Tarot cards are believed to have originated in Europe in the mid-16th Century, and were originally used to play card games - particularly in Italy, and France. Their use as an occult item is said to have started in the 18th Century.
A standard Tarot deck consists of 78 cards. A deck is made up of two smaller decks - the Major Arcana, and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, each dealing with a universal theme or archetype, and can be used independently for readings. The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards, and can be further divided into four suits: Wands, Cups, Pentacles and Swords.
While traditionally associated with clairvoyance, in recent times Tarot cards have also been utilized by psychologists as a tool for unlocking the subconscious - most notably by Carl Jung, whose studies into the subject are world renowned. They are also known for their use as a tool for meditation, and creative visualization.
The Major Arcana
The following is a list of cards included in the Major Arcana. Note that some types of deck, in particular Aleister Crowley's Thoth deck and subsequent copycats, include extra cards, or modified ones. The numbering of some cards, most often the Strength and Justice cards, may also vary.
- The Fool
- The Magician
- The High Priestess
- The Empress
- The Emperor
- The Hierophant
- The Lovers
- The Chariot
- The Hermit
- Hanged Man
- The Devil
- The Tower
- The Star
- The Moon
- The Sun
- The World
The Minor Arcana
The Minor Arcana very closely resembles a standard deck of playing cards, and is made up of four suits. The cards in each suit consist of ten numbered cards, and four court cards: Queen, King, Knight and Page.
The four suits correspond to different aspects of every day life, as well as each being traditionally associated with one of the elements. These correlations are as follows:
- Wands: This suit relates to the element of fire (or air, depending on which deck you use). The cards of this suit pertain to action.
- Cups: This suit relates to the element of water. The cards of this suit pertain to human emotions and relationships.
- Swords: This suit relates to the element of air (or fire, depending on which deck you have). The cards of this suit pertain to mental activity and conflict.
- Pentacles: This suit relates to the element of earth. The cards of this suit pertain to the material realm, practicality and wealth.