Origins and History of the Tarot

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by Sally Jordonia

The origins of the Tarot are surrounded with myth and lore. It is hard to know for sure what the facts are. The Tarot has been thought to come from places like India, Egypt, China and Morocco. Others say the Tarot was brought to us from the Sufis or the Jewish Cabbalists. Still others contend that the origin of the tarot was from Moses. In the library of Alexandria, in Egypt, there were scrolls that were based on the Book of Thoth, an ancient book that came from Egypt's mystery schools. One theory is that the illustrations on the Tarot cards are secret teachings of the Book of Thoth hidden in the innocent pictures.

It seems that wherever there was a secret "word of mouth" tradition handed down from teacher to pupil, it was hailed as the origin or beginning of Tarot. A large group believed it was the Gypsies who brought the tarot to Europe, the word gypsy being a corrupted version of Egyptian. That is highly unlikely, since evidence points to gypsies not using Tarot until the 20th century. Before that, palmistry was their preferred method of fortune telling.

The Historical Evidence Behind the Origins of the Tarot

It seems the only evidence there is to the origins of the Tarot can be found in the cards that were made in Italy, around 1420. The symbolism of the trumps can be found in the European art of the time, with some drawings being exactly the likeness of those found on Tarot cards.