Where does the Tarot come from? The origins of Tarot are as varied as the answers the cards provide.
Was Tarot an ancient Egyptian tool like the well known game of Senet, for dream interpretation and divination (Tar: road; path and Ro: king; royal) meaning the royal road or the royal path, a summary of sorts of The Book of Thoth already containing the four suits, Did the Egyptian priests and Pharaohs play the divination game, or were they simply enjoying a playing deck passed onto them from trade with china in the 13th century.
Is it as some experts believe, an adaptation of the Torah - the ancient Hebrew book of laws , the 22 major arcana or "big mysteries" are directly linked to the Hebrew alphabet and the kabbalah and can be interpreted using gematria also known as Hebrew numerology.
The first official 52 card decks were mentioned in Italy as early as 1377 by religious monks in their personal accounts.
Later mentions of “Carte da Trionfi” or “the cards of triumph” now containing the full 78 cards date back as far as the 1400's.
There are several incomplete original decks still in existence, the oldest of which were commissioned by the duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti and created between 1419 and 1425 for the ruling Visconti family. These card games became known as “Tarrocci” and were popular among the wealthy and ruling classes. By 1440 playing decks and tarot had widely spread throughout Europe and were in mass print.
Although their history may be shrouded in mystery, and it seems it's one the cards themselves cannot or will not reveal, There can be no question for the initiated in the art of the Tarot of their mystical if slightly unnerving connection to the universe.
The pictures may change through the centuries, one could even create their own deck, many of the classic decks are just that, but the decks never vary. 78 cards are split in two,52 minor arcana (arcana meaning secret or mystery) divided into the four well known sets: cups, coins, swords and clubs. and 22 major arcana representing the path to spiritual ascension or the karmic life lessons and obstacles we face and the roles each of us play in them at one point or another.
If you've ever “thrown” the cards , or have gone to a reader and persisted with the same question, you will see that no matter how they are shuffled the 78 cards will begin to give you the same answer in a different way with different cards...that is if they don't become annoyed enough to repeat the cards over and over again.
Or is that just your mind playing tricks on you?
Do the cards reveal your past, present and future, or are you filling in the holes in the story?
Are they an omnipresent set of ears and eyes that move through our perception of time and space to unveil, to those that seek it, the secrets of the universe? Or are they only an introspection tool, a 78 card Roshak test that reveals and dissects the secrets to your own mind and soul?
This is a question that you must answer for yourself as you dive into the unknown depths of the art of divination.