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The Evolution of Tarot.

Updated on April 26, 2015

Tarocchi Playing Cards

These are Tarocchi Playing cards
These are Tarocchi Playing cards | Source

The Mysteries of The Tarot

Tarot has sparked my curiosity simply because it is a game that has been played for over 600 years, and is also a tool for divination. Is it a game? Is it a doorway to divination for fortune telling? How did something thought of and played as a game become mystical? It is speculalated that tarot was mentioned as early as 1277 in regards to teaching Italian children the knowledge of virtues with sheets or cards called carticellas. The card set included 50 cards split in 5 catagories which were the social classes of Muses, Arts and Sciences, Virtues, Cosmic Principals and the Planets and Spheres. The first direct mention of tarot being used as playing cards was in 1299 in a manuscript written in Siena titled "Trattato del governo delia Familia di Pipozzo di Sandro. The term Naibbe is mentioned in regards to these cards, and is said to come from the word naipes which in spanish means playing cards. Naipes originated from the Arabic word Naib meaning Deputy. Translated in english, this would be called The game of Deputies. The first recordings of tarot being publicly reproduced as a card game originated in Northern Italy in the 1430's. This was a huge breakthrough in the history of card games because it is the first mention of a game of trumps. When this originated tarot cards were painted by hand. A skilled painter was commissioned to design the cards according to the wealthy families specifications.

Around 1470 Milanese Duke, Filippo Maria Visconti commissioned Michelino da Besuzzo to paint a deck of cards for the Visconti family. The cards were to represent the supposed genealogical connection between the Visconti family and the god Jupiter as well as the goddess Venus. It is suggested The Visconti family are relatives of Jupiter and Venus. There were sixteen cards painted that depicted the gods and goddesses. 1. Jupiter 2. June 3. Pallos 4. Venus 5. Apollo 6. Neptune 7. Diana 8. Baccus 9. Mercury 10. Mars 11. Vesta 12. Ceres 13. Hercules 14. Eolus 15. Daphne and 16. Cupido. The four suit cards were represented by birds. Virtues (Eagles), Riches (phoenix), Virginities (turtledove), Pleasures (dove). The first twelve gods are of the Olympic Gods. Daphne stands out in all of this because she is not a god or goddess. She is the daughter of the river god Peneus. The myth goes; Apollo made fun of Cupido teasing him about his abilities as an archer. Apollo said since he was so small, his arrows once shot, would make no significant difference once they hit something. Cupido, the god of love, became upset and shot Apollo with a golden tipped arrow which would make him fall insatiably in love. He then shot Daphne the daughter of the river god Peneus, with a lead tipped arrow in turn making her insensible to love. She wouldn't want to have anything to do with love or anyone who loved her god or not. Apollo chased and chased, and Daphne ran and ran. She finally became tired of running and asked her father for help. Peneus, having the gift of transformation, did just that. he transformed Daphne into a Laurel tree. Her legs and feet grew into the earth and her arms and hands outstretched as branches. Apollo caught up to her, and still adored her, so he took some of the leaved and adorned himself with them so she would be close to his heart. This is now why the Laurel is the symbol of the god Apollo. Daphne in Greek means Laurel. This painted card deck represented a game of the hunt with Apollo the hunter and Daphne the hunted.

Later tarot decks depicted animals as the hunted with the higher valued cards as the hunter. These were painted however the family wanted to have them designed. Here is a variation of tarot as a game. If there are four players which are fixed partners who sit across from each other a 78 card deck is used. This is called the Lombard Tarocchi. The suit cards are known as Spade, Bastoni, Quadri, and Cuori. The number cards of the suits are Scartina. The trump cards are briscole. In all four suits the cards are ranked in descending order from the king, queen, cavalier, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The trumps rank according to their numbers from XXI which is the highest and I the lowest. A game is played with four deals with each person dealing once during the whole game. The dealer shuffles the cards and the player to the right of the dealer cuts the cards. The cards are then dealt three at a time until everyone has eighteen cards. The dealer deals one more card to each of the players and the last three to himself. The dealer then must discard two of his 21 cards. He or she places them face down in front of him. It is illegal to discard trumps which would be the Fool, King or Queen. The only cards to be discarded are the scartine, jacks, and cavaliers. The value of the discarded cards counts towards the dealers side.

After the discard, all players should have 19 cards. The play is always clockwise. The player to the dealers left leads to the first trick of the game. The fool is used as an excuse without an exchange. A player knocks on the table when they have a leading card. This signals the players partner to win the trick and play out his or her own high cards. To score the game the cards are counted in groups of four and hold their standard values. The XXI card is worth 6 points though instead of five. The 2 cards discarded by the dealer are treated as four cards. The total value of cards in the whole pack is 73 points. Each set of partners totals their points after all four deals are done. Whoever has the highest score is the winner. This game is not played for money, so at the end of the game the prize is usually a bottle of wine or something similar. These games were said to be played by the wealthy at this time simply because they were the only ones who could afford to pay someone to paint the cards for them. Personally, this sounds like an ancient game of Rummy or sophisticated poker.

Hermetic Tarot of the Golden Dawn


Celtic Cross Spread

These are cards designed by Pamela Coleman-Smith
These are cards designed by Pamela Coleman-Smith | Source

The Book of Doors Divination Deck

This deck comes with a die and a book to help with the numerology significance of the cards.
This deck comes with a die and a book to help with the numerology significance of the cards. | Source

Crows Magic Tarot


Tarot as Divination in Regards to Mysticism

When tarot made a comeback in the 1960s, it did so as a form of divination. Tarot was believed to be a tool for this by Antoine Court de Geblin. He believed there were hidden meanings in the images on the cards. He believed the meanings were connected to key facts of wisdom written by the Egyptian god Thoth. Thoth represents the inspiration of the written knowledge. The first account of the cards being used for divination is accredited to a cartomancer Jean-Baptiste Alliete also known as Etteila in 1770. He was the first to publish divinatory meanings in regards to the cards. This particular deck held 32 cards plus another one to represent the querent or questioner. There is no written or recorded evidence to support that there is any hidden meaning in these cards in regards to the writings of Thoth.

Romany people called Gypsies have been said to carry tarot cards in their travels. They are said to be descendants of Egyptians. In the 19th century occultist Eliphas Levi created a connection between the tarot and the Kabbalah. The Kabbalah is the Hebrew system of mysticism. This suggests the tarot originated in Israel and they contain the wisdom of the tree of life. There are no concrete facts to support this creation either. There was a 78 card deck that was created out of this belief even though there was nothing ti support it. Tarot can be linked to every magical belief or religion on this planet even though there is no concrete evidence to support some of the beliefs.

Images of the tarot involve cultural, geographical, and temporal boundaries. There is a theosophical society called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn who have a card deck based on their belief system. Theosophy is a broader field of Esotericism. Esotericism is the practice of seeking to understand the mysteries of the universe and what unites the universe, humanity, and the nature of the divine. It explores origins of humanity and divinity and the connections there may be between the two. With the 1600's came the birth of Theosophy. It is related to Gnostic Christianity, alchemy, astrology, Kabbalah and tarot. In the 19th century artist Pamela Coleman-Smith and Edward Waite created a deck of their own. There are many other creators of tarot decks to this day with many illustrations to lead one into their unconscious mind to bring the future to their conscious minds.

When a person goes to get a tarot reading there can be several different card spreads to choose from. These spreads depend on what the questioner wants to know. The questioner shuffles the cards and thinks of the question he or she wants to know. After shuffling, the questioner splits the deck into three piles with their left or receiving hand. The reader picks them up with their left, or receiving hand in the order they were set down, pile one, two, three. Then the cards can be laid out for a reading. There is the Celtic Cross spread that tells the questioner of the past, present and future. They learn from the reader what things are affecting them in their life. They learn what they can and cannot change depending on their actions. Things that have been hidden can come out in a reading.

The Gypsy spread involves the reader removing the Major Arcana cards from the deck and setting them aside. The seeker is given the remaining fifty six Minor Arcana to shuffle. After shuffling the first twenty cards are separated and set aside face down on the table. These twenty cards are then combined with the Major Arcana. The other thirty six are set aside. The seeker then shuffles these together and when finished, lays them out one by one, face down, in six piles of seven cards, from right to left. The first seven make up the first pile and so on. The questioner picks up the each pile beginning with the first pile, and deals the cards face up, working from right to left to create six rows of seven cards. This creates the six row gypsy spread. The rows should number one to six from top to bottom, with seven across. This signifies past influences, present influences, outside influences, immediate influences, possible outcomes of the future, and future results or outcomes of what the questioner wants to know about.

There are other spreads that can be used such as the tarot for two spread, the three aces spread, and the seven card spread. All will tell of the past, present and future. People have been known the use tarot for meditation also. A card will be chosen from the deck that represents the questioner. This card can be held by the questioner or set on a table with crystals and incense burning to create a comfortable meditative atmosphere.Crystals, for those who believe, enhance ones energy and can aid in meditation. Since meditation is a form of visualization in regards to the tarot, you would close your eyes, visualize your question and concentrate on what the chosen card means for an answer. This is supposed to enliven the intuition to provide guidance when using tarot in this method.

Tarot is for all. There are those who want to play a game of trump, and some who want their fortunes told. In past societies and in this present society, tarot is a game and is still played. Some methods have died out with those who played in that way, while others, if the rules still exist in writing, are played in Europe today. Why tarot is split with the Western culture using it for a tool of divination and the European culture using it as game play is a curious. Obviously tarot is very versatile in it's uses and illustrations. I have posted cards from my own collection to show the difference in styles and sizes of the cards and illustrations. I'd like to get my hands on an old set of cards as a collectors item. Only time will tell if that is going to be possible. I hope you enjoyed, and I thank you for reading :-)


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