Delve into the mysterious history of tarot fortune telling
Tarot is a form of divination originally coming from the Arabic word turuq, which means “ways.” The tarot came out in the sixteenth century as a game but was used later as a tool for divination in the eighteenth century. The use of it is known as tarotology and is a subset of cartomancy, which deals with the use of cards to see into the past, present, or future by presenting an inquiry to the cards. The cards are guided by a spiritual force, and it is not, contrary to some strong beliefs, the “devil’s picture book.” This was due to the featuring of certain cards, like death and the devil, that prompted many religious leaders to ban the tarot.
Known to have a tumultuous and quite-fragmented history, the tarot card supposedly takes its powers from ancient Egypt and had deep divine significance, at least according to French clergyman Antoine Court de Gébelin. He asserted tarot came from the Egyptian words tar, which means “path” or “road,” and the word ro, which means “king,” saying that tarot translates to “the royal road of life.” It was taken further after by others saying that the tarot is the book of Thoth (an ancient Egyptian deity), that it was associated with gypsies who were really roaming Egyptians, and that tarot was indeed a form of cartomancy. Then occultist Eliphas Levi correlated the tarot to the kabbalah, the Hebrew system of mysticism. This fueled the belief that the tarot did not originate from Egypt but from Israel and contained the wisdom of the Tree of Life. Despite the different origin stories, tarot became more popularized because it was seen as something that transcended all boundaries and was seen as a timeless source of knowledge in mysticism.
The set contains seventy-eight cards, which are divided into the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana, or the Greater Secrets, consists of twenty-two cards without suits: the Fool, the Magician, the High Priestess, the Empress, the Emperor, the Hierophant, the Lovers, the Chariot, Strength, the Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, the Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, the Devil, the Tower, the Star, the Moon, the Sun, Judgment, and the World. The Minor Arcana, or the Lesser Secrets, consists of fifty-six cards divided into fourteen cards each with ten numbered cards and four court cards. The suits are swords, wands or stave, coins or pentacles, and cups. There are many designs, but the most popular are the Rider-Waite decks originally published in 1910 and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith with details and backgrounds full of symbolism following the instructions of occultist Arthur Edward Waite.
The tarot is linked to almost all magical systems or religions, and the images within the cards cross language, culture, geography, and time, reflecting the reader’s innermost thoughts to help with introspection and the understanding of self.
Would you like to get a tarot-card reading? Is there a particular card that catches your eye? Let’s discuss this in the comments section, or you can tweet me at @WillWizKennett.