The origins of the tarot are not unlike the cards themselves—somewhat veiled. It is generally accepted that their origins are deeply rooted in many religious rituals and symbols of ancient Egypt. History only concedes their physical evidence can be traced to the origins of the card game, I Trionfi, in Milan 1356-74. Hand-painted cards were imported into Italy and Spain in 1370 from Egypt contained sacred symbols from the traditions of Egypt, Hebrew, Kabala, and Astrology. Cards were hand-painted then, which made production expensive and scarce. The oldest surviving tarot cards are from 15 fragmented decks painted in the mid-15th century for the Visconti-Sforza family, the rulers of Milan.
Playing cards had been around for about 40 years prior. What makes the tarot unique is in addition to the “face cards” and “number cards” of our regular playing deck, the tarot has “carte da trionfi,” triumph cards or winning cards, as they were referred to in ancient scripts. Today we call this differentiating portion of the deck the Major Arcana. This is where we’ll start to explore the magic and power of this tool of divination.
The Tarot is made up of three parts:
The Major Arcana: important life-step changes, invitations, and life lessons
The Number Cards: day-to-day occurrences, blessings, and challenges
The Court Cards: people, archetypes, or situations in our lives or ourselves