The Mystical Origins of Tarot

Rider Waite tarot cards

A Game of Tarocchini

The mystical origins of the tarot is a story as mysterious as the cards themselves. The story goes that the tarot’s origins go back to the bustling streets of medieval Italy–to the cities of Venice, Milan, Florence and Urbino. The cards were not for divination but for games like Tarocchini which are point trick taking card games popular in northern Italy. During this period, tarot cards were a status symbol, and the aristocracy often commissioned their own personal artists to design and paint their tarot decks. This personalisation put tarot cards as a luxury item for by the wealthy and elite. It wasn’t until later that these cards would evolve into the tool we know today.

In the 18th century tarot cards began to be used for divination and this being nothing to do with tarot from the medieval time. New symbols were added and the terms major and minor arcana were added. These terms are used specifically in the esoteric practice of tarot divination and the word Arcana translates to secrets.The imagery on the cards is rich with symbolism and archetypes. Therefore the cards speak to the human psyche in a way that few other tools can and so tarot has intrigued people for centuries.

Tarot de Marseilles

One of the most ancient and widely recognised decks is the Tarot de Marseilles deck . It’s believed its origins can be traced back to Milan, Italy. As it crossed borders and made its way into France, it became infused with powerful symbolism, shaping it into the beloved tarot deck that we know and use today. What makes the Tarot de Marseilles stand out is its elegance, simple illustrations and bold primary colours. It captures the medieval feel of tarot perfectly.

Mystical origins of The Tarot: Marseilles Tarot deck

Major and Minor Arcana

The cards of the Major Arcana represent the archetypal energies that are present in all of us as well as important patterns in the questioner’s life. The cards of the Minor Arcana represent the more mundane aspects of life. For example, the suit of Wands often deals with business matters and career ambitions. While Cups link to emotions and matters of the heart. Swords can represent conflict or challenges. While Coins are can represent material comfort and financial stability. By understanding the symbolism and meanings of each card of the Major and Minor Arcana, you can gain deeper insights into the issues and questions put forward.

Arthur Edward Waite

An important man in the history of the tarot was Arthur Edward Waite, who created the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Waite was a prominent British occultist and writer. He was born on 2nd October, 1857, in Brooklyn, New York. He was deeply spiritual individual with a keen interest in exploring the mystical and esoteric aspects of life.

Waite’s interest in the tarot began in the late 19th century, when he became involved in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society that focused on the study of the occult and mysticism. Waite became interested in the tarot, which he saw as a way to explore spiritual and metaphysical concepts.

Waite’s most famous contribution to the world of tarot was his creation of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. The deck, which was first published in 1909, is notable for its vivid imagery and symbolism with illustrations by fellow Golden Dawn member Pamela Coleman Smith. It has become a favourite for many tarot readers. The deck includes the Major Arcana again representing the archetypal energies that are present in all of us, and the Minor Arcana, which represents the various aspects of everyday life. The deck’s emphasis on symbolism and the story of the Fool’s Journey has made it the most popular tarot deck in the world.

Alister Crowley

Another important figure in the history of tarot was the occultist Alister Crowley. He created his own tarot deck called the Thoth Tarot, which is still heavily in use today.

Aleister Crowley was a British occultist and mystic and one of the most influential figures in the development of modern tarot. Crowley was interested in the symbolism of tarot and its potential for divination and self-discovery. In the early 20th century, he collaborated with artist Lady Frieda Harris to create the Thoth Tarot Deck, Another popular and widely used deck in modern tarot practice.

The Thoth Deck was published in 1944 and features bold and intricate designs that uses esoteric and mystical symbolism. Crowley believed that the tarot was a tool for self-discovery and personal transformation, and he saw the Thoth Deck as a means to explore the deepest levels of the psyche and subconscious. Each card in the deck has its own unique symbolism and meaning. Crowley encouraged practitioners to use the deck as a means of exploring their own inner world and discovering new insights and understandings.

Mystical origins of the tarot: Thoth Deck

The Silent Flute-The Fools Journey

The 1978 Film The Silent Flute, starring David Carradine, Christopher Lee, and Roddy McDowell, may appear to be a martial arts fantasy film at first glance but I believe it is actually a powerful metaphor for the Fool’s Journey in the tarot.

The protagonist, Cord the Seeker, defies authority and sets out on a quest to find and defeat the invincible Zetan in order to gain access to the secrets of the Book of Enlightenment. However, the journey is not an easy one as Cord must navigate a series of vicious combat trials and confront difficult life lessons along the way.

As Cord progresses on his journey, he receives guidance from a mystical blind flute player who possesses the wisdom and fighting skills of a Shaolin Monk. Through his new mentor, Cord learns that in order to succeed, he must not only be a skilled fighter, but he must also confront his own fears, shadow self and weaknesses.

Along the Fool’s Journey in the tarot the seeker embarks on a journey of self-discovery and transformation, confronting challenges and obstacles along the way in order to gain wisdom and insight into themselves and the world around them. Through the trials and tribulations of the Fool’s Journey, the seeker learns to confront their own shadows and limitations and gain the tools and knowledge needed to achieve mastery over their own destiny.

Keys To The Subconscious

Some people believe tarot cards are a means of predicting the future, however, this is not the true essence of the tarot. The most powerful way to work with tarot cards is to use them as a tool to access intuition and inner wisdom. The imagery of the tarot cards are a gateway to your subconscious mind and intuitive faculties. The cards to speak to your inner self and therefore through tarot, it is possible to tap into intuition and a deeper understanding of our own psyche. This is because the cards are like a mirror, reflecting back our own hopes, fears, and aspirations.

If you enjoy fortean topics don’t forget to check out Hocus Focus with myself and Thomas Sheridan every Sunday night on YouTube at 8pm UK/Irish time.

The mystical origins of The tarot: Rider Waite tarot card pack

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