I spent some time the other day looking at books about using the Tarot. I’ve never had a reading, never owned a set of cards, though I’m familiar with the concept. I know they had a lot of similar history as regular playing cards.
What I didn’t really know is that they are not all that old.
Most of the works I could have laid good money down for were for using them for divination, which is what I was curious about. For some reason, I baulked at $30 for a book, plus $20 for a set of cards to play with. Silly, I know. I’ve spent much more on other frivolous things. I told myself I was looking for “the right book”. Well, I managed to find it: an ordinary bookstore had a Rider-Waite-Smith deck packaged in a box with A. E. Waite’s original booklet explaining it.
I’m not sure quite what Waite intended, but it’s not much more than him assembling historical information into one place. And then making his own deck.
Waite didn’t like the idea of using them for divination, but was happy to document what meanings people used. After all, there are actually ordinary games playable with a Tarot deck, just like divination is possible with a French playing deck. It’s just that people for the most part don’t.
But although Waite only put his deck together less than two hundred years ago, lots of people still treat it as a source of “ancient knowledge”. Is this willful ignorance? Or perhaps a form of wishful thinking? I don’t know.