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The Mystery of Tarot


Ian Beardsley

November 10 2019

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The origin of Tarot has been a mystery for some time as well as their intended use. I believe if
looked at from an ethnomusicological standpoint, we can get much closer to solving it.

The oldest deck on record was found in Switzerland called Tarocchi in Italian. In Spanish and
English it is spelled Tarot. We can see that the best thing to do would be to take the parts of
the word in common to these languages Tar or Taro and ask if these are roots of roots in
another language.

Enter ethnomusicology; The tar is one of the oldest string instruments and is African. What is a
compact, portable stringed instrument but a tool for telling stories with song? And, what is
Tarot but perhaps cards for telling stories visually? Thus the tar could be a mechanism for
telling stories via audio and Tarot could be a mechanism for telling stories via visuals.

But, the tar is the father of the Middle Eastern stringed instrument, the oud, and it is the father
of the Spanish vihuela, and it is the father of the Spanish guitar, which takes us back to Africa,
the tar. That is through a long journey the tar becomes the guitar.

Enter now the Gypsies. Their name comes from short for Egyptian. When they arrived in Spain
they said they were Egyptians (Egyptanos) so the Spaniards called them Gitanos. But what is
Gypsy music but the Gypsies telling stories through song and recording their history through
song of their long journey from India and through the Middle East, and ultimately to Europe, via
singing. In Spain singing to the guitar.

But, one theory has always been that the Gypsies brought the Tarot into Europe from Egypt,
and what are Egyptian hieroglyphs but telling stories with pictures, just as is the tarot. My belief
is that Tarot comes from tar and means “tell stories” or “tell stories with pictures”.

But is it a mystery that the oldest known deck bears its name in Italian as Tarocchi? The
Italians, as Romans, conquered parts of Egypt and formed Aegyptus.

However, the Gypsies came from India a thousand years ago and India was, and still is, an
open country that has a history of divination in astrology that goes back to ancient times. Did
the Gypsies seize the opportunity of coming from this and say the storytelling cards were for

But China, unlike India, is, and always has been a closed country, Hence The Great Wall of
China. But, as Asians, like Indians, they do have a method of divination that goes back to
ancient times. It is called I Ching, and is visual like tarot, but is based upon hexagrams, six
rows of lines. Perhaps it is so different than tarot because China being closed made their
methods independent of any other culture.

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