Tarot Mythology: The Surprising Origins of the World’s Most Misunderstood Cards

3 min readMar 25, 2022
Photo by Kayla Maurais on Unsplash

If you have landed on this page, you might be looking for some interesting information on Tarot Cards. Hopefully, you have heard a lot about the centuries-old, iconic blend of ancient symbols, historical events, and religious allegories printed on these widely misunderstood cards. For those who have some belief in occult practices and skeptics, these cards may appear purposefully opaque but the modern world shows the least interest in card reading. However, if we give a close look at the concept of tarot mythology, these miniature masterpieces can work as an outstanding mystical source with their static images. These cards are capable enough to illuminate the complex desires and dilemmas of the common people around the world.

Many people believe that the meaning of tarot cards keeps on changing over time, the culture of the era, and the needs of specific users. But in actuality, the details are the same as they were centuries ago and this is the main reason why they appear puzzling to the outsiders.

Caitlin Matthews is one of the most popular experts in this field who provides courses on divination or cartomancy with cards. In a recent interview, he revealed that the imagery printed on these cards was readable to a wide population before the 18th century. But in comparison to the historic decks, Matthews calls modern decks harder to understand. He also said that Tarot de Marseille was the most popularly used tarot deck that originated in the 17th century. Those cards were printed on the woodblocks in the early stage; however, later they were colored manually using basic stencils.

Surprisingly, the art of using cards for leading playful divination is linked to the 14th century. History reveals that the process started probably with Mamluk game cards that were brought from Turkey to Western Europe. In the 1500s, several people from the Italian aristocracy enjoyed playing tarocchi appropriate games in which they were asked to deal with random cards and then use some thematic associations about them to create poetic verses. You may know this game with the popular childhood version “MASH” where these predictive cards were called as sortes describing destinies.

The latest tarot decks were inspired by mysticism and they were designed to play some games, almost the same as modern-day bridge games. Reports reveal that several wealthy families in Italy also used artistic made decks to enjoy games, these cards were named as cards of triumph. Note that most of these cards were designed with swords, cups, polo sticks, and coins. They also had courts including two male underlings with the king. However, tarot cards designed after that contained trumps, queens, and many other unique symbols with a complete deck of 78 cards. At present, the suit cards are better known as minor arcana; however, the trump cards are named as major arcana.

Bill Wolf, a famous artist and graphic designer who shows persistent interest in tarot card illustration has presented many awesome theories about tarot cards over the years. He never used cards for divination and he stated that the card imagery is usually aligned to the type of game. When the cards are drawn randomly from the deck, they create a unique narrative for the game and the decisions further are influenced by that foundation. As a result, players could create their own adventure-loaded games.

In general, the imagery on the tarot cards was designed with a goal to reflect some real-world aspects with significant Christian symbolism. With time, when the divinatory usage of tarot cards became more popular, the illustrations were linked to the intentions of the specific designers. The subjects on tarot cards started taking more esoteric meaning. The modern age professionals involved in psychic tarot readings can also bring out several outstanding aspects behind each imagery printed on the card.

Those who are a little bit familiar with the concept of tarot card reading might have seen the most famous decks such as Rider-Waite. This deck was designed mainly for the divination purpose you can also find specific esoteric meanings of all imageries printed on these cards in a book written by Waite. It is believed that the strong narrative elements of tarot cards give them more importance in the field. It is also possible to find several mystical applications of these cards in different centuries across the world.




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