Unravelling the Mystique: A Deep Dive into the Fascinating History of Tarot Cards

‍Photo by AlbanyColley on Pixabay

Tarot cards have long fascinated humanity with their enigmatic allure, intricate designs and the promise of revealing the unseen. These captivating cards, often associated with divination and personal growth, have a rich history that dates back to the medieval times in Europe. This article will delve into the intriguing origins of tarot cards, their evolution over the centuries, and the myriad interpretations they have sparked.

The Emergence of Tarot: The Early Days

The tale of tarot begins in the late 14th or early 15th century in the European continent. The earliest tarot-like cards, known as tarocchi, were born in Italy and designed for a bridge-like game. These initial tarot decks were exclusive, hand-painted artefacts commissioned by affluent families as an emblem of their high social standing.

Tarot Cards

Such decks were adorned with various archetypes prevalent during the era, heavily influenced by the local folklore and practices, many of which had deep, ancient roots. The deck’s creation was often a collaboration between the commissioner and an artist, resulting in beautiful, richly symbolic illustrations. One of the earliest mass-produced tarot decks, now known as the Rider-Waite or Rider deck, was the brainchild of Arthur Edward Waite and illustrator Pamela Colman Smith, both members of the esoteric group Order of the Golden Dawn.

The Structure of Tarot Decks: Major and Minor Arcana

Two distinct sections constitute a Tarot deck: The Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana, a set of 22 cards, stands out as one of the most distinguishing features of tarot cards. Each card in this section represents significant life teachings, spiritual themes, and archetypal energies, from the Fool’s journey of new beginnings to the World’s completion and fulfilment.

The Minor Arcana, on the other hand, encompasses four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. These suits correspond to the elements of fire, water, air, and earth, respectively. Concentrating on everyday affairs, personal experiences, and the hurdles and opportunities we face, the Minor Arcana cards offer a closer look at our daily lives.

Tarot and The Occult: A Mystical Connection

While the initial use of tarot cards was focused on gameplay and as a status symbol, their association with the occult and divination began to develop in the late 18th century. French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette, also known as Etteilla, published the first authoritative guide to tarot card reading. This guide laid the groundwork for using tarot as a tool for spiritual and personal growth, transforming the perception of these cards forever.

The Evolution of Tarot: From Gameplay to Personal Growth

Over the years, the usage of tarot cards has undergone a significant evolution. From their humble origins as a medieval card game to their contemporary use as a tool for personal growth and divination, tarot has adapted and evolved to meet the changing beliefs and needs of society. The late 20th and early 21st century saw a resurgence in the popularity of tarot, partly due to the accessibility of tarot decks and the rise of online communities.

Tarot Reading: The Art of Interpretation

Tarot reading is an art form that necessitates a blend of interpretation, intuition, and a deep understanding of the symbolism embedded within the cards. A tarot spread, or the arrangement of the cards drawn, tells a narrative that mirrors the querent’s (tarot client) life and circumstances. Skilled tarot readers employ their knowledge of the cards’ symbolism, their intuition, and their ability to connect with the querent to provide meaningful insights and guidance.

Choosing Your Tarot Deck: A Personal Journey

The selection of a tarot deck is a profoundly personal endeavour. With a plethora of decks available today, each featuring varying artistic styles and interpretations, it’s crucial to find one that resonates with you on a symbolic and intuitive level. The imagery and symbolism of a tarot deck should evoke a sense of connection and spark your interpretations and insights.

The Power of Tarot: Beyond Divination

Beyond divination, tarot cards can function as a potent instrument for personal growth and self-discovery. By exploring the symbolism and meanings of the cards, individuals can gain insights into their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Tarot can provide guidance, affirmation, and a deeper understanding of oneself, fostering personal transformation and empowerment.

Tarot Cards: A Timeless Fascination

Despite the passage of centuries, tarot cards have managed to maintain their timeless magic and continue to captivate people’s imaginations. The enchanting world of tarot awaits you, ready to unveil its mystical secrets and transformative power. So take a moment, shuffle the cards, lay out a spread, and embark on your journey of tarot exploration.

A Note of Caution

It’s essential to approach tarot readings with an open mind and a sense of personal responsibility. The interpretations and insights provided by tarot cards are subjective and should be used as a tool for self-reflection and personal growth.


Tarot is an enigmatic and rich tool, steeped in history and surrounded by mystery. Its evolution from a card game to a medium for personal growth and self-discovery is a testament to its enduring appeal and the profound insights it can offer. Whether you’re a seasoned tarot reader or a curious novice, the world of tarot is an extraordinary realm of symbolism and wisdom waiting to be discovered.