I found a great article on the history of Tarot: A Sociology of Tarot by Mike Sosteric
To summarize, tarot started in 15th century Italy as a card game for the nobility, a form of entertainment with no mystical connotations. Towards the end of the 18th century, a French Freemason wrote as essay presenting the tarot as a repository of ancient Egyptian spiritual knowledge. From that point on, tarot became both a tool of spiritual development for secret societies and of fortunetelling.
Sosteric, the author of the article, asserts that the tarot had been adopted by the Freemasons as an ideological implement to help the emerging middle-class establish the mindset needed to transition from feudalism to capitalism. Sosteric sees the Freemasons as a club for bourgeois men working to establish a new order. (My aside- If you think this is far-fetched, consider that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Ethan Allen, as well as lesser known participants in the establishment of the United States, were Freemasons.) Sosteric thinks that the allegorical nature of the Tarot allows it to be used for indoctrination, even brain-washing.
On the other hand, the Tarot has been used by disenfranchised groups to give meaning to people’s lives outside of capitalism.
I was excited by this article because it confirms my uneasiness about some earlier tarot decks with their emphasis on authoritarianism while recognizing the potential of tarot to foster true liberation.