An Attempt to Explain the History of Tarot Cards
A carnival or fair draws you and your friends to enjoy the rides and the games in it. At one particular moment, you spot an ominous looking tent which reads “Madame Gloria’s Predictions.” Wondering what the future holds for you, you step in and ask the huge lady in a gypsy costume to foretell your destiny.
She asks you to sit down across a red felt-draped table while she shuffles and lays down cards. Upon closer look, you notice that the cards are not just your regular playing cards. Some have figures and other items imposed on a background that resembles some medieval tapestry. What you are looking at are tarot cards.
Tarot cards come in a set comprising twenty-one trump cards, a card called a fool, and an extra face card. This is in addition to the usual suit of fifty-six cards. Tarot cards are popular and played throughout Europe.
In America and other English-speaking countries, the usage of tarot cards in games is not popular. However, due to the art, the enigmatic depiction of figures, and the mysterious-sounding names of the figures depicted in tarot cards, they are often used for divinatory purposes. In this case, the diviner interprets someone else’s future through the arrangement and revelation of twenty-two major arcane cards and fifty-six minor arcane.
How did the tarot cards start out? Most historians believe that the emergence of tarots started out in the late fourteenth century with the Mamelukes of Egypt, with card suits of Scimitars, Polo Sticks, Cups, and Coins. These old designs were altered and modified to develop into the basic Latin suits of Swords, Staves, Cups, and Coins. These were also known as disks or pentacles. These suits are still used in traditional Spanish and Italian packs.
Most evidence shows that the first tarot cards were made between 1410 and 1430 either in Milan, Ferrara, or Bologna in northern Italy. Trump cards with symbolic drawings were added to the four-suit decks that existed beforehand. The new set of decks (the original suit and the additional trump cards) was called carte da trionfi or triumph cards. Later, they were known as tarots.
The usage of tarot cards being used for divination was lost to history. There was no recorded documentation that existed prior to the eighteenth century. The closest thing that one can get to this usage of cards for divination was documented in 1540. The document came in form of a book titled The Oracles of Francesco Marcolino da Forli.
Later, Antoine Court de Gebelin produced a exploratory history and a detailed system using tarot cards for divination. Since its publication, explanations have been speculated for the origin of tarot cards although most are doubtful in authenticity.
Perhaps, the origin of tarot cards was not meant to be known. In any way, the mystery and magic of a set’s clairvoyance and divination properties make it a popular medium to sneak a view of one’s future.