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The History of Tarot


Ancient cards used in divination of the future, and sometimes purely for entertainment.

Tarot History

Although researchers have tried for years to pinpoint the true origin of the Tarot, they are still unsure who created the first deck.  Some believe they were in use as long ago as the early 1300's in Italy.

During the late 1700's and into the early 1800's Eliphas Levi, a Catholic Priest, writer, and teacher, created the basis for the most popular Tarot cards still in use today.  Although Levi was born and trained for the Catholic Priesthood, he studied many other religions and subjects as well.  He studied the Jewish, Hindu, Polish and Masonic religions and Cabalism.  Levi was also a student of astronomy, astrology, and the metaphysics.  When he created his first Tarot deck, he incorporated his knowledge of religions, the elements in nature (fire, water, earth, air), and what were believed to be powerful astrological events and symbols (most of which are still popular today).  There are even references to scriptures from The Bible shown in some of the cards.  Levi claimed he created the cards as a tool to aid his students in the art of spiritual enlightenment, self improvement, and self awareness.

It wasn't until the late 1800's that A.E. Waite realized that the cards could be used to predict possible future events.  Waite created the Rider-Waite deck based on the works of Eliphas Levi, and published the cards in 1896.  The Rider-Waite Tarot deck is the most widely used version currently in existence.

The Tarot was then introduced into the Western culture in the early 1900's, and were extremely popular during World War I.

In the 1990's more people are opening up to the idea of Tarot readers, Astrologers, and Psychics, yet there are still some who believe the cards are evil, or hold some kind of evil power.  This is simply not true at all.  The cards do not possess any mysterious powers, nor can they harm anyone if they are read  in the proper perspective.  The Tarot cards reflect thoughts and actions in our subconscious and conscious mind.  Mind over matter to use the term loosely.  They can and should be used only for positive reasons.  As with anything else, if used with negative or malicious intent, the negativity (evil if you will) that is created will only come back on the invoker.

The Tarot are best suited for learning about oneself, and one's reactions to life's seemingly never ending struggles, to increase self awareness, and possibly to obtain a new point of view of life itself.  They can help to clarify past events, understand why the events took place, and possibly give some insight into how to avoid making the same mistakes again, or even how to make the good events happen again.  The cards can also predict possible future events.  Sometimes, just knowing ahead of time an event may occur, is enough to change the person's path and future outcome.

The Tarot cards were not meant to be feared or evil; but it is human nature to fear the unknown or the unexplained.  Today, Tarot readers have made themselves available almost everywhere in the United States as well as some other countries, and are helping millions of people every day to cope with life's uncertainties.  Who are we to discount something that benefits so many people so often?

For those who believe that Tarot are evil, and that anyone who acknowledges the existence of Tarot will surely burn in hell:
Almost every religion states in one fashion or another that if you do not believe in my God, you shall be rejected on your day of judgment (you'll go to hell).  Doesn't anyone stop to think that we are all going to hell in someone else's eyes?

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "The only limit to our realizations of tomorrow will be our doubts of today."

Personal Experience

I have been reading Tarot cards since 1970, when I received my first Tarot deck as a gift.  In the 30 years I have studied and read the Tarot, I have never once had a wrong prediction.  I have several repeat customers who not only believe that the readings help, but would fall apart at the seams if readers were no longer available.  The cards have guided myself and others through many tough situations.  They have also helped me to better understand who I am, and more importantly how to improve myself and my reactions to others. - Penny J. Ward

More about the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck



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