There are many theories that people have come up with about the origins of Tarot, such as the myth that the Tarot originated in Egypt. For all we know any correlations were probably from people who visited Egypt and were inspired by the art there. *shrug* There is a lot we don't know about the origins of Tarot. What we do know the most about is how the Rider Waite Smith Tarot came into existence.
Pamela Colman Smith, aka: Pixie, was contracted to create 78 symbolic images by Arthur Waite who was a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Waite described himself as a Christian mystic. Pixie was given some brief instructions and symbolism by Waite. She then painted all 78 images in only three months! She also felt worried that the printers would mess up the colors. Waite trusted her work and made little to no corrections. She was the one who first started to add more dynamic imagery to the Pip Cards (previously they would look more like a deck of playing cards, very plain). Much of her inspiration, for the Minor Arcana especially, came from the world around her, her love of theater, the Sola Bosca Tarot cards, and her own intuition. Pixie was a Catholic convert and found the Catholic rituals “great fun” and was a bit irreverent and playful.
Pixie's work is often underrated, and it wasn't until more modern replications of the deck that her name started being included in the name of the deck such as the Smith-Waite deck that has done their best to recreate the original colors that Pixie had in mind. After learning more about Pixie, I fell in love with her deck.
I highly recommend the Smith-Waite deck, Centennial edition. It has all sorts of goodies in it, and some historical details. Also, once I learned that deck I found reading other decks based on the RWS* that it was much easier to learn other decks that were inspired by it (ie: Shadowscapes Tarot. etc).
For a lot more historical details you can read the books which is where I got my information from:
“Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot” by Marcus Katz; and Tali Goodwin
“Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story” by Stuart R. Kaplan; Mary K. Greer; Elizabeth Foley O Connor; and Melinda Boyd Parsons
*Rider Waite Smith is the typical acronoym used to refer to her and Waite's deck),
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