The history of tarot card reading is a fascinating one. The word ‘tarot’ has its roots in the Italian word terracotta (derived from the Latin terra cotta), which describes a painted ceramic tile used in making roof tiles, and then later clay pipes and plates or figurines. Tarot cards, or tarocchi as they were originally called, were first made by Italians around 1440 and quickly became popular throughout Europe.
Legend has it that these cards represent playing-cards: the four suits: batons (clubs), coins (diamants/cents), cups (spades) and swords; with the golden compass at their center representing Earth’s North Pole. However, in the early 16th century the ‘Tarocchi del Prestigio’ or ‘Triumphs of the Virtues’, were discovered in Ferrara by an apprentice wood carver whose name is unknown. These cards are known today as the Cartesian tarot. The philosopher Rene Descartes is said to have taken interest in them when he visited Italy, and consequently they are known as Cartesian tarot.
The history of the Tarot cards goes on further with much speculation about their original creator, but it appears that they have been used for divination since at least 1100 AD. They were used to predict life events and important turning points in a person’s life.
Tarot card reading has had a long-standing tradition of being thought of as a fool’s game, but only because the history of tarot reading is shrouded in mystery. The deck consists of 78 cards, divided into two sections; The Major Arcana or trumps, and the Minor Arcana. The Minor Arcana can be broken down into 4 suits: wands (batons), cups (chalices), swords and pentacles (coins). Each suit contains 14 cards: Ace through 10, Page, Knight or horseman and King or Queen.
The ‘Major Arcana’ consists of 21 cards, each card depicting scenes with complex symbolism that is often difficult to interpret without knowledge of astrology & esoteric religious practices.