To some, the Tarot is nothing more then a simple set of cards, decorated with some interesting images. To others, Tarot is a useful divination tool. There are also those who see the Tarot as a tool for mediation and self-discovery. The modern Tarot deck, in its most general form, resembles playing cards. There are cards numbered one to ten, followed by the court cards. The Joker in playing cards is unnumbered and has no permanent place, much as the Tarot’s Fool.  In addition to the playing card-like section of the deck, there are an additional 22 cards that are more pictorial in nature.

Are Tarot and playing cards related? If so, which came first? There are many theories, but none that seem to provide concrete evidence. The Tarot has been linked to Ancient Egypt, the wisdom of the Kabala, the French court, Roma, and many other places and people. There is evidence that Tarot cards were used in 14th century Italy, but most likely not as a divination tool. If you want to know more about the history of the Tarot, I’d suggest trying to find a book called A Wicked Pack of Cards by Decker, Depaulis, Dummett. More recently, Tarot has been linked to the New Age movement and fortune-telling. Other groups, while maintaining the tradition of divination, are also exploring the use of Tarot for self-discovery.

There are many variations on the Tarot, but I will be focusing mainly on aspects most commonly found. In its most traditional form, Tarot is a system of 78 cards. Twenty-two of the cards belong to the Major Arcana (arcana being the Latin word for secret). These cards represent wo/man’s journey through life, from the Fool to the Universe/World to the Fool again. The cards depict the forces that affect human development, and shape our spiritual growth using archetypal figures and symbols.

The remaining 56 cards make up the Minor Arcana. They form four suits: Wands (Rods), Cups, Swords, and Pentacles (Coins). These suits correspond to the playing card suits of Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds. Each suit consists of cards numbers 1 (ace) through 10, and four court cards: Page (Princess), Knight (Prince), Queen, and King. The Minor Arcana represents human conditions and situations.