Saturday, February 15, 2014

What is Tarot? Tarot FAQ and a Brief Overview of its History

Vintage tarot cards

Looking at the History of Tarot Cards

By Rhaine McFae-Dvornak

Tarot cards were originally used only to play games; divination came later. Playing cards (yes, ordinary playing cards) originated in Mamluk, Egypt; it is not known specifically when Mamluk cards were made or used though. They first came to be known after L.A. Mayer discovered them during a visit to an Istanbul museum in 1939. He believed that the cards he’d seen were remnants and were from two partial decks.

Mamluk cards
Mamluk cards; public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

History shows that between 1430 and 1450 in Northern Italy, the playing card decks of the day had evolved somewhat; they had more cards added in. The additional ones were trumps, and were known as trionfi; this word translated to English means triumphs. These cards though used for game playing, are assumed to be the predecessor to today’s tarot decks.

Even though there is no physical evidence in the form of card decks to support the following statement, it has been claimed that there are written references to tarot cards being banned during the 1370s in Europe. Apparently gaming, which is what they were being used for, was frowned upon. This makes it unclear exactly as to where and when tarot first began, and confuses its full historical evolution; in other words, history makes references to tarot at times, even before the term applied to a form of cartomancy.

What are Tarot Cards Used For?

As already stated, tarot cards have long been used for playing the game tarot, and today in some areas it is still played. In France, tarot is the second-most popular card game, with belote being the first.

Tarot cards are also commonly used for divination. Let me explain first that generally speaking, nowadays the tarot cards used for gaming and the ones used for divination are markedly different. The difference is that the decks used for card reading are usually richly illustrated; the ones used for game playing are in appearance much like playing cards.

Tarot cards in the hands of a practiced individual, can be a useful tool to predict the likelihood of events to happen in the future, and can also refer to events and occurrences past and current. There is a lot of value in this on both an everyday life level, as well as on a spiritual one, as it can guide us in making appropriate life choices.

Which brings us to yet another use for the cards; some use them to further themselves with self-help advice, or by gleaning messages appropriate to spur their spiritual growth and ascension. Once you tune into these mystical cards and their muliti-faceted messages, you can take from them whatever you desire.

Etymology: Where Did the Word Tarot Come From?

It is the source of some debate where the word tarot originated from. One theory suggests that it was named after a river in Parma, Northern Italy – that being the Taro river.

Another theory suggests that the word tarot derived from the names Harut and Marut. In the Qur’an and as well in the Jewish Midrash, there is a story telling of how angels named Harut and Marut taught magical skills to a group of Israelites.

The two angels were thereafter hung by their feet in punishment for their efforts. This is reported to have happened in Babylon. Apparently both of the names in their original language, ancient Jewish, appeared in a form resembling how tarot would have been written.

And there is to some, a fairly obvious connection between the words Torat and tarot in that they are mirror images of each other. In Middle East areas, many pronounce the word Torah (as in Jewish theology) as Torat. To some, this connection strengthens the theory that the word tarot descended from Jewish lineage. To me this is a stretch; but obviously, to some others it is not.

A theory that you will read from time to time is that tarot is made up of the Egyptian words tar, meaning royal, and ot, meaning road. In this context the name suggests that it was a known fact that you could access wisdom of spirit through the cards at the time tarot was named. If this were in fact true, then it adds yet another layer of confusion to its history. It leads us to ask why such a name was applied, one with such a strongly spiritual meaning, possibly at a time or from a region wherein history suggests the decks were still being used only in playing card games.

How do Tarot Cards Work?

Hmm, now there is an interesting, yet somewhat perplexing question. I am sure that most tarot card readers you could ask would offer multiple possibilities. The truth is that no one knows for sure.

One suggestion is synchronicity, explained well but in two markedly different ways, at Crystalinks, and on the LLewellyn site. Another is telekinesis, moving the cards with your hands, not telekinetically; but the position of the cards within the deck is determined by subconscious telekinetic placement, in response to the ‘inner wisdom and knowing’ of both the reader and the querent.

Another is time lapsing. This is explained by the cards responding now to something that is in process, had happened in the past, or will happen in the future; but in the context of time, somehow that event is accessible in the current moment through tarot cards. This is suggestive of tarot being able to access a time loophole of sorts.

One thing is certain, that however card reading works, it taps into the great universal consciousness of being, which we are all a part of.

Do I Have to be Psychic to Read Tarot Cards?

Without a doubt, you do not. That said, you may find yourself with increasing psychic talents as you continue to practice card reading over time.

Am I Dooming People by Reading Negatives to Them?

Tarot doesn’t work that way. It’s the absolute opposite in most cases. When you inform people of things that they can change, you are offering them tools to improve their lives. There is little set in stone, there is virtually always room for improvement. This is the very essence of tarot.

Is Tarot Always Accurate?

No. No matter how good of a tarot reader you are, you can’t be accurate all of the time; but you can be accurate most of the time. Based upon how tarot works – predicting the most likely outcome of current patterns, thoughts, and choices; it just isn’t possible to be 100% correct. Things can change after all.

Why do Some Say that Tarot is Evil?

It’s hard to say why so many say that tarot is evil, but it appears to be a combination of things.

Back in days of yore, labeling something as evil was a fairly effective means of crowd control, as was developing religious dogmata in general. Too, it appears that over the decades tarot has often been used as a prop in movies; and the cards most likely to be shown are The Devil and Death. So we have the church saying that divination is evil, and too, the cards with negative connotations get all of the attention.

Regarding the church labeling, there is a verse in Deuteronomy, 18:10-12, making reference to divination being against the word of God.

I have my own understanding of what this verse is saying. I did some research, trying to get a feel of what this Bible passage meant. I get that back in the time referred to, there were a lot of fakes telling people false fortunes. Their readings led people to make poor choices. Their deceit was the problem, not divination. Them taking people’s money to do them harm and to lead them astray was the issue at hand.

There are many who practice divination today that are pure of heart. Of course as in any trade, that cannot be said for all. I am not telling you what to think though, you must decide for yourself what is right for you.

Where Can I Purchase Tarot Cards?

Today you can get tarot card decks in almost any bookstore, any metaphysical store; and also many places online such as bookstores, Amazon, eBay, and so on.

Is it Difficult to Learn to Read Tarot Cards?

Even though tarot card reading is relatively simple to learn, it requires patience, commitment, study, and practice. The cards don’t do all of the work, you have to do your part.

Once you get the necessary beginners' tarot learning materials of your choice, the next thing you should do is join a tarot forum so you can ‘pick the brains’ and read the posts of those who are more learned and practiced. You will also get to see that there are others just like you, experiencing much the same thing.


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