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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.