Divination practices such as tarot were once a specialist pursuit. Now, they have mainstream visibility in a way that would be hard to imagine even five or ten years ago. #Tarot has over 8 billion views on TikTok, where digital readings have become enormously popular. ITV based its 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign on tarot, using sports-themed cards designed by Yousef Sabry to reflect the unpredictability of the tournament. Luxury brands have also leaned into tarot, from the deck created by Armani Casa in 2023 to Dior’s 2021 haute couture collection and short film inspired by it during the turbulence of the pandemic.
The embrace of tarot cards by both luxury and mass market brands reflects their unique position as objects that are vaguely understood by most people (allowing mass reach) while retaining a sense of mystery unless you are ‘in the know’ (the MO of luxury). While some brands might seem to have a passing interest in tarot, riding on the back of the general appetite for occultism and folklore, the rise of tarot shouldn’t be dismissed as a product of opportunism. For a growing portion of society, tarot is a foundational part of their identity – and for many creatives, a rich source of inspiration.
If we are to understand why a practice that dates back to the 1400s is now having a moment in the sun, it’s worth looking back to the origins of the tarot deck as most of us know it today. The most enduringly influential tarot deck was developed by Arthur E Waite and Pamela Colman Smith in 1909 and published together with a corresponding book the following year.