History Of Tarot Cards

The history of tarot cards and how they correspond with our popular playing card decks.

The Tarot (or Tarot Card Deck) consists of 78 cards, which have been used for fortune telling for centuries. There is much controversy as to the official history of the tarot. Some say a medieval version of the cards dates back to the early 1400s. Because of the Italian-looking imagery found in the cards, some say they have an Italian origin. Others say the cards came from China or Egypt. And of course the Gypsies, long associated with the art of fortune telling, are said to have had a hand in the creation, if not the popularity of the cards. The mystery is further stirred when the correspondence of the cards with Cabbalistic or Kabalistic philosophy is considered. Although agreement of the history and origin of the cards is not to be found, it can be agreed that the tarot is a very popular mysterious oracle.

The tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards: 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana. The 22 major arcana cards are supposed to depict a journey through one's life, which originates with the Fool card and ends with a card called The World. Although mystics have called this the road through life, some clergy have said the cards were the road to hell and the devil. The Devil is a card in the major arcane, but it depicts enslavement, addiction and misdirection rather than Satan. Another widely misunderstood card is the famous Death card, which does not mean death of the physical body, but merely change and transformation of some kind. The fool card is the predecessor of the Joker cards we discard before shuffling most decks for a game.

The minor arcana is the part of the deck that most closely resembles our playing cards of today. The minor arcane contains four suites, which correspond to any game deck you may have around the house. The suits are Wands (Clubs) Cups (Hearts) Pentacles (Diamonds) and Swords (Spades). Also present are the Queen, King and Knight (or Jack) of each suit, plus the addition of Pages, which resemble young men, or women of court, which are not represented in the modern playing deck.

You no longer have to visit a gypsy tent to get a tarot reading and you no longer have to duck into an "occult" shop to purchase a deck for yourself. There are many decks available, from the "mainstream'' Rider-Waite deck, which evolved in the early 1900s to tarot cards with woodland images for Pagans, feline images for Cat lovers, as well as pictures of beautiful lands both real and imagined. The decks come with complete instructions and meanings for all of the cards, so the true mystery of the tarot can be as easy as trying it for yourself, if you're game.

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