ART + CULTURE

TAROT: FROM PARLOR CARDS INTO MEANS OF DIVINATION — PART 1

A brief history of Ancient Tarot.

19.01.2022
BY JACKSON KEEFE
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The Tarot is one of the most popular forms of divination in the world today. Since it's not as simple as other methods, it has been drawing people into its spell. There are hundreds of different designs and styles of Tarot cards, and it's not just for the faint of heart.

Although the methods of reading Tarot have changed over the years, the cards themselves have not changed much. In this section, you will take a look at some of the early decks.

French & Italian Tarot

 
 
 
 
 
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The ancestor of the modern Tarot goes way back. The first playing cards that were used for games were created by European artists around the 14th century. They featured four different suits, similar to what people use today. After a decade or two, Italian artists started painting additional cards.

Members of the nobility would often commission artists to create their own triumph cards, which featured family members and friends. The Visconti family of Milan had some sets made by artists, and the cards still exist today.

Because not all people could afford to hire a professional painter to create a set of playing cards, only a privileged few could own them. Mass production only started when the printing press came along.

In Italy and France, the original purpose of the Tarot was to be a parlor game. During the 16th and 17th centuries, it began to become famous as a way to read the Tarot. By the eighteenth century, people began to assign specific meanings to the cards.

Tarot and the Kabbalah

 
 
 
 
 
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In 1781, French Freemason Antoine Court de Gebelin wrote a complex analysis of the Tarot, which revealed that its symbolism was derived from the ancient secrets of Egyptian priests. He went on to explain that the knowledge of these priests was secretly passed to the Vatican and the Catholic Church to keep it from becoming known.

Unfortunately, there was no evidence supporting de Gebelin's work. Despite this, wealthy Europeans continued to believe in the mysterious nature of the Tarot, and playing cards based on his analysis started being made.

In 1792, a French occultist named Jean-Baptiste Alliette released the first deck that was designed for divination. A few years earlier, he had written a book on how to use the Tarot in response to de Gebelin's work.

As the interest in the Tarot grew, it became associated with the Kabbalah and spiritualism. During the Victorian era, it was becoming more common for upper-class families to host a séance.

 

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