Tarot cards have been used in Europe for hundreds of years. During the last decade or so, they have been steadily gaining popularity throughout the Western world, as people turn away from main-steam religion, instead looking elsewhere for spiritual guidance and the answers to life’s important questions. Nowadays, Tarot cards are even used by psychologists and psychotherapists as valuable therapeutic tools; thus, the negative image they have unfortunately garnered over the years is beginning to fade. The history of the Tarot is widely disputed and appropriately mysterious. The word ‘Tarot’ derives from the Italian Tarocchi, though unfortunately the etymology of this word is unknown; theories include Italian and Arabic origins, but this is pure speculation.
There are tales of the Tarot originating in exotic, far-flung places, such as Ancient Egypt, but this is almost certainly untrue. The history of their use has been traced as far back the 14th century, when the cards were used as a game similar to the modern playing deck. The first documented evidence of their existence is a ban on their use in Switzerland in 1367, though this was in connections with gambling. The basic Tarot system appears to have evolved over a period of years starting in the late 14th century. The major arcana (or trump cards) were added in the 15th century, after many revisions to the number of cards and their names. It is known Tarot cards were popular in Italy and France in the 15th century and were associated with divination from the 15th century onward.
The major arcana of the Tarot was heavily influenced by Hermeticism and alchemy. Kabbalistic correspondences were introduced later on, when the cards became popular with magicians, and further correspondences were added by magical society The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the early 20th century. Thus, the system has become markedly more complex during the past century or so. Despite this, because of the symbolism contained within the imagery on the cards, they can often be read with astonishing accuracy by someone with no previous training. `