When I set out to write this page, I had grand plans. I was going to tell you all about the history of Tarot, how it evolved through time and the differences between the different styles of decks… and then I realized that you may not even care.
To be honest, I don’t really care that much about the history of Tarot. History is important, but history is colored through the eyes of the people who lived it. This is why two different people can witness the same bank robbery and have completely different interpretations of what happened.
I really only care about the fact that Tarot works.
Let’s just suffice it to say that what makes a Tarot deck is 78 cards, broken out into the Major Arcana consisting of 22 cards and the Minor Arcana, consisting of four suits of 10 cards each plus the 16 Court Cards. It probably started as a card game for the rich… and somewhere along the line, it turned into a divination system.
Arcana means “secret”, or so the books tell me… and I like to think that the Tarot is a tool to unlock the secrets that are buried in your unconscious or are waiting to be picked out of the ether. I use Tarot as a way to bring insight to current situations, help heal old wounds by bringing new perspectives and to also shine a light on the path we are headed down.
You will find that how folks use Tarot is as varied as the readers themselves. I’m of the mind that there is no true one way to use Tarot… no “right” way to take these 78 pieces of highly decorated cardboard, spread them around and discern their meaning.
What can generally be agreed upon is that every card has a set of keywords or meaning. The suits have been layered with additional attributes. For example: the Suit of Cups is about Emotions, the Element of Water, the Direction of West, and the Season of Summer. I have discovered however that which seasons, elements, directions, etc. can be up for debate between readers.
There are also readers who use numerology and astrology with the Tarot to layer in more insight. I’m of the mind that if it works, use it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. I don’t personally use either as they don’t work for me. I also firmly believe that you don’t have to stick to the “generally accepted” keyword or meaning. This may separate me a bit from other readers.
There are plenty of readers who say you don’t need to be psychic to read the Tarot, and I tend to agree. I also think that we all, as humans, have access to a deep level of intuition that is sparked by imagery.
Our brains are designed to take abstract pieces of information and cluster them together to create a story, which is why Tarot is such an effective way to access that intuition.
If you are still interested in the history of Tarot after all of my yammering, I would suggest Mary K. Greer’s excellent post on the subject. I couldn’t say it any better than she has.