Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
View your shopping cart Shopping Cart | My Account | Help | Become a Fan on Facebook Become a Fan | Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us | Watch Us on YouTube Watch Us | Subscribe to our RSS Feeds Subscribe
Browse ProductsAuthorsArticlesBlogsEncyclopediaNewslettersAffiliate ProgramContact UsBooksellers
Advanced Search
ENCYCLOPEDIA
Glossary
What's New
Most Popular
List of Articles

Email Exclusives
Sign up to receive special offers and promotions from Llewellyn.

Get the Latest Issue of New Worlds

May/June 2016 Issue

New Worlds Catalog

Get the FREE app for your tablet and mobile device. Now available in the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store

Also available as a PDF File.

Click for more information about New Worlds or to receive issues via mail.


The Llewellyn Encyclopedia
Print this Term Print this Article

A Brief History of the Tarot

This article was written by Gerald and Betty Schueler on January 07, 2004
posted under Tarot

The Tarot is often called the oldest book known to humankind. According to occult legend, the original cards comprised "chapters" in a book known as The Book of Thoth. Thoth was the ibis-headed god of wisdom and represented knowledge of the ancient Egyptians. At the founding of Egypt, unknown centuries ago, he is said to have given humanity the knowledge of medicine, astrology, language, art, and various sciences such as mathematics and engineering. The original chapters of The Book of The Dead are said to have been written by Thoth.

After many thousands of years, the Egyptian Empire began to crumble. As things began to fall apart, the god Thoth again intervened. He desired to keep alive the knowledge and wisdom that he had provided his people. To save his contribution to humankind, he summarized all the accumulated wisdom of the Egyptian empire onto a series of 22 tablets. He did this by using symbols and pictures instead of words. These tablets became known as The Book of Thoth. As the empire decayed into ignorance, the tablets found their way into a band of roving people, later known as gypsies. The gypsies copied the symbols of the tablets onto cards that became the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck.

Whatever the actual origin of the Tarot deck may be, it is known that a deck of fortunetelling cards was used in A.D. 1390. The Tarot later found its way into the Hebrew Qabalah, probably because the 22 cards of the Major Arcana could be shown to correspond with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. During the 19th century, many occultists tried to demonstrate a higher use for the cards than divination. Eliphas Levi tried to show that the cards of the Major Arcana were connected to the Qabalistic Tree of Life. He designed two cards, the Devil and the Chariot, for this purpose. This idea was further carried out by a secret occult group in England known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. A new form of Tarot, the Enochian Tarot, was developed by Gerald and Betty Schueler in the 1980s, and it is based upon the principles of Enochian Magick and Enochian Physics.

Sensitive people have gotten a bum rap. We live in a world that doesn't embrace the values of sensitivity, so we get told that we are weak, unusual, touchy, and hard to please. The sad truth is that we hear these messages in many ways throughout our lives. Even if it is from a well-meaning teacher or parent who tries to "toughen us up," the crux... read this article
Remaining Magickal in the Midst of Chaos
Sacred Space, Tarot, and Your Magical Practice
The Magical Use of Prayer Beads
The Future of Money Magic: What Do We Put Under the Candle When Our Currency Goes Digital?
Understanding the Moon Signs of Others

Most recent posts:
The Words on the Wheel of Fortune
One thing many students of tarot find fascinating is learning what some of the mysterious symbols on the cards mean. During the Renaissance, when...

Are You a Sensitive Empath?
Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Dr. Kyra Mesich, author of the new Strength of Sensitivity. I've dedicated my holistic psychology...

The Cards as Living Entities
In just a few months (August, to be precise), Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Tarot by the knowledgeable experienced, and delightful writer Anthony...




The Madness of Mercury The Madness of Mercury
By: Connie di Marco
Price: $14.99 US,  $17.50 CAN
Journey of Souls Journey of Souls
Case Studies of Life Between Lives

By: Michael Newton
Price: $17.99 US,  $20.95 CAN
The Linestrider Tarot The Linestrider Tarot
By: Siolo Thompson
Price: $28.99 US,  $33.50 CAN
Wicca Wicca
A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner

By: Scott Cunningham
Price: $14.95 US,  $16.95 CAN
Easy Tarot Easy Tarot
Learn to Read the Cards Once and For All!

By: Josephine Ellershaw, Ciro Marchetti
Price: $19.95 US,  $21.95 CAN