Even though some schools trace tarot cards back to ancient Egypt, most scholars believe that tarot cards are related to the tarocchi or trionfi cards used in Europe in the mid-15th century. Using tarot cards for divination started much later, in the 1700's.
The Godfather of tarot as we know it today was the French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette, or Etteilla. He was the first person to note the correlations between the cards and astrological, elemental (earth, fire, air, water), and magical themes. He was one who believed that the deck originated in Ancient Egypt.
Many other magical schools and occultists influenced the creation of the modern art of tarot reading and also shaped the creation of the varied decks available to us nowadays.
There are decks, like the Tarot of Marseilles deck, that are based on the original tarocchi or trionfi decks and also special themed, modern decks. Modern tarot incorporates a wide variety of artistic styles, themes, and interpretations.
Most would generally say that the 'classic' tarot decks on the market are the Rider-Waite Tarot, the Tarot of Marseilles, and the Thoth Tarot. If you are new to tarot and would like to learn how to read the cards, I would highly recommend going with a classic deck, as there is a vast amount of information on the internet about these decks, and most of the other decks are based on these three classic tarot decks and their foundational wisdom.
Classic Tarot decks contain 78 cards: 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards. The Minor Arcana consists of 4 suits (Earth, Fire, Water, Air). Each suit has 10 numbered cards (1-10) and 4 court cards (page, knight, queen, king).
Find out what the tarot court cards mean.
The cards in the Major Arcana generally are said to depict major life lessons and changes, while the cards in the Minor Arcana describe more mundane, daily life occurances.
The four suits in the Minor Arcana of tarot represent Earth, Fire, Water, and Air, and are usually labeled as Pentacles for Earth, Wands for Fire, Cups for Water, and Swords for Air.
Symbolism is a huge part of the history of tarot, and many believe that tarot has been used as a way to safely make statements about the church and government during times when outright criticism of those entities would have meant certain death. There are also archetypal symbols contained in the tarot, such as the mother and the father, the clergy member, the hermit, and the sinner. Many decks also have strong visual cues related to astrology and even flower therapy!
We'll be using this site as a center point for exploring the art of tarot and themes associated with it, like cartomancy, oracle card reading, numerology, astrology, and symbolism.
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