What is the Tarot: A brief history and introduction to the cards

The Tarot of Jacques Viéville (Paris 1650) Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1249445

The Tarot of Jacques Viéville (Paris 1650)
Public Domain

When I wrote about the Tarot last month, I didn’t expect so many of you to be interested in both a reading and in knowing more about the cards! Since so many of you asked, here’s some information on the Tarot.

A brief history of Tarot

The origin of the Tarot is a bit of a mystery. Some sources say the cards originated in Italy in the 15th century, others that they’ve been around since the mid-18th century. But what is largely undisputed is that the cards were discovered by scholars of the occult in the later part of the 18th and 19th centuries. They connected the cards to Egyptian philosophy, the Kabbalah, alchemy and other systems.

However, Arthur Edward Waite is largely viewed as the father of modern Tarot. In the 20th century, he commissioned artist Pamela Coleman Smith to create what he called the “rectified” Tarot. His version of the cards has been widely accepted as the standard, and is by far the most popular deck – and the easiest for those looking to learn the Tarot given its rich symbolism and the simple artwork.

The 78 cards

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The Tarot deck has 78 cards – divided into 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards. The 22 Major Arcana cards depict images like the Hanged Man, the Devil, the Wheel of Life and the Fool. They represent the Hero’s Journey, and depict the various stages we encounter as we search for greater meaning and understanding in our lives. They hold deeply meaningful lessons, and are considered the most important part of the Tarot.

The 56 Minor Arcana cards are suit cards – wands, swords, cups and pentacles. Each of these is related to an element and a particular trait. For example, Wands represent the Fire element, and is the suit of creativity, action and movement. Cups represent the Water element, and is the suit of emotions and relationships.

But how does the Tarot work?

I mean, the Tarot is just 78 picture cards, right? So how does it work? How can it predict the future and give you any insights?

Well, think of it this way. Look at the cards as a deck of pictures. As you think of a question, shuffle the cards, and lay them out in a spread, these pictures interact with one another to form a story. And isn’t that what our life really is – a story that is written every minute and every day based on our choices?

By focusing on your intention {question}, creating a sacred space {silence}, and connecting deeply with your intuition, you can get some amazing insights from the cards. The beauty of the cards is that none of it is set in stone. It tells you how a situation is likely to unfold if you continue on the same course. If you don’t like where a situation is headed, you can course correct and change the outcome. So the power is always with you!

Sounds like something that you want to try?

I’d love to introduce you to the power of the Tarot via personalized online Tarot readings! As a special introductory offer, all through this month, I’m giving you the opportunity to try it as a special introductory rate. Take a look, and book a reading now!

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I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?


  1. Woah! You just made Tarot a lot more interesting! I had got a reading done back in Pune and it just made me feel better. Gave me more motivation to control my life. I will take up the offer soon. 🙂

  2. One of my friend was good at Tarrot and she picked up some cards for me, i forgot the names of the cards. But the reading went like hardship, darkness, etc etc and I wont ever have a child!!!! This was back in college. Thankfully i laughed that time. But I like to wait and watch what the reading says

    • lol! No Tarot reader can tell you things like “you won’t have a child”. And even the so-called dark cards (like Death and The Tower) are never doom and gloom! They just indicate a period of change and the completion of a cycle.

  3. Relieve stress and find peace. This is one of the greatest benefits to the Tarot! We get so wrapped up in our own Ego, and there’s nothing wrong with that by the way it’s called being human, we often create problems that are never there to begin with. That’s one of the BIGGEST reasons I love the Tarot. The Tarot helps you weed out what is going on, from what is not, and that is such a tremendous stress relief in your daily life that you don’t want to live without.

    • Absolutely spot on! Most of our problems are in our head because we are overthinking and over analyzing and just basically overwhelming ourselves. Tarot just cuts through all that chatter and helps us focus clearly on the core issue at hand.

    • Ah, but Tarot is not exactly the same thing as, say, palmistry. A reading isn’t set in stone. You still have full control over the outcome and the power to change it. 🙂

    • Well, Tarot is not similar to astrology or horoscopes, for example, in looking to the future. It is a much more helpful tool to really understand a situation and how you can handle it better. Give it a try – you’ll see what I mean! 🙂

    • That sounds really interesting, and would make for some fascinating reading. Have you written about your experiences on your blog? I would love to read!

      The Tarot, in my experience, is a very intuitive tool that really works based on the current situation and thought process of the person asking the question. If you change your actions, you can change your outcome. I find it excellent to really cut through the noise and get to the heart of the matter, to figure out what’s going on and what I should and should not do in a particular situation.

  4. Sounds interesting.I have seen roadside astrolgers using a parrot and cards with Gods pictures.The parrot picks a God pic and astrolger makes a prediction based on it.Is this also some kind of Indian tarot?

    • Gosh no! It’s nothing like a parrot picking cards and an astrologer making a prediction! This is completely different and much deeper than!

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  7. The whole breathe in, connect to your question and visualise works for me. As a per me any faith is driven by faith within yourself. Belief that drives your ideas. Tarot hence makes sense to me a lot !

    • Yes! That’s what the Tarot is – it is all about you, and giving you the options and path and tools and suggestions to make changes (or just go with the flow) with regards to any situation. The key is having faith, and using the Tarot as a guide and ally, not a “fortune teller”. 🙂

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