Beginners Guide to Tarot: History of Tarot


Feb 27, 2023

Beginners Guide to Tarot: History of Tarot

Table of Contents

History of Tarot Cards

Did you know that tarot was originally intended to be a card game for entertainment? The history of tarot cards have a long and mysterious origin, with their symbolism and use evolving over the centuries.

The history of tarot dates back to the 14th century, when these mystical cards emerged in Europe as a form of playing cards. Initially, tarot decks comprised 78 cards, including 22 Major Arcana cards representing life's spiritual and karmic lessons and 56 Minor Arcana cards including: the Suit of Wands, Suit of Cups, Suit of Swords, and Suit of Pentacles, which reflect daily life events.

Over time, tarot evolved into a tool for divination and self-reflection, gaining popularity in the 18th century with occultists like Antoine Court de Gébelin.

Today, tarot is widely embraced for its rich symbolism, offering insights into personal growth and spiritual development through intricate card imagery and interpretations.This article delves into the fascinating journey of the tarot cards, from their earliest known appearance in Italy to their contemporary use in spirituality.

Tarot's Origins are Shrouded in Mystery

The true origins of tarot cards remain a subject of debate among historians, with various theories suggesting they originated in ancient Egypt, China, or India (Huson, 2004, p. 9)(1). However, there is no definitive evidence to support these claims. Despite the uncertainty surrounding their beginnings, tarot cards have captivated the minds and imaginations of people for centuries (Dummett, 1980, p. 15)(2).

The First Recorded use of Tarot Cards was in Italy in the 14th century

The earliest known evidence of tarot cards dates back to the 14th century in Italy (Kaplan, 1990, p. 38)(3). These early tarot decks, known as "carte da trionfi" or "triumph cards," were most likely created for the ruling classes and featured hand-painted illustrations (Dummett, 1980, p. 25)(2). The cards were originally intended for gaming purposes and were similar to modern playing cards, with four suits and numbered cards (Huson, 2004, p. 18)(1).

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Tarot Cards were Originally used for Gaming

Tarot cards were first used for gaming, specifically the game of Tarocchi, which was popular among the Italian nobility (Dummett, 1980, p. 27)(2). The game eventually spread throughout Europe, with different regions adopting their own variations of the cards and rules (Kaplan, 1990, p. 50)(3). It wasn't until much later that the tarot began to be associated with mysticism and divination (Huson, 2004, p. 29)(1).

In the 18th century, Antoine Court de Gebelin Published a Book Linking the tarot to Ancient Egyptian Mysteries

In the late 18th century, French scholar Antoine Court de Gebelin published a book called "Le Monde Primitif," in which he claimed that the tarot was of ancient Egyptian origin (Decker et al., 1996, p. 102)(4). Gebelin believed that the tarot was a repository of ancient wisdom and that the cards held the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe (Decker et al., 1996, p. 103)(4). Although his theories have since been debunked, they laid the foundation for the tarot's association with esotericism and the occult.

In the 19th century, Eliphas Levi Popularized Tarot for Divination

French occultist Eliphas Levi played a significant role in popularizing the idea that the tarot was a tool for divination (Levi, 1856, p. 217)(5). Levi's work combined the teachings of Kabbalah, astrology, and other mystical traditions, and he asserted that the tarot cards were a visual representation of these esoteric ideas (Levi, 1856, p. 221)(5). His work laid the groundwork for the modern practice of tarot reading and greatly influenced future tarot scholars and practitioners.

In the 20th century, Aleister Crowley and Pamela Coleman Smith created the Thoth Tarot deck

In the early 20th century, British occultist Aleister Crowley and artist Pamela Coleman Smith collaborated to create the Thoth Tarot deck (DuQuette, 2003, p. 12)(6). The Thoth Tarot features intricate artwork and symbolism inspired by various mystical and esoteric traditions, including Kabbalah, astrology, and alchemy (DuQuette, 2003, p. 29)(6). The Thoth Tarot deck and its accompanying book, "The Book of Thoth," remain influential in the tarot community to this day (DuQuette, 2003, p. 40)(6).

Today, the Tarot is used for Divination, Self-Reflection, and Spiritual Guidance

The tarot has come a long way from its origins as a card game in 14th-century Italy. Today, it is used by millions of people around the world as a tool for divination, self-reflection, and spiritual guidance (Pollack, 1980, p. 3)(7). Modern tarot decks come in a wide variety of styles and themes, catering to diverse interests and spiritual beliefs. While the true origins of the tarot may remain a mystery, its enduring appeal is a testament to its ability to captivate the human imagination and provide insight into the mysteries of life.

5 Ways Tarot Can Benefit you

Tarot cards, with their rich history and symbolism, can offer numerous benefits for those seeking self-awareness, personal growth, and guidance. By providing an avenue for introspection, tarot cards can help individuals gain insights into their lives, make informed decisions, and achieve a deeper understanding of their emotions and motivations.

1. Self-reflection: One of the primary benefits of tarot is its ability to facilitate self-reflection. By connecting with the symbolism and meanings behind each card, individuals can explore various aspects of their lives and psyche, allowing them to recognize patterns, behaviors, and beliefs that may be hindering their progress. This increased self-awareness can empower individuals to make positive changes and foster personal growth.

2. Decision-making: Tarot cards can also serve as a valuable tool for decision-making. While they may not provide specific answers, they can illuminate various aspects of a situation, revealing potential consequences, challenges, and opportunities. This guidance can help individuals make more informed choices and navigate complex situations with greater clarity and confidence.

3. Connect with your intution: Another significant benefit of tarot is its ability to help individuals connect with their intuition. By tapping into their inner wisdom, individuals can develop their intuitive abilities, enhancing their decision-making skills and fostering a deeper connection with their inner selves.

4. Spiritual growth: Additionally, tarot cards can promote spiritual growth and development. Engaging with the cards' spiritual and philosophical themes can encourage individuals to explore their beliefs, values, and purpose in life. This exploration can lead to a greater understanding of one's spiritual path and a stronger connection to the universe or a higher power.

5. Support: Lastly, tarot can provide comfort and support during challenging times. By offering insights, encouragement, and guidance, tarot can help individuals navigate life's uncertainties and difficulties with greater resilience and hope.


In summary, tarot cards can serve as a powerful tool for self-awareness, personal growth, and guidance. By facilitating self-reflection, decision-making, intuition development, spiritual growth, and emotional support, tarot can empower individuals to lead more fulfilling, balanced, and purposeful lives.

To start your journey with the tarot you'll need to:

1. Choose a tarot deck

2. Set up your altar

3. Cleanse your deck

4. Learn how to pick a tarot card

5. Create different tarot spreads

6. Learn to interpret tarot spreads by learning the 78 tarot card meanings and how to interpret the combination of spreads.

You will also benefit by using the free tarot reading and tarot diary to guide you on your path of self-actualization!


Huson, P. (2004). Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books.

Dummett, M. (1980). The Game of Tarot: From Ferrara to Salt Lake City. London: Duckworth.

Kaplan, S. R. (1990). The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Volume II. New York: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Decker, R., Depaulis, T., & Dummett, M. (1996). A Wicked Pack of Cards: Origins of the Occult Tarot. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd.

Levi, E. (1856). Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie. Paris: Germer Baillière.

DuQuette, L. M. (2003). Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot. San Francisco, CA: Weiser Books.

Pollack, R. (1980). Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot. San Francisco, CA: Weiser Books.



Lisa is a Reiki Master, Certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner, and trained in the Bengston Energy Healing Method. Lisa is also a Certified Life coach and currently in her second year of graduate school for a Master of Social Work to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

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