5 Important Historical Facts About Tarot Cards You Must Know

For centuries, tarot cards have captivated individuals as a means of divination and fortune-telling. They are a mystical cultural asset with a diverse range of motifs and meanings. A tarot deck consists of 78 cards that depict various symbols and religious influences. Despite extensive studies by scholars and historians, tarot cards still maintain an enigmatic aura, which makes them all the more intriguing. Explore 5 significant historical aspects about tarot and its fascinating origin and evolution.

Important facts about tarot cards

1.) Tarot Cards Were Used for Games

The origin of tarot cards is shrouded in mystery, but most historians agree that they are an evolution of game cards that date back around the 14th century in Europe. The first game cards were believed to have originated from the Islamic-Arabic regions.

Despite being banned in some town books for religious reasons, their popularity eventually led to increased production in Italy, France, Germany, and Belgium.

Before mass production, card games were mainly handmade for wealthy families as miniature paintings. The card designs often depicted members of the aristocracy, making them valuable gifts within royal society.

2.) The Oldest Tarot Decks Are Still Preserved Today

The cities of Bologna, Florence, Venice, and Milan in Northern Italy are known as the hotbeds of tarot cards today. The oldest tarot decks were commissioned around the mid-15th century by the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, and his heir Francesco Sforza. They have since inspired numerous replicas.

Known as the Visconti-Sforza-Tarocchi, the tarot cards are nearly completely preserved and exhibited in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City, at the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, Italy, and in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Another highly popular tarot deck is the Tarot de Marseille, also known as the Marseille Tarot. It originated in France during the 16th century and is regarded as the forerunner of modern-day esoteric tarot cards. These cards were also initially used solely as gaming cards.

major arcana from the Visconti Sforza tarot cards

Replica of the Visconti-Sforza-Tarot  © bycagla.com

3.) Card Games Were Mainly Handmade for Wealthy Families

Tarot cards often portray members of the aristocracy, which is why they were valuable gifts within feudal society. The Visconti-Sforza decks are a collection of cards that were beautifully hand-painted and decorated with leaf gold.

In addition to depicting allegorical references to ancient virtues, and Christian figures, the cards also represent social classes from the Renaissance period. The Fool symbolizes the lowest social rank, while the noble class is represented by The Emperor and The Empress.

4.) Tarot Cards Are a Typical Phenomenon of the Renaissance Period

Tarot cards became very popular in Europe as a part of a movement known as the rebirth of antiquity. In Italy, there was a renewed interest in classical writers like Plato and Horace during this time, which was mainly reflected in art. The paintings and frescoes of well-known artists like Leonardo or Raffael show both religious elements, and many mythological references.

Along with ancient themes, people were also fascinated by foreign concepts and ideas that arrived in Europe from all over the world. The blend of sacred motifs, mythology, and neo-platonic symbolism is also evident in tarot cards, making them a telling representation of the period.

5.) The World’s Most Famous Tarot Was Illustrated by a Woman …

… who was never really given proper credit. The Rider-Waite-Tarot, created in 1909, has become the most popular tarot deck in history. It was designed by Dr. Arthur Edward Waite, an Anglo-American occultist, and author, and illustrated by artist Pamela Colman Smith while the British publisher Rider & Son printed the cards.

Waite had a strong interest in the mystical elements of the cards and believed that their imagery was highly significant. His deck was the first tarot that featured human figures on every card.

Thanks to the illustrations by Pamela Colman Smith, the interpretation of tarot symbols has become more precise and easier. Unfortunately, the deck is mostly referred to as the Rider-Waite-Tarot disregarding the artist’s name and amazing work.

The Smith-Waite tarot cards

© bycagla.com

If You Are Into Tarot Cards, You Are in for a Real Treat!

With a fascinating connection to art, culture, and spirituality, tarot cards remain important historical artifacts. From their origin as gaming cards to their role as a tool for divination, the tarot still sparks people’s imagination.

By exploring their history and origin, there is a chance for a deeper appreciation of tarot cards in various creative and mystical realms. Whether you’re a seasoned tarot reader or a curious beginner, the journey into the world of tarot cards promises a captivating adventure filled with hidden insights and artistic marvels.