Brief History Of Tarot Cards

There are many different theories of where Tarot Cards first originated. Some Occultists claim they date back to Egypt; others say to a secret cult in North Africa from the 13th Century. There are even claims that the cards originated from Atlantis; also China, India and Persia. Playing cards were used in India and Africa, but it is doubtful that they were used as Tarot Cards, as these countries have no direct influence on the Tarot.

What is definitely known is that the cards surfaced in Italy in the 14th Century, and were mainly used in a gambling game called Tarrochi. Modern 78 card decks are based on the Venetian Tarot.
There are many and varied opinions of how the cards worked, the main theory linking the Hebrew mystical symbol of the Cabala, which has strongly influenced the way the way the cards are understood and used today.

In 1888 an Esoteric Society was founded called "The Order of the Golden Dawn". A number of famous people of the time were members, including Bram Stoker and W.B Yeats. According to The Order of the Golden Dawn Society, the Tarot Cards were the key to all other forms of Divination.
Two of the Society's most famous members were A.E Waite and Pamela Colman-Smith, who together designed the famous Rider-Waite pack in 1910. These cards and the accompanying book have been one of the strongests influences and most packs are based on the symbolism in their design today.
The pack on which the Rider Waite Tarot was based, were designed for the powerful Italian Visconti family in Milan. Seventy Four of the original cards are still held in a museum there. The Visconti family crest is rather gruesome, it depicts a serpant coming down from the hill above the village and taking a child away in its mouth - it is still used today on the Alfa Romeo car badges. This tale probably helped to create some of the fear and superstition linked to the Tarot.

Another strong influence of the Tarot, and someone who helped to create a lot of superstition associated with the cards, was Aleister Crowley. His most famous publication, "The Book of Thoth", made a marked impression on peoples opinions. Because Crowley practised Black Magic and was by all accounts quite a sinister man, he bred fear into many people. "The Crowley Pack" still stirs up mixed reactions.

Considering how long they have been in use, the Tarot Cards have adapted very well to the changing times and are still a very helpful tool for Divination.


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