The history of Tarot card reading begins in the first century, anno domini, with the invention of “poker.” Poker was one of the most preferred games of the Ancient Romans.
Of course, 2 thousand years ago, poker was a very different game. Instead of having paper cards, Romans would play with tiles of dried clay, and instead of playing with a deck of 52, they would play with 6 tiles:
- The “fold”
- The pair
- The two pair
- The three of a kind
- The straight
- The royal flush
The royal flush tile was the tile of highest value, and the player that drew the royal flush would win. However, winning at poker in the first century was not necessarily a good thing as poker players generally carried weapons, and the winner was most likely to be stabbed and robbed. Ancient mystics, noticing that those who drew the royal flush were generally beaten and robbed, used poker tiles to predict the future, and the royal flush became widely associated with death.
In the year 70 AD, just before his seige of Masada, the Roman emperor’s son Titus summoned a tarot tile reader to find out if his seige would be successful. When presented with the deck of tiles (faced down, of course), Titus drew the “three of a kind.”
“Oh good,” Titus said, “it’s not the death card. What does the three of a kind mean?”
“I really don’t know,” replied the mystic. “I really only know what the death card means.”
The mystic stood awkwardly as Titus glared at him.