The Historical Evidence Behind the Origins of the Tarot

Despite the popularity of Tarot cards in divination and fortune telling, it seems the only evidence there is to the origins of the Tarot can be found in the cards that were made in Italy, around 1420. The symbolism of the trumps can be found in the European art of the time, with some drawings being exactly the likeness of those found on Tarot cards. History tells us that a scholar named Marziano da Torona, who was secretary to the Duke of Milan, may have invented the Tarot deck. Marziano was a scholar and an expert astrologer. The young duke, Filippo Maria Visconti instructed Marziano to create a game, using a deck that would replace the common suits of swords, coins, staves and cups.

The duke wanted the new deck to have cards that represented virtues, riches, pleasures and purities. Marziano went on to create the card deck that Visconti wanted. He wrote a companion book to go with the deck of cards. It is on display in the Paris National library. In the book, there are no divine meanings to the cards, but no real rules for a card game, either. The book focuses on the symbolic meaning of the pictures and the different ranks of the depicted characters. Michelino da Besozzo is the Italian artist credited with painting the cards.

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