Tarot History

A Short History of Tarot

In Learn Tarotby David HarveyLeave a Comment

A Short History of Tarot


I’m so thrilled to introduce you to a guest writer in this blog post.  James is a writer, blogger and tarot enthusiast from www.numerologysign.com has been very kind and written a really interesting piece about the history of Tarot.

I know that lots of you have an interest in numerology. He has a really great introductory post that shows you how to calculate your life path number! You can read that here.

Ok – back to Tarot.  Enjoy this ride through the tarot ages….

A short history of Tarot

The history of the Tarot is a mystery since its origin hasn’t been 100% verified, its divinatory and predictive use is one of the most interesting functions of a deck of cards. Composed by enigmatic figures, their combinations have aroused human curiosity since ancient times.

Medieval Times:
The most accepted versions say that the tarot cards first decks dates back to the thirteenth century when the merchants of the Mediterranean traveled the extensive Silk Road through China, Persia, and Africa, bringing among their belongings the Mamluk, an Islamic set of cards organized in four suits, and the first deck of cards known in the West.

During the fifteenth century, Europeans develop a fifth suit: the Trumps. Cards with drawings and a superior range of those of the ordinary suits. His figures were almost the same as the 22 Trumps we have currently known as the 22 major arcana.

With the incorporation of the trumps, a new game was born called Tarocco or Tarocchi in Italy, Tarock in Germany and Tarot in France. The first complete deck known is the luxurious Tarot of Visconti-Sforza, handmade around the s. XV commissioned by the Duke of Milan, where most of the emblematic figures such as The Empress, The Hanged Man or The Magician appear in the Major Arcana. The only ones missing are The Tower of Destruction and The Devil. It’s believed they could get lost in time or haven’t entered the deck design yet.

At the beginning of the 20th century, in excavations made in a well of the Sforza Castle in Milan, letters from the 15th century were found with the typical Marseille Tarot design. This reinforced the old theory that the Tarot, the first, was born in Marseille.

The Tarot Trumps, analyzed by Jung and other experts in symbolic analysis, reveals the path of a hero who goes through several stages of personal discovery. From love to basic instincts through the construction of an ability to forgive, a personality of his own and a sense of justice, accepting the inevitable death and understanding he’s the builder of his destiny.

This symbolic story told in Tarot Cards Major Trumps, is a road to self-discovery and divination. The arcane shows the possibilities and ways of action to take against life obstacles, by the unconscious awakening through the symbols on each card.

The Tarot cards have symbols of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions, preserving the ancestral knowledge and the sacred secrets of humanity. Inserting them into a playful mechanism: gambling cards, this knowledge was hidden at plain sight for hundreds of years.

In Paris, during the eighteenth century, sects and secret lodges like Freemasonry proliferated. Thus, the fascinating language of cards gave rise to new interpretations. Some argued that Tarot’s origin was Egyptian. Direct analogies flourished between Tarot and Kabbalah, or Tarot and Astrology.

Later in the twentieth century, some of the best-known decks were developed by Aleister Crawley and Rider-Waite, both members of the Golden Dawn Order. Its use for divination became massive and reached almost every corner of the world. Also, psychology, anthropology, and history found research material in their decks.

The Age of Aquarius:
In the 1960s, the Tarot had its revival thanks to the Hippie culture, and since then its images and symbols are still interpreted under infinite optics. They were drawn by the Argentine master Xul Solar, in the 50s and Salvador Dali in the 70s. Today there is a countless number of illustrations: of animals, flowers, druids, angels; also erotic and even abstract. In each version, the authors put much of their own vision in favor of the symbolic interpretation.
Discussions about the validity of one or another representation are still in dispute, but the differences do nothing but confirm the tremendous strength that these drawings, a gift of wise and enlightened, continues to exercise on us as an amulet to face with courage and beauty the enormous challenge of living.

The way of the hero:
Beyond religions, encrypted secrets and their origin, a Tarot reading can unveil many of our mysteries. Composed of 22 major arcana – Arcane is a word that derives from the Latin: Arcanum and its meaning is: very reserved secret or mystery tough to know- arranged from left to right, they present a regular order given by the numbers each one offers in its design. This spread of cards represents the path to achieve consciousness, the soul integration and the awareness of our most hidden secrets.

In a reading, the fool, the Arcanum zero, represents total freedom, the creative energy in its purest state, the primal chaos from which the known order will later emerge. On a mundane level, this card can represent madness, a difficult stage of life, but also a starting point.

Although the 22 major arcana and their enormous symbolic force are undoubtedly protagonists, they go along with 56 minor arcana, which expand the gaze on love, ideas, material and creative forces, completing the generous Tarot’s wisdom on specific everyday life issues. The ultimate goal is to see ourselves as part of a whole.
Each hero story will be modified as we go deeper into its arcane message. These are keys that will open the doors of perception. A card extracted alone will provide a strong message, but it doesn’t acquire its full meaning until it vibrates in the company of other cards establishing communication with what has been and what will be. It is based on the scenes represented by the arcana, that the tarot reader can spin a story that turned the consultant into the protagonist character.

Either you want to achieve enlightenment or just looking for a quick answer, to re-evaluate your past, accept the present or predict the future, the fascination of man for this enigmatic centennial practice will never go out of style.

Huge thanks to James for his insights.  If you are interested in writing for the Tarot Avenue blog, please check out our guidelines here.

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