Skip to main content

A Brief History of Tarot Cards

Wendy is a retired Registered Nurse who now researches and writes about nursing, tarot, meditation, energy healing, and spirit communication

Wondering how tarot cards came about? Read on!

Wondering how tarot cards came about? Read on!

Origins of Tarot cards

Though tarot cards are used extensively around the world today, the debate continues as to where the cards originated, who designed them, and just what was their original purpose.

Some believe that the first tarot cards were designed in Europe, as a card game played strictly by the royal households or the upper aristocracy. It is argued that this is the case because it was these folk that could afford to have such artistically created cards designed. Samples of earlier cards dating back to the 14th century have been found.

As the popularity of the cards (and the game) grew, many new decks were designed by those who chose to use them for divination purposes. How this came about, going from a game to divining, is uncertain.

Role of Mythology in Tarot cards

The first decks of playing cards were believed to be from the time of the crusades in Europe. Later designs occurred in Italy where the upper class developed a set of cards that included "trumps". The game was called Tarocchi.

In the 15th century, the addition of references to Greek gods in the cards helped shape their evolution into a tool for divination. A Duke from Milan, Italy, by the name of Fillippo Maria Visconti, had a set of cards designed with pictures depicting Greek gods, and suits that would represent the attributes of virginity, riches, virtues, and pleasures. Being a teacher of Astrology he also included references to this study in their design.

Today's Tarot decks continue to have references not only to mythology but also to astrology and numerology.

A Tool for Predicting the Future?

History tells us (and so do the Hollywood movies) that Gypsies who wandered through France and Europe used Tarot cards to tell the fortunes of people who were willing to pay for the information. It appears that they even re-designed the images on the cards to have more of a gypsy feel.

Whether you believe it was the gypsies who first used Tarot cards as a tool for divination or psychics, the real question is can the Tarot be used as a tool for predicting the future?

Certainly, when the designs of decks started to include references to mythology, numerology, and Astrology, their use changed. Those who understood the teachings of these areas of studies noticed how they correlated well to our own current life situations.

It is here where you must make your own decision as to whether you hold this belief. Though the Tarot is not a religion, nor a religious tool, the cards are seen by some to be the "devil's work". Others believe the cards to be a way of opening up communications between human beings and the divine entities who guide our lives.

Do you believe it?

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


threekeys on April 11, 2016:

Good read.

One part of the Tarot History I enjoyed reading about was that the Tarot Cards were used to write pieces of Poetry.