The Latin Tarot | Maybe Oldest Decks Known

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Latin tarot is believed to be the oldest version of divination tarot cards in the world, but they were originally just used for playing card games. There are various latin decks of tarot cards, but generally when you hear this phrase it is referring to the Tarot of Marseilles. That’s why this article is going to focus on the Marseilles deck and the origins of tarot, but we’ll also be looking at some other styles of latin decks, too.

We will be discussing why one might want to own a latin deck or several of them for their collections. We’ll also give some advice on how and where to buy latin tarot cards if you decide you’d like to own some. Finally, we’ll discuss some options for free readings so that you can experience all of this first hand.

In order to understand the present and future of tarot cards and their evolution through the ages, it is crucially important to understand their past. From tarot’s role as a card game, to being used for divination purposes for hundreds of years, to being used modernly as a tool for meditation, all of these pieces make up the full tarot puzzle. To get the full picture, you have to understand all of the individual parts.

There is a lot to learn when it comes to tarot cards. You won’t learn everything in a day, or even a year. You’re going down a long path, but it is a rewarding path. It’s interesting to learn how the cards have influenced, and been influenced by, history.

Cultural Influences on Tarot Cards in Europe

Back in the 1400’s, there was no such thing as a “trending topic” or something “going viral.” The closest thing they had to something going viral was literally the plague known as Black Death. This horrible plague killed between an estimated 75 million to 200 million people around the world, and peaked in Europe.

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As you can imagine, a devastating event like this would have a huge cultural impact for generations to come. Perhaps it lead to people’s fascination with the occult. Back in those days, science had not come nearly as far as it has today. Naturally people were looking for explanations to understand why their loved ones were dropping dead at alarming rates.

People were looking for answers. They were afraid. It was a time filled with uncertainty, sorrow, and loss. The best latin tarot card readers were able to help sooth people’s troubled minds. The cards could explain things that were otherwise unknown. The cards offered a peace of mind that was rare during these days, and people were quick to jump on board because they were terrified and confused.

Although Black Death peaked in the mid 1300’s (Before tarot cards were first discovered to have existed), the waves created by such a devastating event rippled onwards throughout history. When it comes to a lot of historical thoughts like how people were thinking and feeling at the time, we can’t do much besides look at the challenges they were facing and to look through a lens of empathy.

Popular Decks From The Early Days of Tarot

Along with the Marseille deck that we mentioned early, we’ll also be taking a look at the The Visconti-Sforza, Minchiate, Tarocco Piemontese, and the more modern Rider-Waite-Smith deck which was influenced by early tarot cards. Often times when people hear the words “tarot card deck”, they might not realize just how deep the history of these cards really goes.

The Visconti-Sforza Collection

This is one of the most fascinating decks. It’s actually not one single deck, but instead it consists of many bits and pieces of about 15 incomplete decks. These cards date back to the mid 15th century, before tarot cards were even used for divination. This is from a time when tarot cards were still historically used for playing games, not for gaining deep insights into life.

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The creation of these decks was commissioned by the Duke of Milan at the time, a man named Filippo Maria Visconti. Some of these decks were also commissioned by his successor, a man named Francesco Sforza, who was the Duke’s son in law.

These cards are now kept safely in a museums around the world, and even in some private collections. Some of the decks only have a single card that managed to survive the centuries, making these cards incredibly rare and fascinating to tarot collectors and readers alike.

The detailed designs of these cards has had an influence on many subsequent tarot decks. Even looking at modern decks, you can see similarities and just how strong the influence was.

Sometimes, it just leaves you in awe, to look back at something that was created so long ago and still has an impact today. Even as tarot moves forward, evolves, and goes digital – the world of Tarot has always had an appreciation for history and where it came from.


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The name Minchiate can refer to one of two things. It’s either referring to a popular card game from 16th century Florence, or it’s referring to the deck of cards used to play said game. The game itself is rarely played anymore, but the deck is still of much interest to those studying the origins of tarot.

This deck consists of 97 playing cards, which is 19 more cards than a typical tarot deck that has 78. The game played with this deck is a more complex version of tarocchi.

Many believe that Florence was the birthplace of divine tarot cards, however that claim has been debated by historians. It wasn’t until many centuries later that this deck was ever considered for divination rather than just used for a game.

Tarocco Bolognese

As the name suggests, this latin tarot deck was used in the Bologna region. This 62 card deck can be traced back to 1442, which is the year that a Bolognese merchant was selling decks. This deck didn’t make it very far outside of the city of Bologna, but it did have an influence on the Minchiate deck that we just discussed.

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Not every deck is going to change the world of tarot, but many of these old, ancient decks still left their mark on history. It is believed that this is the first deck to be used for the purpose of divination. Tarot card readers adopted this deck and made it more than just a game.

Would tarot reading still have caught on if it wasn’t for this deck? Yes, almost certainly. They would have found a different deck to use. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the bolognese tarot deck had a profound influence.

Tarocco Piemontese

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This Italian tarot deck is the most common deck for playing games in Italy. This deck was hugely influenced by the next deck we’re going to discuss, Tarot of Marseilles. The Piemontese deck contains 78 cards. There are 24 trump cards, numbered from 0-23. Those would be the equivalent of the Major Arcana. The rest of the deck is rounded out by four suits of fourteen cards each. The suits in this deck are swords, batons, cups, and coins.

The aforementioned decks have both influenced, and been influenced by, the main Latin tarot deck – Tarot of Marseilles. It’s finally time to bite into this amazing deck.

Tarot of Marseilles

The Tarot of Marseilles, or Tarot De Marseille as it’s known in France, is widely considered to be a standard as far as deck designs go. The name itself wasn’t given to these cards until centuries after they were invented. The earliest mention is in 1889, by a French occultist named Papus. In the 1930’s, the term Tarot de Marseille gained more traction when it was used to describe this particular style of tarot decks by a cartomancer named Paul Marteau.

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Nobody really knows exactly what the origins of tarot cards are, but there have been some notable researchers who have dedicated a lot of time to narrowing it down. Part of the fun lies in the mysterious aspects, and we’ll never know the entire truth. That shouldn’t stop us from trying to fill in the gaps whenever we can.

Prominent Research

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Michael Dummett was one of the top British philosophers, known for his work towards racial tolerance. He also spent a lot of his scholarly time studying and researching the history of card games. He has done some very significant research towards the history and origins of Tarot cards, and his work on the Tarot of Marseilles is some of the most significant out there.

Michael believed that the deck was invented in Italy in the 15th Century, and made its way over to France after the French conquered Milan.

Controversies with the Marseilles deck

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Certain aspects of this deck have caused controversies when it first appeared, and still to this day. The biggest controversy is the Papess card, which represents a female Pope. This depiction has offended certain groups of people throughout history, whereas others argue that it’s simply inaccurate. To avoid any issues, the card is now often referred to by another name, most notably The High Priestess. The Papess and The High Priestess are the same card, just with different names.

The XIII (Thirteenth Trump card) was originally left unnamed. Later on, around 1650, the card appeared as “LAMORT”. La Mort is French for Death. Modern evolutions of this deck, including the famed Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, include the Death card rather than leaving it unnamed.

Why People Want To Own This Deck

8 Latin-Tarot-Death-Card la Mort

Even though a classic deck differs from modern versions, there are multiple reasons that they appeal to collectors.

  • Their impact and influence.
  • To compare art styles.
  • To gain insights into how the world used to be.
  • To complete a collection.
  • Everyone has their own reason, at the end of the day.

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It would cost a small fortune to purchase an original version, but thankfully there are many reproductions available. If you’re an eccentric billionaire, you probably already own some originals, but reprints and adaptations will have to do for the rest of us!

Free Latin Tarot Card Reading Opportunities

Thanks to the internet, it’s now fast and easy to have your cards read in any number of styles. You don’t even have to get up from the computer or put down your phone. Some argue that this takes away a certain level of personality from the reading, which may be true, but it also makes free Latin Tarot much more accessible to the world.

Whether you’re curious about having a reading done to help with a tough decision, or finding out what your Latin love tarot has to say, there are a lot of options.

  • You can find a friend to do your reading for you.
  • You can visit a local shop or kiosk and buy a reading.
  • You can get a Divitarot reading done online.

The Latin tarot Divitarot does is becoming increasingly popular for its simplicity and ease of use. This site is run by Denis Lapierre, and provides free online tarot readings that only take a moment or two to complete. Divitarot gives an in-depth look at the meanings of your reading. It’s also a great place to practise how to read tarot cards, you just click a button and it lays out the cards for you to analyze.

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