Early Tarot Decks

No one knows exactly where or when the Tarot originated. Evidence suggests that seventy-eight-card Tarot decks much like the ones we're familiar with today, such as the beautiful fifteenth-century Visconti-Sforza deck, may have been used in Italy and France during the Renaissance for telling fortunes. During this period, the nobility in Milan used the Tarot for gaming and gambling.

It's believed that the first Tarot decks contained only the Major Arcana; the Minor Arcana were added later. Early packs portrayed people solely on the Major Arcana and Court cards. The numbered or pip cards showed only the suit's symbol—Cups, Swords, Wands, or Pentacles—in the corresponding quantity (One through Ten). Some, such as the Visconti-Sforza deck, didn't even include labels on the Major Arcana cards—perhaps because novices were discouraged from doing readings and adepts would recognize the symbolism without needing labels.

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