At some point in late 1300s, playing cards were first seen in Europe. According to tarot historian Tom Tadfor Little, it wasn’t until 1440 that the cards which would become the origin of the tarot were first mentioned in a letter from the Duke of Milan.He requested several decks of “triumph” cards to be used at a special event. The letter differentiated triumph cards from regular playing cards. Apparently, the game of triumph was similar to bridge. There were four suits with cards numbered one through ten 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 and 21 of them were permanent trump cards.. The game spread quickly to all parts of Europe. Around 1530, people began referring to it as tarocchi, an Italian version of the French word tarot.
Then in 1781, in France and England, followers of the occult discovered tarot cards and began using them as a divination tool.
That’s the official history.
But there are some tarot experts who believe the cards originated in ancient Egypt and survived the great fire that destroyed the library at Alexandria. At its height, the library, established in the 3rd century B.C., held anywhere from 40,000 to 400,000 papyrus scripts. Among these people, the tarot are cards are considered to be the hieroglyphic keys to life.
Regardless of which theory you subscribe to, the 22 cards of the major arcana can be seen as Jungian archetypes common to all people as they journey through life. But since the 1700s, life has changed dramatically and the archetypes have constantly evolved. In fact, since my friend Phyllis Vega, and I published Power Tarot in 1998, look at the big events that have impacted our lives and changed the way we live:
the birth of the TSA and Homeland Security
the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan
the rover exploration of Mars
the birth of Facebook, Google, Twitter and social media
the introduction of the iPhone, the iPad and other Smart devices
the first black president
a meltdown in the housing market, the recession
the Affordable Care Act, the closest thing the U.S. has to universal health care
renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba
the hacking of the 2016 election by Russia
the election of a businessman to the presidency
an acceleration in racism and divisiveness
an acceleration of climate change
instantaneous communication and news 24/7
And that’s just for starters. We are more connected to each other than ever before and yet, increasingly more disconnected from ourselves. As a result, the archetypes represented by the major arcana are evolving even more quickly.
This idea is the basis for a workshop I’m teaching at the Cassadaga Bookstore on Sunday, October 8. So today I was writing up my notes for the evolving archetype of the Justice card, key 11, and experienced an odd synchro. I use my mini Rider-Waite deck for this. Its depiction of the Justice card is at the top of this post.
I took a break to pull my own card for the day – using the Tarot of the Cloisters, a beautifully illustrated round deck. I shuffled the deck, fanned out the cards, and selected one. What did I pull?
The Justice card.
The universe definitely has a sense of humor.
Will justice prevail in the trump presidency? Will special prosecutor Robert Mueller find the evidence he needs? Perhaps.