Well, actually, it’s both! Tarot Card Reading was not the original use of these cards. Tarot began in Northern Italy in the late 14th to early 15th century, with the oldest known deck called the Visconti-Sforza. It was created for the family of the Duke of Milan about 1440. These were hand painted cards that were played in a game similar to the modern game of “Bridge”. In its early days, tarot decks were not mystical or magical at all, they were considered works of art. These early cards being hand-painted, meant there were not very many decks available. It was during the Italian wars that the printing press was invented, and now these cards could be mass produced.
How did Tarot Card Reading Come About?
The first known decks were known as Trionfi, which means “triumph cards” which were added to the four suit decks. In English they became what we know as “Trump” cards, and in later years as Tarochi or Tarock. These were playing card decks used across various parts of Europe during the mid 15th century to play card games such as the Italian Torocchini and the French Tarot, which are still played today.
It wasn’t until the middle of the 18th century that the cards transformed from a game into the mystical divination tool that we know today. Tarot Card Reading had spread from Italy to the rest of Europe, first into France and Switzerland during this time frame.
Decks began to be designed specifically for Tarot Card Reading and Cartomancy, which is the use of playing cards being used as a divination tool. There are many types of divination cards, not all are Tarot. But Tarot became the tool of the Occult. Divination using Tarot Cards really originated with the Pagans throughout Europe, and the Gypsies.
An interesting fact is that the English word Tarot or the German Tarock divided from the Italian word Tarocchi, which loosely meant foolishness throughout the 15th and early 16th century in Italy, and in more modern Italian, it is an adjective that means “fake” or “counterfeit”. Which is a curious name to give a game that turned into one of the most revered forms of divination around the world.
Tarot Card Reading by Pagans and the Occult
Etteilla’s Tarot in and around 1789, was the first tarot deck designed specifically for divination by the occult. Since the popular belief was that these cards were based on the Book of Thoth, this Tarot Deck was designed with ancient Egyptian themes. So here starts the “EGYPTIAN” connection, fascination and obsession.
The Romani are an ethnic group believed to stem from Northern India. They live throughout Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and even Australia. As they migrated, they were often stereotyped as dishonest individuals who work mainly as fortune tellers. These people had fairly dark skin compared to Europeans, so thy were often mistakenly thought to be from Egypt. They called them “Gypcians” the shortened Middle English “Egyptian or Egypcien” which eventually was shortened to “Gypsy”. The Romani went along with this labeling as to avoid persecution, especially during the times of the Holocaust, and the truth is, they were offended by this association.
Because of stereotyping and persecution, most Romani found the only work that they could do easily was fortune telling and psychic work. With this group of migratory gypsies ranging in population throughout Europe from 4 -14 million, it is no wonder that Tarot Card Reading became so popular.
It was not long after this time period that Pagans adopted the Tarot as one of their many means of divination. Go into any Occult Book Store or Witchy Shop and you will find a plethora of different Tarot Card Decks. From the classic Rider-Waite Tarot Deck; originally published in 1910, the go-by of design for most all subsequent divination decks – to Angel Tarot, Elf Tarot, Witch’s Tarot, Fairy Tarot, Celtic Tarot, Druid Tarot… the list goes on and on. If you have a favorite mythical beast or Medieval Cultic Religion, there is a Tarot Card Deck about them.
So if Tarot Card Reading was really a game then no one today believes in it, Right?
Wrong, the fact is, while more than 85% of Americans believe in God, Europe is becoming less religious and less Christian. With the worldwide spread growth moving more towards Islam, insures more of the world’s population will believe in the divine and supernatural. This, and the fact that the youth of America has started a Tarot Revival, ensures that this divination practice, (be it real or not) will be around for a very long foreseeable future. People around the world spend millions of dollars a year on divinations of one kind or another.
Why do so many people get Tarot Card Readings?
Tarot Card Readings are a brilliant way of gaining an unbiased additional perception of your life at the moment, or that of a specific circumstance. When ending on set way of life and starting a new phase; there are those that like to have a Tarot Card Reading near or on their birthday. Or perhaps prior a significant event, to give them a feeling of new beginnings and new hopes for success, love, prosperity and happiness.