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Tarot cards have a long and interesting history, and a host of interpretations and theories on the origins and meanings of the cards. It takes an expert in the field, backed by years of experience, to correctly interpret Tarot cards, and give meaningful trends and predictions.  Our experts will give you a free tarot reading - three minutes free, don't pay until you are ready! You have nothing to lose, decide for yourself if a meaningful  Tarot connection is being made...pick your Tarot advisor from the column on the right, then click the "Contact Live" button to get your free Tarot reading now!!

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Tarot Through the Ages

Tarot cards, in the images we are most familiar with today, evolved from a kind of table game played in 15th century Italy, becaming popular throughout Europe over the next four centuries.

To fully explore the history of Tarot, you can read the expansive book by Michael Dummet, "The Game of Tarot: From Ferrara to Salt Lake City" (Duckworth, 1980). Dummet, a British philosopher of high regard, is the author of many books on the Tarot. His scholarship on Tarot is extensive, and provides much of the research available on the origins of the Tarot deck and its variations.

Tarot originally would have been a pastime of the leisure class, those with the time and money to spend on games. Certainly at that time the cards were handmade and illustrated by artists, and each set would vary with the individual artist’s representation of the card’s images. Especially from the 15th to the 18th centuries in Europe, variations of Tarot games were wildly popular, enjoyed by people of some wealth and intellect, very much like chess or bridge. Through the 1700’s Tarot was an absolute craze across the entire continent.

There are several Tarot decks that have come to represent a familiar iconography, each with their own history, interpretation and devotees. The 15th Century Italian Visconti-Sforza deck is probably the earliest surviving deck of this era, with original cards in the collections of several museums around the world. These beautiful, artistic images are reproduced frequently.

A 19th century version from the south of France, known as the Tarot de Marseille, is a very popular deck in Europe.

In the United States, the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck is the most commonly used today. It was conceived by the well-known Tarot authority A. E. Waite, and published in 1902 by the Ryder Co. The simplified graphic style of this deck retains the historic symbolism of earlier decks, but seems fresh and accessible to modern sensibilities.

Other Tarot scholars are convinced that Tarot has its roots in an even earlier time. They see relationships to the Kabbalah, or to Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Cards, for games or prophesy, were used in China centuries before they found their way to Europe in the 14th Century, and may have been the original incarnation of the Tarot.

It may be more likely that the Tarot was brought to Europe through card games that were popular in the old world Arabia. In 18th Century France, Antoine Court de Gebelin, promoted the concept that the Tarot was derived from mystic practices in Ancient Egypt, which he described in his multi-volumed work, Le Monde Primitif. Another Frenchman, Etteillla, is considered to be the first to recreate the Tarot as a “fortune-telling” device. He is essentially the first Tarot reader. Reproductions of his Book of Thoth Tarot and other publications by Etteilla are still available today.

Tarot reading emerged as a new construct during the Victorian Age’s embrace of spiritualism and the occult, setting the foundation for what would become the New Age school of thought on Tarot that we know today.

There is extensive scholarship and research available on the history of the Tarot, whether from on-line sources or in libraries, for anyone who is interested in exploring the subject. For most of us, though, the history is not as compelling as the question of how the Tarot is meaningful in our lives now.



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