A tale of the Tarot
The beginning of the Tarot is surrounded by myth and lore. It is tough to discern fact from fiction. The Tarot origin is thought to come from places like India, Egypt, China, and Morocco. Others suggest the Tarot was from the Sufis or the Jewish Cabbalists. Still, others believe the origin of the tarot was from Moses.
In the library of Alexandria, in Egypt, there were scrolls that were based on the Book of Thoth, an ancient book that came from Egypt’s mystery schools. One theory is that the illustrations on the Tarot cards are secret teachings of the Book of Thoth hidden in the innocent pictures.
It seems that wherever there is a secret tradition handed down from teacher to pupil to a select few, then that secret tradition was considered the origin or beginning of the Tarot. Many people believed it was the Gypsies who brought the tarot to Europe, the word gypsy is a corrupted version of Egyptian. It is highly unlikely since the gypsies did not begin using the Tarot until the 20th century. Before that, palmistry was their preferred method of fortune-telling.
The Historical Evidence Behind the Origins of the Tarot
It appears the only evidence there is to the origins of the Tarot can be found in the cards that were made in Italy, around 1420. The symbolism can be found in the European art of the time, with some drawings being exactly the likeness of those found on Tarot cards.
Scrying back through time we can see that a scholar named Marziano da Torona, who was a scholar and an expert astrologer and secretary to the Duke of Milan and may have created the first Tarot deck. Believed to be the Visconti-Sforza deck which is used collectively to refer to incomplete sets of approximately 16 decks.
The duke, Filippo Maria Visconti ordered Marziano to create a game, using a deck that replaced the common suits of swords, coins, staves, and cups. The duke wanted the cards to represent virtues, riches, pleasures, and purities. Marziano went on to create the card deck that Visconti wanted.
He wrote a companion book to go with the cards. In the book, there are no divine meanings to the cards, and no real rules for a card game, either. The book focuses on the symbolic meaning of the pictures and the different ranks of the depicted characters. Michelino da Besozzo is the Italian artist credited with painting the cards.
Is it feasible that the origins of the Tarot are the curious card game invented by Marziano da Torona? If so, why isn’t the divination meaning of the cards referred to in the companion book?
The Mystery Continues About The Origins of the Tarot
Where has the word Tarot come from? It has been called a Hebrew, Latin or Egyptian word. Is the word Tarot really an anagram, which when solved explains the mystery of the cards? Once again, the historical evidence of the origins of the word points to where the cards first appeared – in Italy. The cards were called Carte da trionfi, which is Italian for “cards of the triumphs”. Later, a new card game was introduced, called Trumps or Triumphs. As it was played with different cards, the original Carte da trionfi became tarocco. In French, they were called tarot.
What are these cards that are cloaked in mysterious origins used for? Are they good or evil? The Tarot is basically a set of symbols, which are printed on a pack of 78 cards. Normal playing cards have hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds as suits. Tarot cards have different suits, with meanings. The Wands (also known as staves or rods) point to creativity and energy. There are the Cups (or vessels), relating to emotions and friends; Swords cover the area of challenge and thought; the Pentacles (coins or disks) relate to money and security. A Tarot reader uses the cards as an oracle that can answer questions from the past, present or future.
The philosophy behind the Tarot is that the future is subject to change. If you are given enough notice, you can avoid the event you are being warned about. The Tarot makes you think, make you take steps that you might not have considered. When you ask a question of the Tarot that relates to the future, you’ll be shown what will happen if you don’t change anything. Many consider the Tarot cards as more of a counseling guide than a divining tool. Tarot readings can provide flashes of inspiration where otherwise the problems the person may be facing may seem insurmountable.
Do the cards that are used today, come from the deck Marziano da Torona created in the 1400’s? Is the reason the origins of the Tarot are so shrouded in mystery owing to Anima Mundi? The Anima Mundi or soul of the world is seen as the vital force that presides over the growth and continuity of all living things.
Like a Universal library, it contains the entire human races’ memories and wisdom from the past, present and future. It can be summoned with deep thought. Imagine all the basic figures one could find in all religions, myths, legends, and folklore. When combined, this wealth of knowledge is a powerhouse.
To understand this more one can look at the Empress card of the Tarot. The very essence of femininity is represented in the Empress – she is the great mother Goddess of the world. She represents ‘the eternal feminine’, in myth and psychology. Does working with the images of the Tarot somehow allow our unconscious to connect with the collective consciousness? Does the Tarot become a porthole to the storehouse of answers to any question any of us has ever had? Perhaps it is because of the mystical Anima Mundi that we can’t pinpoint the origin of the Tarot with certainty.
The true origin of the tarot may never be truly known. Regardless of its origin the Tarot is a powerful tool to gain incite into your past present and future.