History of Tarot Origins, Iconography, Symbolism

The history of tarot is very little known. Anyone paying attention to these simple and mysterious cards naturally asks themselves a few questions: do we know where tarot comes from? What was it for? If it is a modest card game, why has it become one of the pillars of contemporary esotericism? From the ancient cradle, where game and divination intermingle, to the Middle Ages in which the symbolism of colors and figures is also anchored, from works of the Italian Renaissance to the French occultist movement of the nineteenth century, history is invited to explain the tarot.

Emergence and development of card games in Europe

The cards undoubtedly arrived in France between 1369 and 1380. The oldest date of playing cards is in 1299, but this date would be disputed. The first card games were called 'naibbe'. In this regard we find in an account book of Charles VI a payment due to a certain Jacquemin Gringonneur for a card game designated for a long time for the oldest called "tarot de Charles VI".

The hypothesis that the maps are of oriental origin is the most widespread among contemporary authors. To confirm this, a superb 15th century illuminated deck of cards from Mameluke Egypt is cited in Istanbul. This game is made up of cups, swords, clubs and money. Perhaps they came from Persia. In the 15th century the passion for card games invaded Europe, so much so that the priest Jean de Capistran will burn thousands of them! (Roman legislation considered gambling and gambling as a crime which will continue in Christian society).

French, German and Italian cards

The French cards were developed to serve as a model: of courage with the valiant, of honor, of dedication, of beauty, of piety. But whether German, French or Italian, they are still in use today. Initially these cards were painted by hand and composed for wealthy buyers, then card molds developed leading to a standardization of signs. In Germany this gave the Germanic colors or signs: leaves acorns, bells, hearts. In Italy and Spain we find colored cards or Latin or Italian signs: swords, deniers, cups, while the French signs are: spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts.

The most important colors of the Middle Ages were for the coats of arms, red and black white, to which were added later blue, yellow and green, other basic colors both in artistic creation and for social representations. of this time.

Daily life in French neighborhoods under the old regime

We can say that it was a profession which enjoyed little consideration. In 1581 an edict of Henri III had instituted the constitution of the trades in bodies and communities in order to collect fairly the taxes. Trades were divided into five categories from best to those considered poor. The tarot card maker (a very regulated and heavily taxed profession) ranks third in the “mediocre mestiers” surrounded by the butcher, the shoemaker and the tailor. There is also the stationer, the instrument player, the painter, the sculptor. These artistic professions are now highly regarded.

The century of tarot cards in Marseille

Jean-Pierre Payen's tarot is known to be one of the oldest tarot cards. At the beginning of the 18th century tarots were made in Avignon, Marseille, Lyon and Dijon. The tarot of Dodal comes from Lyon, remained famous because it would be the second oldest known Tarot of Marseilles (but not dated!) Made in Lyon by Jean Dodal who practiced from 1701 to 1715. These two tarots have similarities that one will not be found in the more "successful" version of the game most widely used today.

Pierre Madenié's tarot is the oldest known copy which also inspired the master cartiers Nicolas Conver, Grimaud or Camoin, becoming the favorite of occultists and tarologists. It is the oldest known and dated Marseille tarot made in Lyon. We can consider that the author of the Tarot de Marseille is undoubtedly a French neighborhood from the time of the reign of Louis VIV (the oldest decks of this known model are from this period) the rare previous decks are different.

The history of Tarot is also part of the art of divination

Sources and historians contradict each other on the appearance of card divination. Around the 1450s Fernando de la Torre spoke of the cards called "naîpes" to express fortune, but it is difficult to see the first references to fortune telling. A painting by Lucas de Leyden entitled `` the card printer '' dating from 1508 indicates that the process already existed.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the tarot will follow a different path than that of fortune-telling because the occultists will seize it, transforming it into a sacred book holding a hidden truth then returning to divinatory practices.

French editorial abundance since the 1980s

France has become the '' conservatory '' of Maseille tarot since the publication of Paul Marteau's game in 1930, director of the Grimaud house. Later, other authors such as Alejandro Jodorowsky who created in 1997 a computer game from dozens of old tarot models, then Georges Colleuil who published the `` birth referential '' from 1984 and the tarot of Marrakech completely freeing the practice of this game.

The tarot will become a tool for personal development. There are no less than five hundred and sixty six books listed by the National Library under the keywords Tarots Divination. Each year between ten and twenty new titles devoted to tarot appear and we are only talking about France.

The Arcana has not always worn the same number, there are dozens and dozens of decks: if an archetypal Tarot de Marseille exists which implies the whole system, what is it and where is it? There are hundreds of them.

Each person who practices tarot knows that he can have interesting experiences without necessarily going through an elaborate initiation or a sharp occultism, because no master has taught an essential knowledge to this strange and exciting game which marked history!

History of the Tarot: Origins, Iconographies, Symbolism. Isabelle Nadoly. Trajectory Edition, 2018.

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