Updated: Mar 12, 2022
Tarot is a form of cartomancy divination.
Tarot was originally a playing card game in the late 14th century. This set of 78 cards - comprised of symbolic illustrations (rooted in Jewish Kabbalah) and numbers (incorporating numerology) - eventually became commonly used for fortune telling in the 18th century. Today, there are thousands of different tarot decks, with the Rider-Waite deck being the most commonly used/studied.
A Summary of the Major & Minor Arcanas:
To begin understanding the cards, you can first separate the deck out into two distinct parts. The first 22 cards, the Major Arcana (0-21), tell the archetypal journey of The Fool, chronicling major lessons learnt along the way.
Think of the Major Arcana as a sequential progression of universal experiences and lessons on things like love, fear, society, and more, all represented by archetypal figures. On a surface level, each of these cards help us to identify what part of the journey we are on in the grand scheme of life. More advanced readers may also look into the Kabbalistic imagery and occult numerology in order to divine a deeper spiritual meaning from the cards.
The second part of the deck, the Minor Arcana is more reminiscent of a standard deck of playing cards, in that it has 56 cards split into four suits using some combination of the following descriptors :
Each suit has its 10 Pips (Ace-10) and its four courts (Jack/Knight/Queen/King - or some variation). Think also of the Minor Arcana as a support to the Major Arcana, by offering more details around the real-life expressions of those archetypal themes. These details include things like specifics about persons, places, relationships, feelings, and much more.
Your own deck:
If you are considering getting your own tarot deck, here are a few tips on how to build a relationship with your cards:
Purchase a deck whose art calls to you and makes sense to you.
Purchase a deck that has great definitions, maybe even keywords on the cards to help.
Begin handling them and shuffling them right away to get a feel for them.
Keep them close to you initially, like in your pocket or under your pillow when you sleep.
Talk to and meditate with your cards.
Pull a card a day, look at the image and definition and apply it somehow to your day.
Practice with family and friends.
Here are a few decks that I personally recommend for beginners:
Practical Tarot Wisdom https://amzn.to/3GvtWMJ
The Modern Witch Tarot https://amzn.to/3J4truD
Tarot Learning Cards https://amzn.to/3roSh2u
What to look forward to:
If instead you are looking to get a reading from someone else, you should feel confident now that you have a brief idea of how the tarot functions. That confidence will allow you to shop for a reader that fits your needs.
It's always fun getting read by different readers and being exposed to different decks. Each reader has their own style, their own methods, and even their own way of shuffling. Their decks will have a unique beauty and feel to them, and it's totally normal to want to buy all the decks!
A divination session can provide all kinds of insight, and I actually offer tarot divinations along with a a few other fun divination types which you can see and book here.
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