"Playing cards first entered Europe
in the late 14th century, probably from Mamluk Egypt, with suits very
similar to the Tarot suits of Swords, Staves, Cups and Coins (also known
as disks, and pentacles) and those still used in traditional Italian,
Spanish and Portuguese decks. The first documentary evidence is a ban on
their use in 1367, Bern, Switzerland. Wide use of playing cards in
Europe can, with some certainty, be traced from 1377 onwards.
The first known Tarot cards were created between 1430 and 1450 in Milan,
Ferrara and Bologna in northern Italy when additional trump cards with
allegorical illustrations were added to the common four-suit pack. These
new decks were originally called carte da trionfi, triumph cards, and
the additional cards known simply as trionfi, which became
"trumps" in English. The first literary evidence of the
existence of carte da trionfi is a written statement in the court
records in Ferrara, in 1442. The oldest surviving Tarot cards are from
fifteen fragmented decks painted in the mid 15th century for the
Visconti-Sforza family, the rulers of Milan.
Divination using playing cards is in evidence as early as 1540 in a book
entitled The Oracles of Francesco Marcolino da Forli which allows a
simple method of divination, though the cards are used only to select a
random oracle and have no meaning in themselves. But manuscripts from
1735 (The Square of Sevens) and 1750 (Pratesi Cartomancer) document
rudimentary divinatory meanings for the cards of the tarot as well as a
system for laying out the cards. Giacomo Casanova wrote in his diary
that in 1765 his Russian mistress frequently used a deck of playing
cards for divination."
History of Tarot, Decks, Games, Divination
© 2009 J.
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