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Thursday, May 08, 2014.
The first Tarot cards have been around since the 1370's, used as playing cards in Europe. These earliest decks were hand painted art works which were expensive and could only be afforded by wealthy patrons. But as demand increased, new and cheaper methods of production were discovered so that playing cards became available for everyone, specially with the start of the printing machines. The Earliest card found in Germany. Handmade deck found in castle Ambras (Tirol) together with Hofmterspiel reprinted by "Edition Leipzig" in 1971 for Heimeran (Munich). The origin of tarot cards is not exactly determinable, but it seems most likely that the early Tarot pointing to Gypsy origin and was an antecedent to the simpler decks of playing cards. One cannot forget to mention the use of tarot cards for the purpose of divination. The first use of cards to tell the future was in 1480's in Germany, and preceeded the Italian tarot. One shuffled a deck of customary playing cards, drew one, and then consulted the book to determine one's fate. Later tarot was changed by Eliphas Levi, in 1856 who linked the Tarot cards into the system of Cabala making the connection between the 22 trumps and the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This placed the Tarot cards in the realm of occultism. Later on, in 1904. Tarot was changed once again by the British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley and Rider Waite. A. Crowley came to believe himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a spiritual experience that he and his wife, Rose Edith, had in Egypt. By his account, a possibly non-corporeal or "praeterhuman" being that called itself Aiwass contacted him and dictated a text (this is identical to the Mormons belief of an angel coming to dictate the words to Joseph Smith) known as The Book of the Law or Liber AL vel Legis, which outlined the principles of Thelema. An adherent of Thelema is a Thelemite. Primarily, Tarot in terms teaches of the philosophical model of the Qabalah and the Temple of Thelema. (The Thelemic pantheon includes a number of deities focusing primarily on a trinity of deities adapted from ancient Egyptian religion, who are the three speakers of The Book of the Law: Nuit, Hadit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit. The religion is founded upon the idea that the 20th century marked the beginning of the Aeon of Horus, in which a new ethical code would be followed; "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law". This statement indicates that adherents, who are known as Thelemites, should seek out and follow their own true path in life, known as their True Will rather than their egoic desires. The philosophy also emphasizes the ritual practice of Magick. The word "Thelema" itself is the English transliteration of the Koine Greek noun: "will", from the verb: to will, wish, purpose. In the New Testament as well as the works of Plato, Thelema includes the ideas of will, choice, (today we can see many shops coining the word "Choice or Choices, showing their belief in the Telema) inclination, desire, including sexual desire, and pleasure.) The 22 Major Arcana are the 22 Trumps correspond to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each are also attributed other symbols, astrological and philosophical. They are almost entirely based on the simple astrological correspondences of the Hebrew letters. Those given for Aleph, Mem, and Shin correspond closely to the astrological significance of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
It is important to point out that Piatnik type of Tarot cards such as Art Deco, Biedermeier, Gypsy Oracle cards etc. do not attach occult meanings to the Cards, only the Rider Waite type of tarot cards contain occult symbolism hidden within each tarot image.
It was only later when tarot was assigned Egyptian and Gypsy origin that people started viewing Tarot as so magical, and attributed to them the ability to tell the future. Ironically, Gypsies never used tarot to tell fortune, they were mostly palm readers. The first cards extant in Europe, the tarrochi which was ancestor to the modern Tarot, was used only for playing games, yet now the modern Tarot is used nearly exclusively for the purpose of meditation and divination. It was the simplified playing card deck that was first used for divination, yet now it is nearly exclusively used for playing games. Although faced with a few tough tangles in the course of seeking the origin of playing cards and Tarot, every card is a work of art. In seeking the origin of playing cards, one also seeks the origin of an entire art form. This art form seems to be known throughout the world; its widespread appeal due to the fact that it is functional art. Unlike many forms of art contemporary to the existence of cards, there was a universal appeal, so that it could be enjoyed by anyone. The nobility could have fine decks hand-painted for their use, the commoner folk could buy less expensive woodblock printed decks, and even faithful clergymen could attach moral significance and endorse the use of cards. Perhaps playing cards and Tarot, with their tangled thread of history, can help unravel the mystery of the future as the fates weave the tapestry of time.