What is Tarot? – A Short Introduction to This Ancient Divination System

Image by Céline Martin from Pixabay

The Tarot is a deck of 78 picture-cards that are used for divination throughout the World. Most people know of the Tarot as a form of fairground, fortune-telling amusement,

but the modern Tarot has become much more than simply a way of determining the future.

A skilled reader can use the Tarot in a much broader way, revealing far more than your romantic prospects. One of the most effective and popular alternative uses for the Tarot is that of self-development.

Where Did the Tarot Come From?

The origins of the Tarot are largely unknown. Many believe the cards originate from early fifteenth-century Italy but there is some historical evidence to suggest that its roots date much older — maybe even as far back as the time of the Ancient Egyptians.

The Tarot’s Roots

What historians are sure of is that the Tarot was a popular card game that quickly spread from the Mediterranean up through Europe. It was so popular that wealthy patrons commissioned personalized decks with themes that reflected family characteristics. The earliest of these is thought to be the Visconti-Sforza Tarot deck which was created around c1450.

Esoteric Philosophies

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the cards were adopted by occult students. Many esoteric associations were applied to the Tarot during this time and closer associations began to develop between the Major Arcana and the Egyptian mysteries, as well as with the Hermetic, Kabbalistic and Alchemical philosophies.

Even today, the Tarot continues to change as more and more decks based upon modern themes are published every year. These include every possible concept from film-related decks, like The Lord of the Rings and James Bond, to contemporary art.

Due to the popularity of the Tarot, each generation looks at this divination system with renewed eyes, causing them to design their own decks to illustrate their unique thoughts on what the cards represent.

Why Was the Tarot Created?

There is a story about the Tarot that greatly resonates with scholars of the esoteric arts.

It tells how the aging priests of the temples of Ancient Egypt developed the Tarot as a gambling game. Into the images and structure of the deck, they poured their esoteric wisdom.

It is said, they foresaw the decline in the occult tradition that underpinned their philosophy and, knowing mankind’s eternal weakness for gambling, used the Tarot to preserve their secrets for future generations through symbols which only they understood.

As they intended, the Tarot was passed down through the generations, something which probably would not have happened if the early Europeans had not enjoyed losing their hard earned coin quite so much.

Whether the roots of Egyptian magick can be retrieved from the modern Tarot is doubtful. The Tarot has become so infused with the more modern Western Mystery Traditions that they are probably lost in the sands of time. However, I like to think that there is a strong element of truth to this story!

About the Author

Photo of author Peter J Morris

Peter J Morris has studied metaphysics, the occult and the Tarot for over 35 years.He has written articles on the occult and paranormal for Gloucestershire Earth Mysteries/3rd Stone and Un-X Magazine. …

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