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Any of a set of cards used in fortune-telling and in certain card games. Claims have been made for tarot cards' having originated in China, India, or Egypt, but their true origin remains obscure. Tarot cards approximating their present form first appeared in Italy and France in the late 14th century. Early tarot decks were of several types, each varying in the number of cards. The standard modern tarot deck is based on the Venetian or Piedmontese tarot. It consists of 78 cards divided into two groups: the Major Arcana, which has 22 cards (also known as trumps), and the Minor Arcana, which has 56 cards. The cards of the Major Arcana have pictures representing various forces, characters, virtues, and vices. The 22 cards are numbered from I through XXI, with the Fool being unnumbered (other variations include 0, 00, and 22 - additional comment by Dawn). The tarots of the Major Arcana are, in order: I Juggler, or Magician; II Papess, or Female Pope; III Empress; IV Emperor; V Pope; VI Lovers; VII Chariot; VIII Justice; IX Hermit; X Wheel of Fortune; XI Strength, or Fortitude; XII Hanged Man (see photograph); XIII Death (see photograph); XIV Temperance; XV Devil; XVI Lightning-Struck Tower; XVII Star; XVIII Moon (see photograph); XIX Sun; XX Last Judgment; XXI World, or Universe; and the Fool. The 56 cards of the Minor Arcana are divided into four suits of 14 cards each. The suits, which are comparable to those of modern playing cards, are as follows: wands, batons, or rods (clubs); cups (hearts); swords (spades); and coins, pentacles, or disks (diamonds). Each suit has four court cards (usually named king, queen, knight, and page) and 10 numbered cards. In ascending order, the value progression in each suit is ace to 10, then page (knave, or jack), knight, queen, and king (though the ace is sometimes assigned a high value as in modern playing cards). The standard deck of modern playing cards was historically derived from that of the Minor Arcana (with the elimination of the knight). At first the tarot was probably used for playing games, though Gypsies may have used it for fortune-telling. From the 18th century, the cards began to take on esoteric associations, as certain European writers connected them to diverse traditions of mysticism, divination, alchemy, and ritual magic. The cards have retained these associations and are now widely used for fortune-telling.
Death, the thirteenth card of the Major Arcana

Moon, the eighteenth card of the Major Arcana

For fortune-telling, each tarot card is ascribed a meaning. The cards of the Major Arcana refer to spiritual matters and important trends in the questioner's life. In the Minor Arcana, wands deal mainly with business matters and career ambitions, cups with love, swords with conflict, and coins with money and material comfort. The tarot deck is shuffled by the questioner, and then the fortune-teller lays out a few of the cards (either selected at random by the questioner or dealt off the top of the shuffled deck) in a special pattern called a "spread." The meaning of any card is modified according to whether or not it is upside down, its position in the spread, and the meaning of adjacent cards. quoted from Britannica.com

Hanged Man, the twelfth card of the Major Arcana

Medieval Tarot Cards Tarot cards were originally used in the game of tarot; today they are used in fortune-telling. These cards symbolize, from left to right: 1) romance, 2) the devil, and 3) a forceful or willful nature.
THE BETTMANN ARCHIVE (please note: The Strength card, or LeForce, is actually a card of spiritual strength overcoming the material or animal nature. - Dawn) Cards from the recently restored TAROT of MARSEILLE

The earliest record of a deck of cards carrying tarot symbology can be traced back to Northern Italy, where for the first few centuries they were used as a parlor diversion called "Cartes de Trionfi". According to tarot historians Ronald Decker, Thierry Depaulis and Michael Dummett ("A Wicked Pack of Cards"), the earliest surviving set of tarot cards is the few remaining hand-painted cards created in approximately 1441 for the court of Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. A hundred years prior to this, packs of 52 playing cardsbearing the suit symbols of Cups, Coins, Swords and Polo-Sticks could be found in Islamic countries, from whence they migrated into Europe via the British. It was only with the addition of the 22 trump cards sometime after the 18th Century that the pack came to resemble what we now recognize as the modern Tarot deck. Speculation about the Egyptian origins of the Tarot springs almost exclusively from the conclusions and assertions of one person - Antoine Court de Gebelin, a Protestant pastor born in 1695. Caught up in a period of wide-spread fervor over the mystery of all things Egyptian, Court de Gebelin's essay in his work "Monde primitif" says that he discovered this mysterious work while visiting a Lady acquaintance occupied in playing with the game of "Tarots." Within a short time (15 minutes, the essay declares) he prounouced them to be a mysterious book of knowledge of Egyptian origins which had survived the ravages of time. Similar conclusions were drawn in another essay by Court de Gebelin's peer Comte de Mellet. The belief that the Tarot originated with the Gypsies sprung from

Le Bateleur or The Magician, the 1st card of the Major Arcana

the same fount of speculation based on the mistaken idea that the Gypsies originally came from Egypt.

Despite the lack of hard evidence as to the "mystical" origins of the Tarot, the symbology of the tarot can be traced to the ancient Greeks as well as to the myths and legends of other ancient cultures. From these convergent and divergent points, a school of thought developed that compared the cards to the intricate Judaic system of Qabalah and the Tree of Life, an important component of the early development of modern hermetic magickal systems, developing further into the founding of the Order of the Golden Dawn and Freemasonry. Early hermetic Tarot scholars, including Papus, MacGregor Mathers, Eliphas Levi, Aleister Crowley, and Arthur E. Waite contributed vastly to the body of mystical knowledge which comprises the basis of modern Tarot - Crowley and Waite being the creators of the two most popular systems extant today - the "Thoth" and "RiderWaite" decks (respectively). While Crowley's Thoth deck developed to incorporate Qabalistic theory along the lines of the developing OTO ("Ordo Templi Orientis") and Golden Dawn systems, A.E. Waite's interpretation of the Tarot stands today virtually as the standard by which all Tarot decks are judged. Prior to this, the minor arcana (or "pip" cards) of the Tarot were illustrated with various geometric arrangements of the four suit symbols - Cups, Swords, Batons and Coins. With the aid of artist Pamela Coleman-Smith, Waite incorporated scenes, symbols and imagery into the pip cards, which, although continuing to be of hermetic/qabalistic interpretation, assigned a more graphic meaning to the cards, bringing them within a more accessible reach to the general public, or at least those with an interest in the occult. In the process, he also changed the suits of Batons to Wands and Coins to Pentacles to realign them with his ideas about their connection to the magickal disciplines. Crowley's deck, oriented more toward the hermetic tradition, continued with the geometric suit design of the pips. However, his "Book of Thoth" written as an explanatory text for the deck, is considered basic required reading by Tarot authorities.
La Movrevx or The Lovers, the 6th card of the Major Arcana

The creation of the Waite deck began a veritable avalanche of new decks into the marketplace. Many artists saw the medium as a way to present variations of artistic genre, creating decks which were veritable galleries of miniature artwork. The occultists saw it as a way to broaden and further the study of other magickal/spiritual traditions, and began to assert a universal connection between Waite's assigned meanings and their own traditions. Thus, today we see decks containing images from many spiritual paths and historical time periods, including Native American, mythological, Celtic, Arthurian, pagan, aboriginal, Renaissance, and even combinations thereof into a single deck. However, despite the variations in presentation, the basic structure of the standard or archetypal tarot deck consists of two groups of cards known as the "Major Arcana" and the "Minor Arcana" ("arcana" meaning "secret" or "hidden"). Briefly, the Major Arcana deal with images that represent the broader, universal, often spiritually-oriented issues, ideas, beliefs and experiences of life. The Minor Arcana deal with the more mundane themes of everyday living. The Majors contain 22 cards numbered from 0 to 22. The Minors contain 56 cards divided among four "suits" - Cups, Wands, Swords and Pentacles. Each of the suits have their own over-arching associations, and the cards within each suit have a their own meaning. The standard method for "reading" the cards involves the use of a "spread," which means

Le Chariot, or the Chariot, the 7th card of the Major Arcana

the card or cards chosen from the deck are placed in a certain position that has a designated meaning and interpreted from there. Methods of choosing the cards vary widely from reader to reader. Some allow the querant full range to shuffle and choose the cards and place them where they please, relying heavily on the random aspect of chaos to reveal the issue at hand. Some never allow anyone to touch their cards, and insist on placing the cards in a certain design in specific ways, feeling more comfortable in a highly structured reading environment. Readings can fall anywhere between the two extremes depending on the card reader. Spreads, of which there are hundreds, vary widely as well. The most widely used spread is called the "Celtic Cross" (the origins of which are a topic for another dissertation) consisting of ten positions for the cards which are generally labeled as follows:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

Significator (a card representing the querant) Central issue Crossing (What blocks the issue at hand) Basis of the issue Recent past Possible outcome Near future Self Environment Hopes and fears Outcome

Readers have come to rely on this spread as an all-encompassing containment of information that provides the querant with answers to most of the details surrounding the central issue of the reading. If questions remain after reading this set of cards, additional clarification cards are sometimes pulled from the pack and read as a part of the session. Most all Tarot readings follow this same simple structure, with little variation. The divinatory system of Tarot, at face value, is quite simple. It's a deck of cards with pictures, placed in positions that have their own meanings. The card reader interprets the relationship of the card meanings to the positions. Anyone can learn how to do it. The new student of the system should, however, realize that their study of this subject can quickly deepen and broaden, given the history of the cards and the symbology they contain. Given the potential breadth of the subject, experienced readers often urge beginners to choose the Rider-Waite deck to learn the basic meaning and symbology of the system before branching out to other interpretations of the Tarot. There are literally hundreds of decks on the market, with new ones being developed and published almost daily. Although definitely confusing for the new student of the Tarot, it is a collector's paradise for those who are interested in the historical origins and further development of this fascinating activity. The study of the symbology of the cards alone has caught the interest of many scholars who have written reams on the subject. Harking back to the ancient symbology of the cards, another important influence on the understanding and interpretation of Tarot was the work of Carl G. Jung and his study of archetypal imagery arising from the human collective unconscious. In an introductory statement to Sally Nichols' book "Jung and Tarot" Laurens van der Post stated that "He (Jung) recognized at once, as he did in so many other games and primordial attempts atdivination of the unseen and the future, that Tarot had its origin and anticipation in profound patterns of the collective unconscious with access to potentials of increased awareness uniquely at the disposal of these patterns." Nichols herself states early on that "It seems apparent that these old cards were conceived deep in the guts of human experience, at the most profound level of the human psyche. It is to this level in ourselves that they will speak."

La-Rove-De-Fortvne, or the Wheel of Fortune, the 10th card of the Major Arcana

"fortune" telling?
Many believe it is this view of the cards that explains the development of the cards for "fortune telling." Waite himself despised this aspect of the cards, and took every opportunity to denigrate this idea. Yet for this topic, Jung's system of archetypal psychology suggests that we reevaluate our definition of the term "fortune telling." Most people who hear the word instantly think of the rag-headed Gypsy with the crystal ball and smoking incense in the dark tent with a name preceded by "Madam." However, modern uses for the cards has elevated this image from the darkened tent into the light of developmental self awareness, plumbing the depths of psychology and spiritual enlightenment. Today, "fortune telling" with practiced readers can more often be a participatory session with an active and dynamic interplay between reader and querant, with the reader helping the questioner divine their own sources of problems and solutions through the story presented in the images. Given today's rash of less-than-honest psychic pretenders, a good Tarot reader is a rare find. Anyone can learn the Tarot card meanings by mere rote memorization. However, the skill of a good reader becomes obvious when they can tune in to that numinous interface between the energies of the cards in the spread and the energies of the querant and the issues that need to be discussed. You'll notice the word "need" is used, because inevitably the cards will most often speak to the issue of what the querant needs to know instead of, or in addition to, what the querant wants to know. In a good Tarot session, the reader will develop a rapport with the querant and involve them in the reading, rather than listening to a "talking head." According to Mary Greer, a good reader will be able to pull all the cards in the spread together to interpret not only the message of each individual card, but the spread as a cohesive whole, so that the querant can see the entire story. The best Tarot readers today will often set up a dialog about the cards in the reading, asking the reader's ideas about what "they" see in the cards, which almost inevitably acts as a "Rorschach" test of sorts that helps the querant reveal issues that might have been deeply buried within their unconscious. Many who seek the services of a Tarot reader or psychic are concerned with a "surface" problem that has manifested in their life, but refuse to deal with the underlying issues that cause the problem. Often, Tarot cards can reveal these issues and provide a forum where the querant can bring them out to discuss in an atmosphere of comfort and safety, much as in a professional counseling session. The good reader will also be able to recognize when a problem surfaces that is far beyond their scope of practice, and suggest the querant seek additional counseling when the issue warrants this step. If the querant does take the advice of the reader about seeking further counseling, they might just find themselves (if they're lucky) with a professional who uses the Tarot as a basis for understanding their clients problems. In a foreword to Mary Greer's book "Tarot Mirrors," tarot author Rachal Pollack comments that "a growing number of people have realized that readings can serve as a primary means of penetrating into the layers of a person's life - a way of exposing desires and fears, the conditioning of past experiences, the future developments that exist now in the immediate reality." by Evelyn Henry, quoted from the Mythica Encyclopedia

Le Jugement, or the Judgement card, the 20th card of the Major Arcana