In the 1700s, Tarot was at it height of popularity. It was played all over Europe. German, Sweden, Italy, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands and more. It was all the rage in France where in 1750 or there about a change was being made to the playing cards. The French suit signs of Clubs, Diamond, Spades and Hearts and double headed trumps where becoming the norm. With the addition of large numbers on the trump cards, users did not have to memorize the order the trumps came in, and this also gave way to more creative expression in the art on the cards.
Thanks to the efforts of Antoine Court de Gébelin and Jean-Baptiste Alliette, we can more closely pin point the time when cartomancy really became popular. Antoine Court de Gébelin was an 18th century pastor, Freemason, and scholar. He was very interested in all things esoteric and secret. Court de Gébelin spent ten years on a huge project he titled The Primitive World Analyzed and Compared with the Modern World. This written project of his was 9 books long and they discussed many subjects, one being Tarot.
In the nine volumes of Court de Gébelin’s books (published in 1782), he made many claims and asserted many “facts” that where not proven. Regardless, his writing inspired one of his contemporaries Jean-Baptiste Alliette. Shortly after Court de Gébelin’s writings where published Alliette came back to his writings on cartomancy and republished an earlier book of his own. This book was retitled Manner of Enjoying the Playing Cards called Tarot (1783), in this book Alliette would confirm his agreement with Court de Gébelin’s ideas.
Even though Court de Gébelin’s and Alliette’s books spread their personal opinions, it did help us know when cartomancy began. Their books also show us the thoughts and even superstition behind the cards at the time.
Over the next 100 years Cartomancy became the big thing. A revival of sorts happened to these cards that used to be looked at as nothing but playing pieces. Schools of thought and systems where developed. People got very serious about their divination purposes and this revival continued into the 20th century.
Arthur Edward Waite was a Christian scholar and Mystic. Waite created his own system and beliefs around the tarot cards. These included cabbalism, astrology, thoughts based on the occultists and Joseph Campbell’s Universal Monomyth. Waite’s system of cards where the first to have pictures on the pip cards. Along with his cards Waite authored a book called A Pictorial Key to the Tarot.
Now to the present. Today we have multitudes of card decks, innumerable schools of thought and systems for divination with cards and the internet. I myself have several decks and love them all. People collect them for the art work, or for the spirit around the theme instilled in the cards. There are cards for angels, fairies, zombies, vampires, mystical creatures, traditional decks with beautifully redone art and much more. There are even websites and mobile device applications that will tell your fortune. One could get very confused with all that is out there.
Not to worry, Tarot is a beautiful system for personal exploration and guidance as well as being able to read for other people. All one needs to do is follow ones heart and experiment with different cards and systems to find what is right for you.
Once you do…you will be amazed at what the cards will tell you.
I hope this has been informative and maybe even inspiring. Let me know in the comments what your thoughts on tarot are. Please share with me your favorite decks and systems I’d love to hear from you.