The term "Tarot" is a French derivative (taraux) of the Italian tarocchi, meaning "triumphs" or "trumps." The original purpose and development of the Tarot are unknown. Numerous theories, many of them fanciful, have been advanced. The earlies surviving records of cards of any type date to the earth 14th century. Cards that may have been Tarot were created in 1392 for King Charles VI of France by a painter Jacquemin Gringonneur. The earliest known Tarot cards date to 1505 in Milan and were designed for the Visconti and Visconti Sforza families. These earlier decks were only the Major Arcana, whose unnumbered images, possibly allegories, represented death, fortune, wisdom, virtues, sciences and arts, and so on. At some point the Tarot cards probably were merged with playing cards in use throughout Europe, and by mid 18th century, the 78 card Tarot deck had become standardized in the "Marseilles" deck, still in use today. The Major Arcana had names and numbers, and were used in a game. An earlier form of the game had the name Trionfi or triumph, this name developed later as general term for trick-taking (trumpfen in German, to trump in English) and disappeared in its original function as name for a specific type of deck. This earlier name of the game was first documented in February 1442, Ferrara, Italy.

In 1910 English occultist Arthur Edward Waite published his interpretation of the Tarot deck, with images designed by fellow occultist Pamela Colman Smith. Waite believed the Tarot cards were no older than 14th century, but their symbols were much older. He said he restored the symbols to their original meanings. He drew in part on the Hermetic Kabbala, a blend of Kabbalah and Hermeticism favored by occultists, including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, of which Waite was a member.

The Rider-Waite deck, as it became known, set the standard for nearly all Tarot decks to follow. Unlike earlier decks the Minor Arcana pip cards were represented pictorially. Since then thousands of Tarot decks have been designed and published, and many have broken away from traditional symbolism and names.

How it works

Tarot cards are read in rituals of shuffling and laying out cards in various spreads. Each position in a spread holds a particular significance. Each card has a different meaning, which is influenced by its position: upright or reversed. In addition each suit of the Minor Arcana has a meaning. Traditionally, they are: swords (ill fortune or strife), pentacles (financial and material success), cups (good fortune and love), and wands (enterprise and destination). The Major Arcana have been subject to broad interpretations. Essentially, they are archetypes, and their sequence from 0 to 21 seems to represent a soul's journey to self-realization, the process of individuation or becoming whole, or the alchemical process of spiritual transmutation resulting in the philosopher's stone.

Like the I Ching, the Tarot should not be read for definitive "yes" or "no" answers, but for a reflection of existing energies and directions concerning a given situation. Though each card and its position have a unique meaning, the entire layout must be considered synergistically.

The Tarot is best used as a tool for seeing your life from new perspectives. To do so, you may use a specific deck and/or card spread. There are a variety of spreads you may use depending on the type of questions you want to ask. Some of those spreads are: 3 or 5 card simple spread, Triskele spread (5 cards), Celtic Cross spread (10 cards), Horseshoe spread (7cards), Yin Yang spread (12 cards), Star spread (6 cards), Astrological spread (13 cards), and so on. Since there are thousands of Tarot decks on the market, a Tarot reader will usually have several decks at his or her disposal. A reader chooses a deck for a specific reading based on the impressions the cards give.

The cards

The typical 78 card tarot deck is structured into two distinct parts. The first, called the Major Arcana, consists of 21 cards without suits typically referred to as "trumps", plus a 22nd card, The Fool. The second, called the Minor Arcana, consists of 56 cards divided into four suits of 14 cards each. The traditional Italian suits are Swords, Batons, Coins and Cups. In modern tarot decks, the Batons suit is commonly called Wands, Rods or Staves, while the Coins suit is often called Pentacles or Disks. Arcana is the plural form of the Latin word arcanum, meaning "closed" or "secret."

The images on the Major Arcana in esoteric decks are often very heavy with symbolism; in more occult decks, there is far more to the illustration than a mere depiction of the card title. The Major Arcana are usually regarded as relating to matters of higher purpose or deep significance, as opposed to the Minor Arcana which relate to the everyday world and matters of immediate significance.

The Major Arcana (Trumps Major, Major Trumps) of the Tarot deck consists of 22 cards. The Name Major Arcana is used only in esoteric practice; Tarot decks for playing call them Trumps and usually only show a roman numeral on each card, plus some decoration that is identical on all of them. In esoteric sets, each Major Arcanum depicts a scene, mostly featuring a person or several people, with many symbolic elements. In many decks, each has a number (usually in Roman numerals) and a name, though not all decks have both, and some have only a picture. The earliest decks bore unnamed and unnumbered pictures on the Majors (probably because a great many of the people using them at the time were illiterate), and the order of cards is not standardised. The Major Arcana cards are as follows: The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgement, The World.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot deck consist of 56 cards. It is comprised of four suits, most commonly named Wands, Cups, Swords, and Coins (esoterically called Pentacles or Disks), although there is a wide variety of different names and suit symbols used in different decks.

The 14 cards in each suit consist of an Ace, nine cards numbered 2 through 10, and four court cards. The four court cards (or face cards) of the tarot deck traditionally consist of the King, the Queen, the Knight and the Page (or Knave).

Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Page, Knight, Queen, King.

Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Page, Knight, Queen, King.

Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Page, Knight, Queen, King.

Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Page, Knight, Queen, King.

Often, the suits are associated with one of the four classical elements, with a common set of associations being the following: Wands with fire, Cups with water, Swords with air, and Coins with earth. In other sets of associations, Fire is occasionally exchanged with air for the Swords suit. Other associations are also possible:

Tarot suit Playing-card suit Element Gender Faculty

Wands or Staves

Clubs Fire Active masculine Emotions or passions

Cups or Chalices

Hearts Water Active feminine Reason or intellect


Spades Air Passive masculine Will or soul

Pentacles or Discs

Diamonds Earth Passive feminine Material body or possessions

For further information on Tarot, please visit Learning How to Read the Tarot Learning How to Read the Tarot.

  Your Personal Tarot Cards
While The Tarot is usually used to explore personal issues through readings, it is also possible to combine Numerology and Tarot to establish a set of personal Tarot cards based upon your name and birth date. Your personal set is of cards is very different from a reading. First, with the exception of the Growth Cards, the set never changes. Cards may repeat within your set too. Finally while readings usually focus on transient influences and events, the cards in your personal set represent influences that will be with you through your entire life. To get your personal cards fill in the form below and select the "Show Me My Cards" button at the bottom.
Enter Your Complete Name
First Name:
Middle Name:
Last Name:
* Check the check box if there is a "Y" in your name and you want it used as a vowel.
Enter Your Birth date:
Month: Day: Year:

For further information on Tarot, please visit Learning How to Read the Tarot Learning How to Read the Tarot.

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