Although the use of tarot cards, in modern society, is mostly seen as a form of divination, the cards were originally used to play a new type of game very similar to bridge. The game became known as the ‘Game of Triumphs’ and was especially popular amongst the upper classes of society.
There are a few theories as to where the word Tarot originates from. It is believed that tarot cards were created between 1430 and 1450 in northern Italy, originally being called ‘trionfi’. The French translation of the game was called ‘jeu de tarot’, although this translation is from when the card game was known as ‘tarocchi’ or ‘tarock’. There is also a theory that the name tarot comes from the Taro river, which flows almost exclusively in the province of Palma, in northern Italy.
It is believed that the first tarot cards were created in either the northern Italian cities of Ferrara, Bologna or Milan. The tarot card game was created when additional trump cards with allegorical illustrations were added to the common four-suit pack. These new decks were originally called ‘carte da trionfi’ (triumph cards), and the additional cards known simply as ‘trionfi’ (trumps). The first literary evidence of the existence of carte da trionfi was via a written statement found in court records in Ferrara, in 1442. The oldest surviving tarot cards are from fifteen fragmented decks painted in the mid 15th century for the Visconti-Sforza family, the rulers of Milan.
Traditionally, there are 78 cards in a tarot card deck, which is separated into two parts: the ‘Major Arcana’ and ‘Minor Arcana’. The 22 Major Arcana Cards symbolise the universal patterns of human nature. The 56 Minor Arcana cards on the other hand is further divided into 4 suits: Pentacles, Cups, Swords & Wands. They represent the energy, emotions and activities of our daily lives. The extra 22 Major Arcana Cards did not belong to any suit and their artwork included symbolic pictures and characters such as the Emperor, The Wheel of Fortune, Death, the Devil, and the Moon.
One of the earliest and most influential practitioners of tarot was the French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette (1738-1791), who assigned divinatory meanings to each card for upright and reverse orientations, as well as spreads.
Can tarot cards foresee the future?
Tarot cards can predict the future, but they can only give you a brief look into it. If you incorporate the knowledge you can learn from the cards, along with your own common sense, you’ll gain the ability to produce very precise readings. Tarot cards will only allow you to foresee the future if you are capable enough to decipher their meanings.
If the tarot cards have a large enough spread then the user can gain an insight into their futures, although what they see is completely up to them. Read tarot cards as if you were seeking the advice of a wise friend.
Tarot cards will mostly give you an insight into the here-and-now. It can help you see aspects of a situation that have been invisible to your ego. Tarot is a form of meditation on the present moment that returns insight and advice. Although it can reflect future probabilities, it is not a form of fortune-telling.
How do tarot cards work?
There are 78 cards in a modern tarot deck, with each of them having a specific meaning relating to a particular part of a person’s life. For a reading, the cards have to be shuffled and then laid out in a ‘spread’. The spread is a pattern where each card will represent a particular aspect of life. The reader can look at how the meaning of a card corresponds to the position it’s in, and then inform the client as to what the cards appear to be saying about their present situation, and their possible future possibilities.
There are so many possible outcomes, tarot readers can spend decades mastering the meanings of all the cards in all the different combinations. Tarot cards can tap into the conscious, subconscious and super conscious mind, which are at the centre of a person’s abilities.
Should I fear tarot cards?
Many people are fascinated by what tarot cards might reveal, but equally, there are many people who are scared by them. Some people see tarot cards as a form of black magic which they certainly are not. Three cards have achieved notoriety: The Hanged Man, Death, and The Devil. These are the most well known cards, for the wrong reasons, thanks mainly to the media.
Tarot cards are simply a way of allowing people to gain insight and control over issues involving relationships, health, and opportunities. They can allow the right people to change their lives for the better.