The Tarot cards began as a Hindu religious custom, keeping religious texts on cards, bound together by string. The cards were illustrated to explain the basic elements of the faith to the populace who were, at the time, largely illiterate. It is highly likely that they were brought to Europe by gypsies, migrating from Asia and as they spread so too did the Tarot, both as a card game, and as a fortune telling device.

At that time, in Northern Italy a game known as ‘tarocco’ or ‘tarrochi’ was gaining popularity. It’s rules were similar to those of bridge today, however it was played with a deck of 78 cards; 56 numbered and court cards, known collectively as the minor arcana, and 22 picture cards known as the major arcana. The imagery in the major arcana was both fascinating and mysterious, including such pictures as the devil, death, a man hanging by his foot, and a female pope. This was at the time of the Holy Inquisition, when the church sought to get rid of all unorthodox ways of thinking, and so it is unsurprising that the Tarot deck was given the nickname ‘The Devil’s Picturebook’.

By the late C18th the Tarot had become extremely popular, especially in France – no doubt a result of the uncertainty of those revolutionary times. It was then that the major arcana cards were first given their now traditional French titles such as ‘le pendu’ – the hanging man. I own one deck in this style, complete with the quasi-medieval imagery of the Tarot de Marseilles and the French names upon the cards.

Modern Day Tarot Cards

The deck is divided into the 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana (arcana meaning secrets, or mysteries) cards. These can be used separately, though it is more common to use the whole deck for a reading. Once you purchase a deck of Tarot cards, you need to ‘work them in’ – handle them often to acquaint yourself with their feel, shape, size and design and to imprint them with your own psychic vibrations. Once this is done, with the exception of when you are doing readings, you should not let anyone else handle the cards. When they are not in use they should be kept in a safe place, traditionally wrapped in a cloth made of natural fibers. This is thought to protect them from absorbing impressions and vibrations from surrounding objects, in the same way as if you let someone else handle them. This could lead to less accurate readings, as you are less in tune with the cards.

Reading the Tarot Cards

When conducting a reading the cards must first be shuffled by you, and then briefly by the querant – the person you are doing the reading for. Be careful to watch the way they hold the cards – the edge of the deck that was closest to them, must also be closest to you when you lay the cards out. This will ensure that should any cards become reversed (upside down / ill-dignified), they will be lain down reversed.

Upright Tarot CardReversed Tarot Card

After shuffling the deck, the querant should cut it twice, traditionally with their left hand as it was thought to be truest as it is closest to the heart. The first cut is laid to the left of the original pack and then a second cut is made from this new pile, and laid to the left of it. The deck is now reassembled in the same order – from right to left so the original pile is on top of the first cut, which is on top of the second cut. The cards can then be dealt from the top of this deck.

Cutting a Tarot Deck

The cards are placed face down in their position in the tarot card spread of your choice and then turned over to reveal the face image. From there the reading is conducted by referencing the position of the card in the spread and the meaning of card itself, whether it is from the Major Arcana or Minor Arcana.

When you begin working with Tarot cards you may start by looking at the meanings of each individual card, but you should aim to interpret the spread as a whole. The combinations of cards, and the pattern they make in the spread can subtly change the meaning of the reading as a whole, and you should try to keep in mind that each card is simply part of a bigger picture. Also remember that the meanings you can find on this website or any other place are just a guidance, and you should trust your own judgement and intuition.

For more information on using Tarot cards check out this complete guide for beginners. It includes illustrated meanings of all the major cards in normal orientation and reversed, and in different spreads.

2 thoughts on “Tarot”

  1. The Tarot began in Egypt before Hinduism. Every major religion and most minor religions and cults are either direct descendants of Qabalah or influenced by it. The Qabalah is over 6000 years old on this planet (probably longer).

    The original intent for the Tarot were as meditation tools for spiritual growth. They weren’t meant for divination. Divination is at best an ego driven shortcut to spiritual development that can be full of hidden(takes a long time to discover) spiritual misunderstandings and at worst a fear driven distraction from real growth (full of dangers that can take years to discover if ever).

    The reasons Tarot divination is accurate are (a) the Tarot represent a complete archetypal blueprint of the human condition (b) Our energy field (aura) is part of the unconscious mind and it is very large, interacting with our environment (i.e. the cards). and (c) patterns in our unconscious mind will persist and thus reflect our life.

    The accuracy of the Tarot does not mean trying know the future is useful for spiritual development. A more useful hybrid of divination and the original intent of meditation for spiritual growth would be to divine the current patterns concerning an issue, if useful and conducive to the desired result you meditate on the meanings and images to strengthen the energy. If not useful and conducive, divine what pattern would be, then mediate on those to help induce the new more useful pattern/energy.

    We are meant to evolve to a point where all catalysts are seen as positive. Looking to the future before hand tends to come from a place of doubt, worry and fear ( no matter how hidden it may be). We are children of the Creator made in the Creator’s image and similitude, we should seek to escape non useful patterns and embrace are ability to create new energetic patterns, thus embracing our ability to create our reality and grow, over time developing this ability to the point that we have no real concerns for the future because we know that we are putting out exactly what we want (on every level).

    Hope this helps

    1. Hey, that’s really useful and interesting! Thanks for taking the time to type all that out. :o) Tarot is by no means a speciality of mine. Could you recommend any books so I can find out more information and update this page?

      Thanks again!

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