In Ancient – Tarot History the Tarot makes its first appearance in 1440 in Italy, primarily as a game called “Visconti trumps”.
Ancient – Tarot history then jumps to the end part of the 15th century, when the cards re-appear as a tool for divination made in “France the Marseilles tarot”. This is when the trumps began to be more standardized, up until then the card players could opt to have certain cards from the 22 major arcana left out – this would normally be “Death, The Devil and The Tower” – as these cards are typically bleak in look.
It was the images of “Death, The Devil and The Tower” which led religious leaders to attempt to have the cards banned. A Franciscan friar in Italy somewhere between 1440 and 1470 was reported as claiming the cards had been made by the Devil; stating that those who play with the cards were to lose their souls to the Devil.
The cards then re-appear around 1781 – Antoine Court de Gébelin an Egyptian by birth claimed that the cards which were still typically known as trumps contained mystical knowledge.
Antoine Court de Gébelin claimed that the cards were the work of Thoth the Egyptian God of inspired written knowledge; it was really from this point on that the cards began to make an impact.
In 1770 a cartomancer named “Etteilla” – Jean-Baptiste Alliette published the first known divinatory meaning for the cards with only 32 cards and one for the querent in this edition. Etteillia (Jean-Baptiste Alliette) published several works that specifically involved the tarot trumps. It is believed that he recognised that the Tarot would jump in popularity as his later writings and the production of his first publicly available deck produced for cartomancy coincided with deGebelin’s claims that the cards were Egyptian occult knowledge.
Later in 1799 Rosetta Stone translated the hieroglyphs of the Egyptians and reported she believed that the cards were not of Egyptian decent. However this belief was not upheld, then in 1859 the notion was put forward that the wandering Romany people “Gypsies” that were believed to be descendants of the Egyptians had carried decks with them on their travels through Europe.
Later in the 19th century a well-known occultist Eliphas Lévi developed a connection between the tarot and the Kabbalah – the Hebrew system of mysticism. This then brought about a new belief that the cards must have originated from Israel and contained the wisdom of the tree of life. This new theory included all 78 cards but no description as to the actual meaning of the cards was put forward, however this would show that the tarot crossed many boundaries.
From this point the tarot has been linked to many mystical, religious and esoteric groups. The Tarot images include many archetypal images that cross linguistic, cultural, geographical, and temporal barriers.
During the 19th and 20th centuries the Tarot began to take on more clout courtesy of The Theosophical Society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Rosicrucians, the Church of Light, and the Builders of the Adytum. During the 1960’s across America people were becoming more interested in spirituality it was then the Tarot became more popular.
It was Arthur Edward Waite that commissioned artist Pamela Coleman Smith in 1910 to create what he called the “rectified” Tarot. Waite’s version has been widely accepted as the standard, and is by far the most popular deck of the century.
The rectified Tarot included major changes the minor arcana; Pamela Coleman Smith created images for these cards which helped to show the meaning of the card, this would make the cards more user friendly to the querent whom in most cases would not have come across Tarot cards before.
Smith’s influence in her images can be seen on many decks still today. Today there are many different tarot decks to choose from all depicting different images. This diversity of style gives the tarot reader the opportunity to choose a deck that is suitable to their individual personality/taste. However, this diversity of style does not mean that the Tarot meaning will alter. There are many meanings to each individual card and as life evolves so too does the Tarot.
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