A Tarot card deck typically consists of 78 colorful cards imprinted with what many deem fascinating and curious images. The cards, each filled with a particular meaning and portent, most often come somewhat larger than ordinary playing cards and make an impressive display when ritually laid out. This deck of special cards can be used by a trained “reader” for glimpsing into his or her own future or that of another person for whom the cards are read. The Tarot deck, divided into Major Arcana and Minor Arcana, contains 22 symbolic cards and 56 suit cards – wands, swords, cups, and pentacles – interestingly also called “pip” cards.
Many types and styles of Tarot cards exist, and a breakdown of even the more common Tarot card deck reads like a mysterious journey into the occult – and perhaps it is! The Major Arcana includes the magician, high priestess, empress, emperor, hierophant (a sage or wise man), lovers, chariot, strength, hermit, wheel, justice, hanged man, death, temperance, devil, tower, star, moon, sun, judgment, world. The Minor Arcana (the suits) consists of the aces, twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, sevens, eights, nines, tens, court cards, pages, knights, queens, and kings – all in the above-mentioned suits.
The key to successfully reading the Tarot deck, however, does not lie only in what the cards mean, but in how to interpret them. A gifted Tarot reader can sometimes create a huge following by accurately predicting the futures of friends, family – even strangers who call on him or her for a reading.
“Tarot” comes from the Italian word "Tarocchi,” a French card game originally termed “carte da trionfi” – “cards with trumps.” It has been theorized that the name was shortened from “Tarocchi” to “Taro” and thus evolved over time into “Tarot” by the French. The definition of Tarot goes hand in hand with the origin of the name because Tarot is considered to be a tool of divination by believers, and the roots of the name explain, in part, how this came to be so, though we may never know the complete story, since its complete origins have been lost in the passage of time.
The origins of Tarot vary almost as widely as there are people exploiting the powers of these fascinating cards. Some maintain the cards have roots beginning in the ancient mysteries of Egypt, the mythical city of doomed Atlantis, or from the magic-filled background of the European gypsies. But etymologically speaking, that is, considering Tarot from the history of the word itself, this mysterious deck of future-foretelling cards probably came into being in the northern Italian courts of nobility during the mid-15th century.
Whatever and whenever the source of Tarot, this remarkable deck of cards remains an entertaining and intriguing journey into the unknown, the inexplicable, and the sometimes mystifying realms of life. Perhaps the roots of Tarot lie shrouded in doubt for a reason. Perhaps Tarot is meant to mystify as well as to reveal. Perhaps…only the Tarot cards know for sure!