History of Tarot
Traditional playing cards were first seen in Europe in 1375, having been brought over from the east side of the world. These cards were not, however, Tarot cards. They looked similar to Tarot cards but didn’t have the same use.
It wasn't until 1440 that the cards that were most likely the origin of Tarot cards were first mentioned. In a letter from the Duke of Milan, there was a request for several decks of "triumph" cards to be used at a special event. The letter differentiated “triumph” cards from regular "playing" cards. It does appear, however, that the first Tarot decks were created as a game. There were four suits with cards numbered one through 10 and also court cards that included a queen, king, knight and page. The deck also included 22 symbolic picture cards that did not belong to any suit. The decks were used to play a game called triumph that was similar to bridge. In triumph, 21 of the 22 special picture cards were permanent trump cards. The game spread quickly to all parts of Europe. People began referring to this as tarocchi, which is an Italian version of the French word tarot, from around 1530.
In 1781, in France and England, followers of the occult discovered Tarot cards. They saw the symbolic pictures of the cards as having more meaning than the simple trump cards they were used for at the time. They used the cards as a divination tool, and occult writers wrote about "the Tarot." After this, the Tarot became a part of occult philosophy. There are also those who believe that Tarot cards originated in Egypt. In some circles, they are thought to be the sole surviving "book" from the great fire that burned the libraries of ancient Egypt. In this theory, the cards are considered to be the hieroglyphical keys to life.
The real answer comes from the Tarot reader being able to focus their consciousness beyond the physical meaning of a given card and into the life to the person they are reading. Answers are never on one level.
The ancestors of what we today know as Tarot cards can be traced back to around the late fourteenth century. Artists in Europe created the first playing cards, which were used for games, and featured four different suits. These suits were similar to what we still use today – staves or wands, discs or coins, cups, and swords. After a decade or two of using these, in the mid-1400s, Italian artists began painting additional cards, heavily illustrated, to add into the existing suits.
These trumps, or triumph cards were often painted for wealthy families. Members of the nobility would commission artists to create for them their own set of cards, featuring family members and friends as the triumph cards. A number of sets, some of which still exist today, were created for the Visconti family of Milan, which counted several dukes and barons among its numbers.