I have a couple of friends who are interested in tarot cards, so I decided to check out the history.
- There are historical references to tarot cards, mostly from Italy, from the 15th century.
- Playing cards came to Europe from Islamic regions.
- Originally these were playing cards, used to play a game like bridge. (Which made me wonder if anyone still plays bridge, leading to a research detour where I learned that there are a whole lot of bridge clubs throughout the U.S.)
- Technology being what it was in the 15th century, the cards were not mass produced. Each card was individually hand-painted, meaning that only the wealthiest could afford them.
- The images on the cards varied by region.
- The games played with these cards were not only for fun, but also for gambling.
- The oldest surviving cards are from 15 decks painted in the 15th century for the Duke of Milan.
- They weren’t used for divination until the late 18th century.
- Using tarot cards for divination increased during the Victorian Age, as did other practices associated with spiritualism and the occult.
- The most common tarot deck in the English-speaking world since its release in 1910 is known as the Rider deck (or Rider-Waite deck, or Rider-Waite-Smith deck). I don’t tarot, but even I recognize these cards and their distinctive yellow box.
- Even if you don’t tarot, you may know about the tower card. This card represents a sudden, dramatic upheaval, which is not generally pleasant or wanted, even if it ultimately leads to good. So if someone goes through life events that are awful and life-changing, they may say that they’ve been “towered”.
- I love some of the artwork on modern tarot decks. The artists are working within a thematic framework, but they have freedom within that structure. I’ve seen decks based on Vikings, vampires, fairies, angels, pirates, ghosts, steampunk, voodoo, and of course, cats. I even saw a tarot deck that you can color, just like those adult coloring books that are all the rage.
Feel free to share. Do you tarot?