Tarot Card Meanings - A Brief History of Tarot
Early Tarot History
The written history of Tarot dates back to 15th century Europe. Tarot Cards appear to have originated in Italy, and shortly thereafter gained popularity in France. The most likely source for their original name, Tarocchi is the Taro River in the Parma region of northern Italy. The Italian "Tarocchi" later evolved into "Tarot" in the French and English languages. Tarot cards are one of many types of playing cards that became popular in this era.
Evidence exists of Tarot cards being used for divinatory readings in Italy as early as the 16th century. Use of the cards for fortune telling initially was not widespread, or at least not widely admitted to. It is thought that the Gypsies were among the early Tarot readers. Divinatory Tarot readings started becoming more popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, likely due in part to the increased diversification of European Christianity and reduced threat of witch hunting during this period.
Although Tarot games remain popular in Europe today, in much of the world Tarot cards are more commonly used for divination. A look at the cards will probably explain why. Note the detail, the backgrounds, the richness of the images. Tarot decks typically contain symbolic artwork through which the artist attempts to convey the possibilities of the cards. The cards represent trends, situations, events, people, characteristics and lessons relevant to human life. Tarot cards have been recognized for their representations of the human condition by such notables as Carl Jung, one of the fathers of Psychology.
The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck
Many beautiful Tarot decks exist, often designed to accentuate particular symbolism by the authors. The best known and most popular Tarot deck today is the Rider-Waite, or Rider-Waite-Smith deck. The deck is so named for the Rider and Sons Company, which originally published it in 1909, Arthur Edward Waite, who designed it, and Pamela Colman Smith, who illustrated it. The names Waite-Smith and Waite-Colman-Smith also refer to this style deck. The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot cards contain subtle but important imagery suggested by Waite and drawn by Smith to convey the messages of the cards.
Mr Waite, who was American born but spent most of his life in England, was a scholar of occultism. He is known for taking a logical, systematic approach to spiritual and occult studies. His symbolic Tarot deck and shortly thereafter his book The Pictorial Key to the Tarot captured much of the abstract realm of Tarot reading and made it more tangible and accessible for the average person. The Tarot card meanings on this website feature Rider-Waite-Smith style cards.