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History of Tarot Cards – Origins Revealed

When trying to create a history of Tarot cards, there are many holes in the available facts and much of what remains is guesswork. In terms of the history of Tarot, Tarot cards likely evolved as secretive way of passing along hidden teachings. A common idea put forth is that Tarot cards evolved as a way for teachers and students from a variety of countries and cultures to share universal knowledge. With different languages and levels of literacy, a pictorial guide was necessary in order to share spiritual truths.

The earliest remnants of a Tarot deck date back to the 1390’s; from the original deck, only 17 cards still remain. In around 1420, an Italian artist, Bonifacio Bembo, painted what is the only full deck that has survived to modern times. Commissioned originally by the Duke of Milan, this early deck is now known as the Visconti deck, named after the Duke’s family.

While it is unlikely that Tarot cards were in existence prior to this time, the concepts illustrated in Tarot pictures are universal and have been around for thousands of years, in common knowledge as well as in myth and legend. While many of the images in Tarot decks are common to the Medieval period (the Fool, The Pope and Judgment), many of the other archetypes present including the High Priestess point to a pre-Christian system with roots in far older times. The need for secretive spiritual practice has been necessary for survival for thousands of years. The fact that the Major Arcana presents symbols that show powerful men and women highly suggest that it significantly predates Christianity.

To be labeled a religious heretic in Medieval Europe meant torture or death. Recording alternate beliefs through a pictorial key allowed

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