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Origin of Tarot

Various contradicting suggestions have been given to explain the original meaning of the word Tarot. They range from old Egyptian origin to a card maker from the French village Taraux who may have produced the original Tarot cards. The true remains an enigma.

Other suggestions:

The History of Tarot

The origins of Tarot are somewhat obscure, the most common theories go to ancient Egypt and Thoth and the connection to the ancient mystery school teachings. There is a common myth that Tarot was brought to Europe by the Gypsies.

Some believe that a form of Tarot goes back to ancient China. We believe that all ancient civilizations developed their own systems of divination based on the same symbolism and archetypes.

Tarot as we know it today is a collection of images and symbols from a wide variety of cultures, from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the prehistoric Norse peoples, from the ancient religions of India and Egypt to the medieval courts of Italy and France.

The first clear reference that we have to Tarot cards is from a sermon that was collected with many others about 1500 in Italy found in the Steele Manuscript. The sermon is thought to date from about 1450 to 1470 and is a diatribe against games of chance. It gives a detailed description of the Tarot trumps, not only numbering them but naming them as well.

As early as 1540, a book entitled The Oracles of Francesco Marcolino da Forli shows a simple method of divining from the coin suit of a regular playing card deck.

Manuscripts from 1735 (The Square of Sevens) and 1750 (Pratesi Cartomancer) show rudimentary divinatory meanings for the cards of the tarot, as well as a system for laying out the cards.

In 1765, Giacomo Casanova wrote in his diary that his Russian mistress frequently used a deck of playing cards for divination.

In 1781 Antoine Court de Gebelin wrote a speculative history and a detailed system for using the tarot to foretell the future. From Gebelin's time forward, various explanations have been given for the origins of tarot, most of them of doubtful veracity. There is no evidence for any tarot cards prior to the hand-painted ones that were used by Italian nobles, but some esoteric schools believe its origins could be in Ancient Egypt, Ancient India or even the lost continent of Atlantis. Gebelin, a French linguist, cleric, occultist, Mason, member of the Lodge of the Philalethes, and author of the nine-volume work Le Monde Primitif - was convinced of the mystical significance of the Tarot and fond of Egyptian lore. He believed the cards' birth place was ancient Egypt, where they served as tools of initiation into the priesthood. For Gebelin, the Tarot's Major Arcana was the Book of Thoth, a synthesis of all knowledge once held in hieroglyphic form in burned Egyptian temples and libraries. He claimed that it had escaped the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. At the time he was writing this, the skill of reading hieroglyphics had been lost for almost 1200 years and there existed the widely held belief that they were magical symbols concealing the lost knowledge of antiquity. Gebelin saw the Tarot as a contemporarily available pictorial embodiment of this occult wisdom, a tangible link with the past.

A French man, (erroneously believed by some to have been a barber, he merely had lodgings above a barbers shop) named Alliette, writing under the pseudonym Etteilla (his name spelled backwards), followed de Gebelin's lead and revised the Tarot to comply with his own idiosyncratic idea of Egyptian mysticism. His Tarot has had less influence upon subsequent designs than have his ideas.

Tarot Moves into the Modern Age

 9    Modern Tarot
 1    Tarot Decks
 2    Esoteric Tarot
 3    Tarot Divination
 4    Major Arcana
 5    Minor Arcana
 6    Tarot
 0    Home

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