Thomas L. McDonald, Patheos’ “Technology | Culture | Catholicism” blogger has a five-part series on the history of the Tarot cards. It starts here.
The real history of the Tarot, however, begins in the early 15th century in Italy, and their story is an important part of gaming and cultural history that was lost for centuries. They were created to play games, not tell fortunes. . . . .
Catholics have been conditioned to avoid Tarot because of its New Age and occult connotations. That’s a mistake: Tarot is part of our heritage. It reflects Catholic culture, symbolism, history, and theology. Its images are useful not just for play, but for contemplation, as Catholic mystic Valentin Tomberg explores beautifully in Meditations on the Tarot.
Tarot belongs to us, not to the con artists.
He is absolutely right that there is a great deal of bogus history about the Tarot, involving wild tales of a gallery of paintings of the trumps in a secret hall underneath the Sphinx of Egypt, and so on.
I think too that one of the reasons that ceremonial magicians have struggled to mesh the trumps with the Cabala and so forth is that the Tarot is a hybrid system itself, partly from here and partly from there.