No one really knows how old the Tarot actually is. Some say 500 yrs. old and some depict the images and symbols as dating back to 1 BC, if not further. As the faces of the cards have changed over the centuries, so too has their purpose. Our modern day society always tends to portray a gypsy-type individual doing fortunetelling with the cards; which is a stereotype that is far-stretching the real purpose and intent of the Tarot. And with that stereotype typically it is associated as a negatively aspected subject matter and often times deemed "evil" or "dangerous". I've even heard them referred to as "Devil Cards". How sad and unfortunate that so many individuals are close-minded and are unwilling to seek understanding themselves; instead they ridicule and mock those who are associated with the Tarot.
As far as the portrayal of a gypsy-type individual that stems from a time period when there was great suffering and adversity when trying to support one's family was extremely difficult in very poor areas. As with anything else, people find a way to monetize everything and it's origination was a means of survival to help feed their families. As back then, they would barter their ability to read the cards for money, food, clothing and any other supplies that could be beneficial to them. Thus, gypsies were perhaps the most popular reference to the usage of Tarot that our present day stereotypes stem from. But by no means were they the only known users of the Tarot. Due to the symbology associated with the Tarot, some scholars even believe them to have been utilized in ancient Egyptian ceremonies and rituals. Most usually, they are identified with Pagan, Wiccan and Celtic belief systems or better known to be associated as followers of Witchcraft. However, there have been variations of the Tarot cards found throughout the majority of cultures and religious belief systems.
The true intent and purpose of the Tarot cards is to be used as a tool designed for expanding one's awareness and the world around them. Since our minds tend to think in terms of symbols, it makes perfect sense that these cards were designed with that concept in mind. Anything can be utilized as a tool it depends upon the intention and purpose an individual places upon an object. Just like having a lucky charm, to that individual it is lucky; to another it may be completely asinine and ridiculous. The point is, we each can choose what purpose an object will serve, be it positively or negatively aspected. And this stands true especially for the Tarot cards. The only significance anything holds is that which we personally place upon it. Therefore, in lieu of that concept, the Tarot can be utilized as a tool for foretelling the future based upon present circumstances and influences surrounding the individual at the time of consulting the Tarot cards.
Each card depicts and represents the phases, cycles and transitions that we encounter in our lifetime. As with most cycles, they represent the stages and patterns that are associated with those various aspects. They symbolically represent the influences of individuals surrounding us, qualities within ourselves that we harness but do not utilize to their fullest potential, our interaction with others whether in a relationship, friendship or in our environment. It can help an individual determine what course of action to proceed in regards to their career, relationship and making important decisions. It can help an individual get in touch with their intuition and listening to their gut instincts. It can help an individual explore one's own self and find understanding upon their path based upon past experiences and actions. These however are only a small portion of the capabilities and benefits of utilizing the Tarot.
Of course, the Tarot can be utilized to profit financially but that is not what the true nature of the cards are. They were intended for personal guidance and enhancing one's knowledge of their own individual path. It's purpose is varied depending on the individual and what they want the cards to be used for in reality. If given the chance, most people would want to know more about what is occurring within their lives in various aspects. The Tarot is one way of achieving that and a means to foresee what may lie ahead. Just like astrology, millions of people check their horoscopes every single day to see what the day may bring and thus, the Tarot is an alternative for those who are interested in learning a more detailed in depth look within their life and a means to find understanding as to why they are experiencing certain events and patterns, what course of action should be taken and what is the probable outcome should events continue as they currently are at the time of the reading.
The Tarot helps to establish a clearer understanding of how your thoughts and actions create the experiences within life for each individual; as no two people walk the same identical path. The same cards pulled in one person's reading will not mean the same exact thing for another person if they came up in their reading as well. Therefore, it is individualized and personal an instrument that is most usually considered a sacred tool that deserves utmost respect and should be highly valued and taken care of. With anything you study, research and practice you will grow stronger and more adept in understanding what the cards represent and symbolize for you personally; individually. It is a unique relationship for each individual who does read the Tarot. For some it is a life long process of self discovery and for others it's a means to be able to stay one step ahead by knowing what influences and unforeseen obstacles may get in the way of their plans or what to do about a certain situations, etc.
It was the Tarot that first piqued my interest into studying symbology which, of course, led me to studying Theology regarding various cultures, religions and belief systems thereby enhancing my own understanding of the Tarot cards. It has lead me to study numerology, astrology, earth medicine, working with energy and directions, Native American Shamanism, medicine wheels, witchcraft, paganism, Celtic belief systems, Christianity, in depth study of the bible and various other ancient texts,Egyptian and a whole myriad of other belief systems and symbologies. And that is only a mere portion of all that I have studied in depth over the last 20 years all because I wanted to know more about the Tarot and what all the symbols mean. So the bottom line is, you can choose to go as deep into studying the Tarot in all of it's aspects or you can get a vague generalized idea of the cards and what they mean and that's fine too, it's entirely up to each individual depending on how far they are willing to go in seeking understanding. It's your journey, no one else can make it for you but if you'd like to have a useful tool that can help you better understand things happening in your life then the Tarot might just be for you and you'll never know unless you try and intuitively you'll know if it's something for you or not. I'll go into more details in future articles as we continue to explore the fascinating world of the Tarot.
To Your Divinatory Success!
Tarot Site Editor