The derivation of Tarot is well documented however there are many differing stories. One of the most popular versions is that Tarot as we know it was developed in the Middle Ages, in Italy, originally known as ‘trionfi’ and later on ‘tarocchi’. The oldest surviving Tarot cards are three early to mid 15th century sets made for the Visconti family, rulers of Milan. Tarot cards were used only by the upper classes and were exempt from laws which banned the use of regular playing cards at that time!
The earliest Tarot cards were hand painted, but following the invention of the printing press mass production became possible. Tarot became increasingly popular as a game and this remained the case until about 1700. By this time Tarot was popular all over Europe and in 1718 the earliest Marseilles Tarot was produced. The difference now was that the esoteric function of Tarot was acknowledged and instructions for the ‘game’ had been dropped. In the late 18th Century it was claimed that the roots of Tarot lay in Egyptian Wisdom and also that the 22 Trumps (Major Arcana) corresponded to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This fueled a French occult revival and in 1888 two magical orders were formed, the Cabalistic Order of the Rosy Cross in France and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England. The Golden Dawn gave rise to several Tarot versions and A.E.Waite then founded the fellowship of the True Rosy Cross and devised the Rider-Waite deck that remains one of most popular decks used today. Aleister Crowley was also a member of this group and he produced the Book of Thoth and devised the Thoth cards.
Carl Jung attached much importance to the symbolism of Tarot, believing that the cards represented archetypes i.e. fundamental types of persons or situations which were embedded in the collective consciousness of the universe. The seven archetypes are the self, the feminine, the masculine, the hero, adversity, death/rebirth and the journey.
There is every imaginable type of Tarot card deck available today – proprietary types such as Shapeshifters, Mythic Tarot, the Connolly Deck and also numerous decks based on animals, totems, faeries and so on. And of course the Rider-Waite deck.
However the principle is the same; Tarot provides a tool for both developing intuition and is also used for divination or fortune telling, which is the most popular view.
The story that unfolds when doing a reading will provide insight into what has happened in the past and what is happening now for the sitter and also insights into where the sitter is heading.
There are many myths about Tarot, for example you must not buy your own deck i.e. it should be a gift, this is not true and nothing untoward will happen when you buy a deck for yourself!
The Death, Devil and Tower cards are bad luck, again this is not necessarily true, it depends on the cards which surround them in the spread. Death is about clearing out the old to make way for the new i.e. rebirth. The Devil is about man made limitations (or passion, depending on the spread!!) and the Tower card is about change, things as you know them changing completely and probably dramatically.
Finally that you have to learn each card verbatim. Each card
is constructed from a collection of symbols – this derives
the meaning of the card within the reading. Start by working
with the symbols directly through reason and indirectly through
intuition. Once you have ‘got to know’ your Tarot
deck you will find that with practice, your intuition will take
over and you will be able to give the sitter a meaningful reading.