The Interesting History Behind Tarot Card Reading

Every funfair has a mandatory tarot card reading lady, just like in the movies, a little creepy looking, acting mysteriously. It might be all fun and jokes but tarot reading actually has an interesting history behind it.

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The word tarot originated from the Italian word tarocchi, the origin of which is unknown. Tarocco, its singular form means ‘blood orange’ in modern Italian. There are two theories regarding the origin. Some believe it has its roots in Milan or Bologna where the Taro River flows. Others believe, it has Arabic roots, ‘turuq’ which means ‘ways’ or ‘taraka’ which means ‘to leave or abandon’.

The History of Tarot Reading

Starting with the name, it was actually called as Trionfi earlier. Tarot cards were initially used as a deck of cards for entertainment purposes during mid 15th century Europe, starting Egypt. Soon after they were used for divination purposes. The first record of which was as early as in 1540.

Court de Gebelin, a French clergyman, observed a group of Egyptian women playing cards, which led him to believe that it was not merely a deck of cards but possibly, of divine significance. He also realized that its origin could be from Egypt.

Jean-Baptiste Alliette (known as Etteilla) and Maire Ann Lenormand were the first to assign divinatory meaning to tarot cards.

Interpretation of the Cards

Different people have given different interpretations.

Tarot de Marseille[22]Court de Gébelin[23][24]Etteilla’s Egyptian Tarot[25]Paul Christian’s Egyptian Tarot
(divinatory meaning in bold)
1 – the Bateleur (Mountebank)BateleurIdeal/Wisdomthe Magus / Will
2 – the PopessHigh PriestessEnlightenment/PassionGate of the (occult) Sanctuary / Knowledge
3 – the EmpressEmpressDiscussion/InstabilityIsis – Urania / Action
4 – the EmperorEmperorRevelation/BehaviourCubic Stone / Realisation
5 – the PopeChief HierophantTravel/Country PropertyMaster of the Mysteries/Arcana / Occult Inspiration
6 – Love or the LoversMarriageSecrets/TruthsTwo Roads / Ordeal
7 – the ChariotOsiris TriumphantSupport/ProtectionChariot of Osiris / Victory
8 – JusticeJusticeTenacity/ProgressThemis (Scales and Blade) / Equilibrium
9 – the HermitWise ManJustice/Law-Makerthe Veiled Lamp / Wisdom
10 – Wheel of FortuneWheel of FortuneTemperance/Convictionsthe Sphinx / Fortune
11 – FortitudeFortitudeStrength/Powerthe Muzzled(tamed) Lion / Strength
12 – the Hanged ManPrudencePrudence/PopularityThe Sacrifice / Sacrifice
13 – DeathDeathMarriage/Love AffairThe Skeleton Reaper / Transformation
14 – TemperanceTemperanceViolence/Weaknessthe Two Urns (the genius of the sun) / Initiative
15 – the DevilTyphonChagrins/IllnessTyphon / Fate
16 – the Towerthe Castle or PlutusOpinion/Arbitrationthe Beheaded Tower (Lightning Struck) / Ruin
17 – the StarSirius or the Dog StarDeath/IncapacityStar of the Magi / Hope
18 – the MoonMoonBetrayal/Falsehoodthe Twilight / Deception
19 – the SunSunPoverty/Prisonthe Blazing Light / (earthly) Happiness
20 – Judgmentthe CreationFortune/Augmentationthe Awakening of the Dead / Renewal
21 – the WorldTimeLaw Suit/Legal Disputethe Crown of the Magi / Reward
Le Mat (Fool)FoolMadness/Bewilderment0 the Crocodile (between 20 and 21) / Expiation

The cards are to be arranged in a specific way-


Lots of variations have been found in the cards. The French, the German and the Italians have their own unique versions.

It is believed that the result is guided by a spiritual force, which looks into a person’s subconscious. Tarotology has no scientific evidence. It is considered as a pseudoscience. Hence it should be used only as a source of entertainment and not to take important decisions based on it.

Read also – Shani Shingnapur where the houses don’t have doors

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