The 56 Tarot cards of the Minor Arcana are comparable to those in a deck of standard playing cards. There are four suits – wands, cups, swords and coins / pentacles, and the cards range in value from an ace to a king in each suit. One difference is the court cards of the tarot consist of a page, as well as a knight, queen and king. Each card has its own individual meaning, but this can be changed when it is considered in combination with the other cards present in the reading.
For full information on the Minor Arcana cards check out this complete guide for beginners.
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The Tarot cards in the Major Arcana can be seen as more important than their counterparts in the Minor Arcana as they tend to relate to life changing events, or themes of deeper significance. Each card in the Major Arcana has a number, and a traditional name in both English and French. The cards can also be associated with an astrological ruler; this either an element, planet or zodiac sign. Finally, given that the cards have a history in Hindu religious customs it is perhaps unsurprising that the modern day cards have a link with Qabalah, a Hindu philosophical question. For each card I have given the Hebrew letter it relates to, as well as the path number which places it on one of the branches of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. Click the image above to see a larger version of the Tree of Life, or click any of the cards below for a very large version of it.
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Below I have given examples of a few different Tarot card spreads that you can use in different situations. This assumes that you have already shuffled the cards, as described in the main page on the Tarot cards. In each case the number given on the card tells you what order to lay them out in – place card number 1 first, 2 second etc. Deal from the top of the deck, and place the cards face down. If you are taking the cards from someone else who has shuffled them, make sure you note which edge they had closest to their body, and hold the deck the same way yourself when you are dealing.
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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.
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