Tarot cards are a special type of playing cards used to connect with the divine. They are often used as a discovery tool of the New Age. There are two different types of cards in tarot decks. 22 cards come in the Major Arcana, and 56 cards are in the Minor Arcana for a total of 78 cards. Cards in the Major Arcana do not belong to any suit, and therefore are designated as trump cards. Each suit in the Minor Arcana contains 14 cards.
Where Does the Word Tarot Come From?
No one really knows for sure what the meaning of the word tarot actually is. Some scholars believe it comes from the Italian word “Tarocchi”, which is a card game played with tarot cards.
History of Tarot
Historically, tarot cards were first mentioned in the 1440s, in northern Italy. Tarot cards were used for games, much more complicated than the games we are aware of today. Because tarot card typically lack numbers, players had to depend upon the imagery on the cards to remember the cards that were the most powerful. Tarot cards are thought to be a result of the first gaming cards that came from China, first gaining popularity in Europe.
The occult history of tarot cards is completely fabricated. French occultist Jean Baptiste Alliette, first publicly used the cards for occult purposes in 1785. He is the reason why tarot cards are so widely used for occult purposes today. Prior to his use, tarot cards had never been used directly for magic.
A Swiss clergyman by the name of Antoine Court deGebelin published a book titled Le Monde Primitif, in 1781 taking a closer look at the symbolism of tarot cards. He determined that they were related to magic and occult history, specifically tying them to the history and mythology of ancient Egypt.
Ancient lore suggests that using tarot for divination purposes started in ancient Europe. History suggests that ancient Egyptian priests invented tarot cards to represent their teachings and secret doctrines. They are thought to have survived the destruction of the Christian era because book burners were unaware of what they were.
How a Tarot Deck Compares to a Traditional Deck of Playing Cards
Compared to a traditional deck of playing cards, with 52 cards and four suits, tarot decks have a trump suit featuring allegorical images. The trump card symbolize events in a person’s life so it is important for them to be noticed during a reading. The Major Arcana can reveal events such as birth, marriage, and death.
Cups is a suit that is associated with love, and happiness. It typically corresponds to hearts in today’s modern playing card deck. Cups represents the water element, the west direction, and the season of fall. In addition to love and happiness, Cups is also associated with decision, the final stages of life, and other emotions in general. It represents the emotional level of consciousness, and is associated with any emotional aspect of life such as marriage and personal concern.
The Swords Suit, the suit often associated with conflict and misfortune, typically corresponds to the suit of spades in the modern deck of playing cards. It represents the air element, north direction, and winter season. Other than conflict and misfortune, it is also symbolic of movement, oppression, courage, ambition, strife, and trouble. It represents power and intellect, thinking, intellectual reasoning, and the mental level of consciousness.
In tarot, the Wands Suit typically corresponds to clubs, as it signifies activity and change. Wands represent the element of fire, the south direction, and summer. The suit in tarot symbolizes: energy, growth, determination, strength, intuition, creativity, intelligence, and inspiration.
The Suit of Coins
The Suit of Coins, corresponds to the suit of diamonds in standard decks. The Suit of Coins may also be referred to as the Suit of Pentacles. Both Pentacles and Coins represent the earth, the Earth’s direction, and Spring. Pentacles also represent material possessions, commerce, security, finances, and trade.
The Fool Card
A deck of tarot cards typically has one fool card. Regular playing cards feature two jokers, which can be compared to the fool card. The fool card is thought to represent the number zero, representing the cosmic journey of the soul as both the Alpha and Omega, or the beginning and the end.
Where the traditional deck of playing cards refers to a Jack, Queen, and King, the Tarot deck refers to the cards as Knight, Queen, and King. There is an additional card in the court, known as Page. Court cards represent people or aspects of a person. When the court cards represent physical people, they usually refer to either someone the querent knows or someone they will meet.
Page cards in the tarot deck represent children, or adults who are like children. Pages are not necessarily young, but may be young in relation to someone else represented in the reading.
Knights in the tarot represent young ambitious adults or youth. Qualities include vigor, impulsiveness, determination, passion, and vitality. Knights indicate decisive change, though may wreak havoc as they are impulsive and extreme.
Queens represent female power, fertility, and maternity. Queens are typically the main emotional support for a group or family. She holds power alongside the King. She has wisdom and desire, and is aware of how to influence or persuade people around her. Most often, the Queen represents an adult female with a heavy influence in the querent’s life often representing her mother, or a female mentor.
Kings of the tarot deck represent masculine power and authority. The King is someone who has influence and responsibility for an entire group, whether it be a family or business. The king dominates, controls, and delegates. The King is also highly regarded as in addition to his power and authority, for his expertise, knowledge, and wisdom. For many querents, the King represents a father, or another fatherly figure.
Tarot is highly complex and takes years to master, but is widely popular among psychics and those interested in the divine.