Brief History of Tarot
by Sandra Mosley
meaning of the tarot is contained in its name; "tarot"
is an ancient Egyptian word for "royal road". The royal
road means the path to the top, to self-mastery. Often called a
picture book of wisdom, the tarot is a symbolic guide to self-realization,
a vehicle that helps us to evolve. An anagram of tarot is "rota",
meaning the wheel. The tarot is like a wheel, a tool providing mobility
on the path of life.
tarot reveals the universal principles of life that we must travel
to reach our destiny. The destiny of the royal road of tarot is
totality. Totality, similar to wholeness symbolized by the wheel,
means living fully our human attributes and manifesting our individual
origins of the tarot are veiled in the mists of time and, although
there are many theories regarding its history, there is no certainty
of its beginnings before the 14th century. There are links to China,
India, and Egypt. In all cultures, it was associated with the mysteries
of the universe.
all the theories seem feasible when presented by their proponents.
In the orient, the images represented religious figures. It is believed
that in Egypt the images were painted on the walls in the interior
of the pyramids and formed part of the initiation ceremonies for
the Egyptian priesthood.
originators of the BOTA deck claim that after the great library
at Alexandria was destroyed, the tarot was devised by wise men who
gathered from all over the world in the city of Fez (in what is
now Morocco). Needing to create a common tongue, since they spoke
in many languages, they invented the tarot as a method of communication.
Gypsies say that the hidden knowledge of the tarot was originally
brought by their people from Chaldea and Egypt into Israel and on
to Greece. The Gypsies did indeed roam through Europe at about the
same time that the tarot cards began to be used along the shores
of the Mediterranean.
use was first heard of in 12th century Austria and recorded in 14th
century Rumania. (It's interesting to note that the Hungarian Gypsy's
word for a pack of cards is "tar".)
first documented appearance of the cards in Europe can be traced
to 1392. At that time, tarot cards were painted on parchment or
thin sheets of ivory, silver or even gold. The design for each had
to be drawn anew and colored by hand. Use was largely limited to
the noble, who could afford to hire an artist to paint their own
of the people in the Middle Ages were illiterate, and religious
ideas were transmitted through images: in paintings, carvings and
stained glass windows in churches. At the time the cards were introduced
in Europe, the Christian church was eradicating alternative belief
systems, all of which were considered heretical.
the mid 15th century, when block printing was developed, tarot cards
became more available and wide spread. Even then, they were kept
hidden for fear of reprisal. After the French Revolution, a new
freedom swept Europe and esoteric sects and mystery lodges began
the late 1800's there was a revival in the interest of the occult
and the various schools of spiritual mysteries. During that time,
study of the tarot expanded among the adepts. Several of the most
commonly recognized decks today were designed between 1890 and 1910.
growth of western psychology and the interest in Man and his symbols,
generated by Jungian students since the 1970's, has once again reawakened
us to the wealth of the tarot. Over one hundred decks are currently
available, showing an abundant variety of artistic interpretations
of the Tarot.
Tarot is an ancient system of knowledge which has been taught over
the centuries in secret Mystery schools. Generally known as a system
of divination, it can also be used as a tool for self-awareness.
As a meditative tool we can use the images of the Tarot as an approach
to understanding the inner reality of our experience.
of the cards, whether drawn individually or laid out in a spread,