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The FoolThe origin of the Tarot cards is obscure, but many believe they were developed in 15th century Italy. Even though references to card playing traces back to 1377, the earliest mention of any cards resembling today's Tarot deck dates back to 1440. The Visconti Sforza Tarocchi is the oldest known Tarot card deck hand-painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Visconti and Sforza families, who ruled Milan at this time. They were not originally used to make predictions, but rather to entertain the nobles.

 

The MagicianIn the late 15th century, the cards appeared in France. Three new cards were added to the original deck, The Devil, The Tower, and Death. These new cards were controversial, since many nobles found them offensive. The Church was convinced that the tarocchi was evil and was undoubtedly created by the Devil. These apprehensions led to further convictions that if the cards were played with, they would cost the players their souls.


The PriestessAfter almost three centuries of mere absence, the cards reappeared in the late 1700's, but with a different purpose. The cards were used for divination, which is the art of foretelling future events with the help of some supernatural force. Antoine Court de Gebelin was one of the many believers who claimed that the cards were of Egyptian decent, but this theory was not new. For hundreds of years, people believed the cards to have some ancient origin due to the use of symbols, the predecessors to words.


The EmpressIn 1770, Jean-Baptiste Alliette or Etteilla was the first to write about the underlying meanings of cards in general. Later he wrote about Tarot cards specifically, including with the text a deck of cards created for the common person.

 


The EmperorThe popular belief that Tarot cards originated in Egypt continued until the late 1850's. It was at this time that gypsies, who were said to be Roman descendants of Egypt, were known to carry Tarot cards with them while they traveled throughout Europe. Another belief was that Tarot was related to the Hebrew system of mysticism.

 

Today all kinds of people have their cards read, even though some still react negatively at the mention of Tarot. It is more accepted now than it has been in the past perhaps because of the media. Tarot card readers advertise readings on the radio, Internet, and television. The use of Tarot cards across cultures and over time has confirmed the universality of their symbols and their meanings.

 

 
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