Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

” To outsiders and skeptics, occult practices like card reading have little relevance in our modern world. But a closer look reveals that the power of these cards isn’t endowed from some mystical source—it comes from the ability of their small, static images to illuminate our most complex dilemmas and desires.”

Hunter Oatman-Stanford; “The Surprising Origins of Tarot” , found on

. . . Tarot has quite an interesting history, I must say. The most interesting thing about this well known divination practice is how nobody truly knows the real origin of Tarot, neither time period nor region of creation. There has been many theories and hypotheses and ideas of the origin, but to this day all have either been proven wrong or have yet to find any real evident connection, even the etymology of the word Tarot is unknown, yet there are a dozen different suggestions on the root of its name.

. . . Some of the theories suggest Tarot evolved from mystical numbered cards from the Far East and may have been brought to Europe by the Knights Templar. It was also once believed that the origin of Tarot could be traced back to ancient Egypt and that they were a representation of the lost Egyptian Book of the Dead but the discovery and translation of said text has disproves that theory.

Austrian cartomancy deck which included four language translations- German, Italian, French, and English, circa 1820. Photo courtesy of Bill Wolf

. . . Tarot cards first known literary appearance in history was sometime between 1430 and 1450 in Milan and Bologna in northern Italy, presumably when the additional cards were added. The common four suite playing cards known as carte da trionfi, triumph cards, and the additional cards were trionfi, which means triumphs when translated to English. These playing cards were not recorded to be used for divination until 1540, but as we all know the secondary purpose of divination eventually became the primary use. With the passing centuries, Tarot itself evolved. For Example, The Thoth deck(pictured below) was created in the 1940s by infamous British occultist Aleister Crowley & Lady Frieda Harris. Thoth deck combined many elements including Egyptian, Greek, Christian, & Eastern symbolism and in the years since hundreds of Tarot decks have been designed.

Aleister Crowleys highly esoteric Thoth deck was finished in 1943 but was never published until 1969

Perhaps the origin is irrelevant, Tarot does help you perceive your life and help you discover truth and I suppose whatever came before that discovery is irrelevant–including the history of the cards themselves, possibly? To learn more about the different types of decks, check out my other guides where I have a post dedicated to the different published Tarot in history.


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