Switch to Forum Live View The Tarot Demystified
|2 years ago :: Sep 13, 2011 - 10:56AM #1|
Despite the persistence of a stubborn mythology which asserts that tarot cards are very ancient, having originated prior to the birth of Christianity, the fact is they were invented in the luxury-loving courts of the dukes of Milan and Ferrara, in northern Italy between 1440 and 1450. Stewart Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Tarot, V. II, pages 3-6 provides copies of the documentation that establishes this beyond dispute.
Twenty-two picture cards, the 21 trump cards and the Fool, plus four additional court cards were added to the already-existing 52-card playing-card deck for purposes of playing a game called "trionfi" (triumphs) (Ron Decker et. al., "A Wicked Pack of Cards", pages 27-28), which spread quickly, gained universal popularity, and soon became known as "tarocchi."
The 78-card standard tarot or tarocchi deck is thus closely related to but distinct from regular playing cards, and was invented for the purpose of gaming.
The game appears to have begun with the production of sumptuous, hand-colored and gilded trionfi decks painted for the high nobility by accomplished artisans. The great majority of the very early surviving cards are of this de luxe variety, but most of a single, mass-produced tarot deck has also survived in scattered pieces, and it provides evidence that the game was popular among all social classes of Renaissance Italians. Dating from before 1500, this commoners' pack was printed from woodblocks and colored using stencils. Unlike the little masterpieces painted for the dukes of Ferrara and the Visconti and Sforza families of Milan, it's atrociously ugly (but historically priceless), and reproduced in full in Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Tarot, Volume II, p. 272-74.
Playing cards predate tarot cards, having entered Europe in about 1365 from the Islamic world, in essentially the same form we use today -- four suits, each consisting of 10 numeral cards and 3 court cards.
The current understanding of the history of tarot cards and playing cards rejects all ancient Egyptian, Cabalistic, and other occult associations with tarot as misperceptions or deliberate fictions.
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