Tarot Cards are one of the most recognizable tools for divination and personal development in the world. From movies to novels, the imagery of the Tarot has become a popular tool in modern entertainment and culture, a visual shorthand cue for ominous events to come. Though the modern view of Tarot is filtered through its occult uses and connections, this fascinating set of cards has a much humbler beginning.
While there have been several fantastical theories put forth about the origins of the Tarot Deck, the first historical evidence of it comes from 15th-century Europe. It was used for a variety of card games. The four suits, or Minor Arcana, are the same as those found in Italian playing card decks of the period. Eventually, the Court Cards were added, bringing the total to 56 cards. Later on, the Major Arcana were added to the pack. These 22 cards, full of strange, allegorical imagery and carrying names like Judgement, Temperance, Death, and The Lovers, are what most people think of when they hear the word, “Tarot.”
Use of the Tarot continued over the centuries, but it wasn't until the early 20th century that the Tarot was standardized. There was a revival of interest in occult studies, and several influential figures rose through the ranks of these students. One of them, Arthur Edward Waite, composed a source interpretation of the cards which drew on a variety of sources. The cards were illustrated by Pamela Colman-Smith, and this deck, called the 'Rider-Waite' deck, was published in 1909 by William Rider & Son of London, and has since become the most popular deck in the English-speaking world.
The Rider-Waite deck is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tarot Decks. Countless variations have been published over the years, each one drawing on different symbols and different sources. No matter what your personal interests are, chances are there's a Tarot Deck to suit your tastes.
Today, Tarot reading is about much more than fortune-telling. The cards are often used as meditation or self-reflection tools, helping people develop a greater understanding of themselves and the world around them. But whether your interest in Tarot is self-development or fortune-telling, the secrets of these 78 symbolic cards will continue to captivate people for centuries to come.