Tarot cards are among the stock in trade of many fortune tellers. ‘Cross my palm with silver and I’ll tell you your future’. This was usually the opening gambit once the client had entered the tent of a fortune teller at village fairs. Moreover, the tent was usually embellished with a crystal ball, candles, stuffed birds and joss sticks. Thereby creating a suitably mysterious atmosphere. In point of fact, Tarot cards are simply just another variety of playing cards. Not to mention all the other types of card game played with a myriad of different cards. In fact, nobody knows exactly when the game of cards began. However, a Chinese playing card discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century is said to date from the eleventh century.
Tarot cards in Europe
Likewise, the origin of playing cards in Europe is not known. There are, however, references to card games in an Italian manuscript believed to have been written at the end of the fourteenth century. Indeed, seventeen cards of that period belonging to a Tarot pack can be seen in the National Library in Paris.
There has been much debate about Tarot cards. They were believed to have mystic powers. Furthermore, at the end of the eighteenth century a French author claimed that the cards derive from the ‘Book of Thoth‘. This was purported to be a mythical manuscript from ancient Egypt. In addition, there is a reference to the occult significance of Tarot cards. As a result, following the appearance of the book a great deal of pseudo-scientific literature appeared.
Strange tarot cards
As a matter of fact, Tarot cards appear strange only to those used to standard playing cards. The best known is the Marseilles Tarot. A full pack consists of 78 cards, 56 of which are divided into suits. The latter are the Italian Cups, Coins, Swords and Batons. Moreover, there are twenty-one trump cards, each of which bears a picture. These all have specific names. Such as Fortitude, the Hanging Man, the Star, the Sun, Judgement, the World, Death, and so on. Evidence suggests that the Tarot pack was an Italian invention which subsequently became very popular.
Originally, no occult powers were ascribed to the Tarot pack. This changed with the publication of the French book mentioned above. In spite of having little knowledge of Egyptian history and language, the author described the occult meaning of each trump card. It is uncertain how the subjects on the cards originated. Since a large amount of fraud has occurred in the practice of foretelling the future, several countries have banned fortune telling. Among these are New Zealand and Saudi Arabia.
In conclusion, there is a huge variety of Tarot packs on offer online, priced from just a few dollars up to two hundred dollars and beyond depending on their age. They can also be found occasionally at antique markets and in specialist shops.