The Tarot is an illustrated deck of 78 cards that has been used for divination for centuries. It’s origins are debated; some believe it should
be attributed to Egyptian mystery schools, others note strong Kabbalistic influences, others believe it had to have come from India. In any
case, the first written account describing the deck appears in the Middle Ages in Europe. There are elements that can be found that link it to
many religious paths and esoteric schools: Kabbala, Christian Gnosticism, Paganism, the Hermetic mystery schools, Astrology, and more.
Some of these elements can be traced back to the earliest decks, some have evolved over time, and others are contemporary
There are two parts to the Tarot: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana (also known as the Trumps) are cards
associated with major life phases, issues or spiritual growth. There are 22 cards in this section, including “The Lovers”, “Death”,
“Temperance” and the like. The Minor Arcana (also known as the Pips) are the numbered suit cards that deal more with the mundane, day-
to-day situations. Also included here are the Court Cards that usually reflect people in our lives or qualities to embrace. The Minor Arcana
are numbered from Ace to Ten; then come the court cards: Page, Knight, Queen and King. There are four suits - not unlike the modern
playing card deck: Rods (sometimes called Wands or Staves), Cups (or Hearts), Swords, and Pentacles (or Coins, or Disks). Each Suit is
associated with an area of our lives: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Each number has an essence that is influenced by the suit –
that is to say, there is a Tarot numerology. (Numerologists please note: Tarot numerology does not conform to conventional numerology.)
Each Tarot deck has it’s own flavor, depending on the artist/author. Some artists may have great artistic skill, others have more esoteric
knowledge. Since it is a visual media, the images are crucial to interpretation. Esoteric decks, while not always the prettiest decks, are
packed with spiritual symbolism that aid the initiated reader in finding deeper meanings, richer connections. Themed decks tend to be less
packed and more straight-forward, helping the beginner get a feel for the Tarot. The same card pulled from different decks can be
remarkably different – and the interpretation should reflect this.
While the Tarot can be used for divination, the timing of events represented in readings can be tricky for a number of reasons. For one thing,
humans prefer to understand time in a linear fashion and measure it out in equal chunks. But time isn’t always that precise. (In fact, it isn’t
even linear, but that’s a subject for a different essay!) Secondly, our destinies aren’t set in stone with everything assigned to a particular
moment. While we may have particular issues or karma to work through, how we react to our environment affects when and how these
issues are presented to us – and when they move on.
Besides divination, there are other ways to use the Tarot. The Tarot can be used to aide spiritual growth and personal transformation. The
Tarot can be used in spells. The Tarot can be used in meditation. But however it is used, the greatest benefit is derived from personal
interaction with this powerful tool.
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What is the Tarot?