The History of Tarot Cards

Divination cards first arrived in Europe in the late 14th-century, most likely from Egypt. The first documented tarot packs were recorded between 1440 and 1450 in several cities throughout Italy, including Milan, Ferrara, Florence, and Bologna. Because these early tarot cards were hand-painted, it wasn’t until the invention of the printing press that mass production of decks became possible, thereby spreading tarot cards throughout Western Europe and the rest of the world.

Originally, tarot cards were used to play games. Starting in the 18th-century, however, occultists in France began to use tarot readings as a form of divination. They discovered that each card held its own divine meaning by tracing back its origins to ancient Egyptian symbolism and cabblistic rituals.Today, tarot is not only used as a form of cartomancy, but also as a psychological tool based on the interpretation of archetypal imagery.

The Major Arcana

Today, many different types of tarot decks are used, but the Major Arcana, or trump cards, remain mostly the same. These cards, along with their most common divinatory meaning, are*:

  • The Fool: new beginnings, innocence, opportunity, spontaneity
  • The Magician: resourcefulness, power, inspiration, creativity
  • The High Priestess: wisdom, intuition, knowledge, virtue
  • The Empress: femininity, beauty, nature, abundance
  • The Emperor: authority, structure, bravery, aggression
  • The Hierophant: spirituality, conformity, tradition, institutions
  • The Lovers: love, romance, attraction, harmony, connection
  • The Chariot: perseverance, willpower, action, determination
  • Justice: justice, truth, cause and effect, law
  • The Hermit: soul-searching, introspection, solitude, inner guidance
  • The Wheel of Fortune: luck, karma, cycles, destiny
  • Strength: strength, courage, compassion, conviction
  • The Hanged Man: pause, surrender, letting go, new perspectives, rebirth
  • Death: endings, change, transformation, transition
  • Temperance: balance, moderation, patience, confidence
  • The Devil: attachment, addiction, violence, disaster
  • The Star: hope, faith, inspiration, insight, renewal,
  • The Moon: deception, illusion, anxiety, danger, fear
  • The Sun: positivity, warmth, fun, success, vitality
  • The Judgement: judgement, absolution, rebirth
  • The World: completion, integration, accomplishment, travel

*Please note that all of these interpretations pertain to cards displayed upright. Each card has a different, usually oppositional meaning when reversed.

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