The origin of the Tarot is relatively uncertain, there are many theories, from roots within Ancient Egypt associated with Hieroglyphics to 15th century Northern Italy due to the typical Italian suits of the cards (swords, wands, cups, and coins). However, it is relatively certain that the Tarot as we see it today most definitely has medieval origins and has accompanied the evolution of cultures, melding and changing as they did. It is this unsolved enigma of the Tarot which undeniably contributes to the inherent aura and mystery of the occult associated with these cards today.
Today’s Tarot deck is set upon the 78 card standard deck that was popular in Northern Italy circa the 15th century. Yet it wasn’t until the “18th and 19th centuries that the tarot was taken up wholeheartedly by occult and esoteric societies for use in divination.”1 A Swiss clergyman named Antoine Court de Gébelin wrote a document called The Primitive World which connected the imagery in the Marseilles tarot to the mysteries of Ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Thoth, thereby forever linking the two. He also claimed the word Tarot descended from the rom the Egyptian words tar, meaning “royal”, and ro, meaning “road”, and that the Tarot therefore represented a “royal road” to wisdom.
It wasn’t until 1785 that the French occultist Eteilla became the first profession tarot reader. He, (interesting note, it was a male) popularised the use of tarot as a divine tool to a wider audience and link the cards to astrology.
Overtime, many greater thinkers have had their hand at adding a deeper understanding to the enigma that are Tarot Cards. The true history of tarot is rich, powerful and mysterious; supposedly presenting us an opportunity to know about the influences in out past, present and future.