The History of Tarot Reading

Tarot card reading invariably conjures up visions of ‘that’ old gypsy women sitting in front of her crystal ball in a misty room full of weird things. The word ‘Tarot’ itself has that aura of mystery around it since no one knows exactly where or when Tarot reading originated. Most of the recorded history of the tarot cards comes from Italy, although historians are sure of its existence much before that.

Tarot may have been derived from ancient Egyptian tablets (since the concept of Egyptian hieroglyphics and some Tarot symbols are same-silent figures that speak only by their appearance and representation) or from the Chaldeans’ secret texts.

Some believe that the Tarot was brought to Europe by the Knights Templar after the Crusades while others believe it is the gypsies who would indulge in Tarot reading, while they travelled through the continent in the Middle Ages.

Historians have found evidence that the 78 card Tarot decks were used while Tarot reading to tell fortunes in Italy and France during the Renaissance. Researchers believe that the present day playing cards could be a by-product of these early tarot decks.

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Inspite of the various theories, one fact is certain; that Tarot card readings has seen the light of day for the past seven hundred years as one of the Western world’s most important source of mystical knowledge!

Some tarot historians are of the view that the tarot cards were first created as a game called Triumph, that was similar to the game of ‘Bridge’ today. The game was referred to as ‘Tarocchi’ (which became Tarot later) and it spread quickly to all parts of Europe.

Soon, the symbols on the cards were noticed by the followers of occult in France and England and they started using them as a divination tool and it soon became a part of occult philosophy.

However, the tarot readings were still quite simple back then.

By the eighteenth century, the tarot readers had started assigning specific meanings to each card and a complex analysis of the tarot was published by a French Freemason in 1781. His theory was that the symbols in the Tarot were derived from the esoteric secrets of Egyptian priests and connected it to the legends of Isis, Osiris and other Egyptian Gods.

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The first Tarot deck was released in 1791, by Jean-Baptiste Alliette and interest in occult science soon picked up momentum as it became a popular pastime for bored upper class families.

The most popular Tarot card deck, the Rider-Waite deck, was first published in 1909, by a British occultist, Arthur Waite and artist, Pamela Colman Smith.

Today, Tarot card reading is widely sought after and more and more people rely on tarot reading to guide them in their daily lives. Tarot readings help the seekers gain insights into themselves and others and see what the future holds for them. These cards can also be used for meditation and contemplation. The cards are now available in a practically endless selection of designs. The reader can use any deck that he is comfortable with.


by Akshita Sarkar