The Literary Panorama of the Tarot Cards: Historical Reality and Myths

Print
The Literary Panorama of the Tarot Cards: Historical Reality and Myths

The Literary Panorama of the Tarot Cards: Historical Reality and Myths

Although the Tarot is the most widely used ‘book of images’ in the world for the purpose of fortune-telling, many people are oblivious to its origins. A popular belief exists that the Tarot originated in ancient Egypt, but in fact it originated in Italy in the Middle Ages. It has not yet been established with certainty, in which city, what was then called Ludus Triomphorum, or Gioco dei Trionfi, (Game of Triumph) saw the light. It was composed of two distinct groups of cards: the first consisting of allegorical images, the Trionfi, and the second group, called ‘a semi Italiani’ (Italian suits), encompassing Sticks, Swords, Cups, Coins.

The Queen of Staves from the Visconti-Sforza deck. Attributed to Bonifacio Bembo (15th century). (Public Domain)

The Queen of Staves from the Visconti-Sforza deck. Attributed to Bonifacio Bembo (15th century). (Public Domain)

Common Playing Cards

Reliable evidence indicates the common playing cards all date back to the second half of the 14th century. Since players easily indulged in blasphemous language against the saints, God and the Virgin Mary causing the indignation of preachers, authorities wished to curb gambling, with all its social and moral implications. This proves that the cards were already widespread in use in Europe by then. Among the prohibitions, are those issued in 1378 in Regensburg in Germany, and in 1388 and 1389 in Switzerland. The Tractatus de moribus et disciplina humanae conversationis (1377) of the Dominican Johannes de Rheinfelden, refers to the introduction of a ludus cartarum in Basel, specifying that he did not know when, where and by whom it had been invented, but he compared it to chess since both games had kings, queens, nobles and people.


Become a member to read more OR login here

Ancient Origins Quotations