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Tarot decks were first described in the early 15th century in relation to Martiano da Tortona who mentioned tarot-like games. The motifs on these early illustrations were Greek deities with the suits made of four different types of birds, which differed greatly from the regular Italian suits. These forefathers of tarot decks counted only sixteen cards, but they surely enjoyed great popularity. Later, during the same century other mentions of tarot decks are found in Italian documents. Given the heraldic, social, poetical and philosophical interpretations of the cards, modern researchers are surely impressed by the vividness of the symbolism and the ideology behind it.
The oldest tarot decks preserved to our times were designed according to the specifications of the Visconti family. There are sixty-six cards in the deck and they are displayed at the Yale University Library of New Haven. Another famous deck was painted by Bonifacio Bembo at the request of Maria Visconti, two cards from these tarot decks were lost or missed from the very beginning. These latter tarot decks are known as Visconti-Sforza and their design is very popular nowadays too.
Lots of modern imitations combine batons, swords, coins and cups with trump cards as the clear image of the classic iconography specific to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
An analysis of the first-made tarot decks indicates a reduced number given the painstaking effort required for their design. Old tarot decks have survived to our days from Switzerland, Egypt or Marseilles, and the centuries gave them the occult or mystical connotations they have today. Occultism and magic fans were the ones to embrace and widely use the cards for all divination purposes that have passed on to our modern world too.
Some analysts discovered all sorts of origins for the tarot decks with etymologists identifying the Egyptian meaning of the very word tarot: tar stands for royal while ro means road, tarot would thus mean the royal road. According to tradition, Gypsies are said to have spread the tradition of card reading in the first place, but the exact period when tarot decks started to serve for predictive purposes is not clear. What we know for sure is that Eliphas Levi introduced the tarot decks in the English speaking world, initially for aristocrats and then among the middle classes.
Malc is an international psychic and tarot reader with over 20 years experience to book a reading or for more about tarot uk and tarot decks, check out our website psychics4you.co.uk
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