation and change).

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The Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards, which are divided into four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. Each suit represents a different aspect of life: Wands represent creativity and passion, Cups represent emotions and relationships, Swords represent intellect and communication, and Pentacles represent material wealth and stability.

Debunking Common Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions about tarot cards, which can make it difficult for people to understand their true meaning and purpose. Here are some common misconceptions about tarot cards:

Tarot Cards are Evil

One of the most persistent myths about tarot cards is that they are evil or demonic. This misconception likely stems from the fact that tarot cards have been associated with the occult and with divination, which some people view as inherently evil or sinful. In reality, tarot cards are simply a tool for gaining insight and understanding, and they are neither good nor evil in and of themselves.

Tarot Cards Can Predict the Future

Another common misconception about tarot cards is that they can predict the future with 100% accuracy. While tarot cards can offer insights into the future and can help people make more informed decisions, they cannot predict the future with absolute certainty. The future is always in flux, and it is influenced by a wide range of factors, including personal choices and outside events.

Tarot Cards are Only for Psychics

Many people believe that tarot cards are only for professional psychics or spiritual gurus. In reality, anyone can learn to read tarot cards with practice and patience. There are many books, classes, and online resources available for people who are interested in learning more about tarot card reading.

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FAQs for When Tarot Cards Were Invented

What are tarot cards?

Tarot cards are a deck of 78 cards with symbolic images and meanings. The deck consists of 22 major arcana cards and 56 minor arcana cards, which are categorized into four suits – cups, swords, wands, and pentacles. Tarot cards are typically used for divination, spiritual guidance, and self-discovery.

When were tarot cards invented?

The exact origins of tarot cards are uncertain, but it is believed that they were invented in the 15th century in Italy. The earliest known tarot deck, the Visconti-Sforza deck, dates back to around 1450-1465. This deck was commissioned by the Duke of Milan and features beautiful hand-painted cards with motifs that reflect the Renaissance era.

What was the purpose of tarot cards when they were first created?

When tarot cards were first invented, they were primarily used for playing card games such as the Italian tarocchini, French tarot, and German tarock. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that tarot cards began to be used for divination and esoteric purposes.

How did tarot cards become associated with divination?

Tarot cards gained popularity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries among occultists and mystics who believed that the cards had a deeper spiritual significance beyond their use in card games. They began to use tarot cards as a tool for divination, and eventually developed elaborate systems and interpretations for the images on the cards.

Are tarot cards still used for divination today?

Yes, tarot cards are still widely used for divination and spiritual guidance today. Many people use tarot cards as a tool for self-discovery and introspection, or to gain insight into a particular situation or question. Professional tarot readers also offer readings to clients for a fee, and there are many books and resources available on the interpretation and use of tarot cards.

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