Where do tarot cards come from?


We know very little about the origin of the Tarot de Marseilles, but we can however that the Tarot de Marseilles deck appeared in France during the reign of King Charles VI. When Charles was declared insane, he was locked up in a castle by his wife Isabeau of Bavaria. Odette de Champdivert, his mistress brought him a deck of Tarot cards.

In fact, these tarot cards were composed of 56 paperboard pieces decorated with figures and signs. These cards were used by Saracens in the Middle East. Charles VI asked Jacquemin Gringonneur to redraw the figures in order to make them look prettier. Some claim that the first illuminations of the cards appeared in Italy but the work of this artist is listed for payment in the journal of Charles VI's banker.

The Tarot we talk about here was not a divination Tarot but a card game; which still exists and is still used in Mediterranean countries. Although opinions are divided and the experts seldom agree, the Divinatory Tarot de Marseilles was born from this game.

Twenty-two major arcana were associated to the fifty-six basic cards (minor arcana). These major arcana are more often used than the minor arcana. The graphics of the Tarot de Marseilles look medieval and reflect the ideology of that time when people sought perfection in medieval icons.

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