A Brief History Of Tarot (Or Lack There Of It)

“The Tarot’s story is your story. Savor it. When you have finished reading it – you will be someone else.” ~ Lon Milo DonQuette

A Brief History Of Tarot (Or Lack There Of It)

Due to the nature of history, that is anything written rather than verbal hearsay, the creation of tarot has an unknown date. Students of tarot history can, however, make an educated guess that their initial creation was some time between the invention of paper and the first time the cards were mentioned in known recorded history – 1378 Regensburg, where the cards were banned. 

As far as physical cards, in southern Germany a 15th century woodblock collection was found that would have been used in printing production of tarot decks. Another piece of tarot history is a hand-painted deck owned by the Duke of Milan in 1415.

Outside of the alchemical, zodiac, and other mystical symbols, there was very little evidence that the cards were originally used in fortune-telling. Most historical documents mentioning tarot initially were regards to a gambling game of the same name that was similar to modern-day bridge. 

Today, tarot is defined as a system of divination and fortune-telling based on allegorical images and symbols on a 78 card deck. 

Decks and Variances

A tarot deck is made up of 78 cards, 28 of which are trump cards called the Major Arcana and 4 suits of cards that correspond to the 4 elements, 4 tools of Wicca, and 4 directions. These 4 suites correspond to modern-day playing cards with the exemption of 1 face card in each suit. These playing cards can be used like tarot in divination and have been by many gypsy fortune-tellers. 

Another variation of tarot is the oracle deck. Like tarot, oracle decks are made up of cards with symbolic images, however, unlike tarot there is now set rules on how many cards there need be or what needs to be on them. Oracle cards are created by artists from divine inspiration or intuition. They can be used for divination and fortune telling in the same manner as tarot cards, though certain spreads requiring all 78 cards cannot of course be created with an oracle deck. 

When it comes to decks of tarot, even though the rules dictating the number of cards and what images are necessary, tarot artists have still found ways to transform the cards into individual creations and made their own interpretations and voices heard in each new deck created. I personally have 10 tarot decks and each one has its own feel and depiction of each and every image so much so that it is hard to believe they are essentially the same deck and read the same way until one gets down to an actual reading of the cards. 

Reading the Cards

When looking to tarot cards for divination, fortune telling, meditation, etc. the reader needs to have some understanding of what each card represents and how they are interpreted. This understanding can take years to obtain. I learned tarot from an employer of mine over a year under her mentorship and tutelage. 

Beyond knowing what each card means, the reader needs to know how to lay them down so as to understand what message comes from their higher self or divinity. This is where tarot spreads come into play. When the cards are laid out in a certain, predetermined order, a message is relayed. Spreads can be as small as 2 cards to as large as using all 78 cards. Common spreads are a 3 card past, present, and future reading and the 10 card Celtic Cross spread. 

Witch School first Degree by Rev. Don Lewis
Tarot Journaling by Corrine Kenner

Interested in a Tarot Reading?