|Foundation of The Ancient Egyptian Tarot
A FIRM grounding in the myths of the Ancient Egyptians, whilst not essential, will provide the reader with a deeper understanding of the contents of the cards of the Major Arcana. There is no physical evidence to support the theory that the Tarot originated in Ancient Egypt. However there is strong reason to believe that the Tarot as a collection of mystical images draws upon Ancient Egyptian sources.
As mentioned previously, the first known Tarot deck is dated about 1440. This was during the Renaissance when mankind was stumbling out of the ignorance of the past. It was a time of rediscovery. In Spain the once lost works of Greek and Roman authors were being translated from their Arab copies into Latin and other European languages. Pagan culture and ancient knowledge influenced men's thinking. Minds were broadening, released from centuries of restraint. Science had not yet been separated from philosophy and mysticism. Scholars were keen to pursue all forms of knowledge and had the time to do so. The magical arts - alchemy, astrology and cabbalism, were studied side by side with chemistry, astronomy and theology. Other influences came from the Celtic fringe. The noble courts of Europe thrilled with the stories of the Arthurian romances, ranking them with the best of classical works. (Mallory's Mort D'Arthur, which drew together the stories relating to the life of the legendary king into a structured whole, was completed around 1469-70.) Behind many of these strands of rediscovery - the myths, sciences, magical arts and philosophies - there lay the Egyptian Mysteries. Transformed by time, they were never the less highly influential upon the thinking of the period.
Renaissance art was symbolic rather than decorative. The paintings of the masters reflected the mood of the age, they are highly allegorical and contain strong biblical and mythical themes which occur in the cards of the Tarot. Indeed, many Tarot images have parallels in the religious and secular art of 14th and 15th Centuries.
Continental Europe was in a state of change, transforming from the Middle Ages to the Modern Era. Against the background of the Renaissance, beginning as it did in 13th Century Italy, there is little wonder that the Tarot should make its appearance in this place and at this time. Nor is there any doubt that in its form and imagery it draws deeply on the Mysteries of Ancient Egypt.