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A Brief History of Tarot

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

The Tarot is a language of images and divination, whisperer of images that open doors and windows for serious seekers of full, rich lives. It is a complex yet simple interpretation of the Journey into the Path of Evolution. It corresponds beautifully with the concept of the hero's and heroin's journey toward wholeness.

The Tarot is a mystery. Sometimes, it seems the deeper implications, symbols and wisdom of Tarot are lost, yet that is not so. The Tarot is ancient. We don't know it's exact origin, although it resurfaced in the 14th and 15th century in notable ways.

Tarot decks were used from at least the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play Italian, French and German games of chance. Even today, versions of these early decks are still used in Europe to play games of chance. Throughout time, Tarot has been connected to playing cards and thought of as a game, possibly to disguise the true virtue of its wisdom. Tarot has been recognized as a work of art; a secret document, and, as an historical treatise on the origins of human consciousness.

The complete Tarot deck consists of 78 cards. These include 22 Major Arcana Cards, 40 Minor Cards and 16 Court Cards. The 4 suits of the Tarot deck represent the elements: Air (Swords), Fire (Wands), Water (Cups), Earth (Pentacles).

Though a Spanish deck of cards from 1450 may have been the earliest Tarot deck used for divination, it is generally thought that, for the purposes of divination, Jean-Baptiste Alliette (Etteila) was the first to produce a Tarot deck in 1789. The deck’s themes related to the Gods, Goddesses and Familiars of ancient Egypt. The initiates of Egypt were said to master insight and consciousness in what was called The Hall of Mirrors. An Initiate would study and connect with particular deities and gods as a means to discover the implications of those characteristics within themselves. Today as well, the Tarot deck serves as a Hall of Mirrors for initiates. We discover liberation and awakening within the 22 cards that are known as the Major Arcana (The Greater Mysteries).

Aleister Crowley, who devised the Thoth deck with Lady Frieda Harris, said of the tarot: "The origin of this pack of cards is very obscure. Some authorities seek to put it back as far as the ancient Egyptian Mysteries; others try to bring it forward as late as the fifteenth or even the sixteenth century...[but] The only theory of ultimate interest about the Tarot is that it is an admirable symbolic picture of the Universe, based on the data of the Holy Qbalah."

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