Tarot cards are tools that are used as a form of divination. They come in a deck of deck of 78 cards made up of a minor and major arcana. People use the cards in layouts called spreads or by pulling individual cards to create a point of focus and insight into challenges, opportunities, and situations.
The Tarot Card Deck
The classic tarot card deck is quite different from a typical 52-card deck of playing cards. The deck contains a total of 78 cards with four suits in the minor arcana and 22 trump cards in the major arcana. Each of the cards represents archetypes depicting the challenges and opportunities humans face. When used as a divination tool, the cards can provide insight into the life of the querent (person seeking a reading).
The minor arcana contains 40 numbered cards and 16 Court cards. What a beginner needs to know about these cards is that they pertain to everyday events and people in your life. The minor arcana has four suits, and each represents an area of life.
- Wands represent the element of fire, which is about action, and enterprise.
- Cups represent the element of water. They deal with emotional matters.
- Swords represent the element of air and deal with intellect, decisions, and conflict.
- Pentacles represent the earth element and are mainly about work, money, and achievement.
Court cards are like face cards in a traditional card deck. They represent a person--either yourself or someone else. They reflect personality traits and characteristics and give insight into motives.
The major arcana cards tend to garner the most attention in a tarot reading. Major arcana cards include 21 numbered cards and 1 unnumbered card (the Fool). What a beginner needs to know about these cards is that they pertain to major happenings in life and are baesd on the archetypes of a soul's evolutionary journey.
- Cards zero through five: These cards signal a variety of beginnings.
- Cards six through 11: These cards focus on the way we apply the lessons we've learned to each new challenge we face. They tend to appear in readings related to making an important choice that sets the future course of a life, such as decisions about marriage and careers.
- Cards 12 through 16: These cards show your struggles and reveal something about how you face them as well as what you learn from them.
- Cards 17 through 21: These cards view issues from a broader perspective, rather than just by how issues personally affect you.
Types of Tarot Decks
The classic tarot is the Rider-Waite tarot deck, and it has all of the above conventions exactly as described. Many artists have created different tarot decks based on the Rider-Waite tarot that follow the same structure but may have different suit names or characters in the major arcana. However, if a deck is labeled as "tarot" it will have the underlying structure of the classic.
Oracle cards, on the other hand, don't follow a typical tarot deck structure. They often have varying numbers of cards with specific meanings, and the querent can use them to gain insight into a challenge or opportunity by pulling a card in response to their question. Oracle cards typically require less interpretation than tarot cards.
Learning to Read Tarot Cards
It takes a little time to learn tarot, but anyone can do it. The fastest way to understand what tarot cards tell you is to learn the underlying structure of the tarot deck and the archetypes the cards represent.