No one knows who invented Tarot cards or why. That’s part of what makes them so much fun. The mystery. They made their first official appearance in 14th century Italy around Bologna way. Interestingly, there is a Taro River not too far from there. It seems likely however that the cards were in use all over Europe for quite a while before that.
The popular belief is that Tarot came out of Egypt with the gypsies. E-gyp-t. Gyp-sies. Get it. Not that the cultural group we know as gypsies are in any way Egyptian. That’s just our European ancestors being historically lazy. You can actually trace the linguistic roots of the Romanov people from Egypt back through the Middle East to Ancient India.
Civilisation flowered in the Indus Valley long before anyone had even heard of Sumer or Crete (bet you didn’t know that, they don’t teach it in school). And the same Aryan people who pushed aboriginal Europeans to the western fringes in BC invaded India pushing older inhabitants off their home turf. These ancient Indians migrated in many directions. Some to the Middle East. And some to the East Indian coast where today you can find round picture cards that show striking similarities to Tarot cards. Believe it or not.
I find gypsies interesting in that they are basically a hunter-gatherer culture trying to exist in a post-modern world which attests to their ancient cultural roots. And at the same time they have this natural affinity for reading Tarot cards. I have this whole wildcat theory going on that Tarot cards are an artefact from the prehistoric era. Not that I have any hard core proof. But it makes sense that before we wrote books in words we would have written them in pictures. Kids start reading with picture books after all. And as they say, every picture tells a thousand words. Take Egyptian hieroglyphs as exhibit A (and I’ll place down Tarot cards one by one in this blog as exhibit B.)
And make no mistake, Tarot is a book. You don’t read it left to right or right to left but it is a book all the same.
Anyhoo, just riffing away here, please stop me if I you think I’ve gone OTT. Feel free to add your own suggestions below.