From ArticleWorld

Tarot is a deck of 78 cards sub-divided into two types :

  • Major arcana – This consists of 1 Fool’s card and 21 trump cards
  • Minor arcana – The balance 56 cards are further sub-categorized into 4 suits – Wands (Batons), cups, swords and pentacles (coins). Each suit contains :
  • Cards numbered Ace to 10
  • Court cards namely king, queen, knight and page.

Tarot cards existed as early as the 15th century. They were initially used for games but in the 18th century its usage in fortune-telling emerged. Antoine Court de Gebelin and Etteila were the pioneers in this field.


Tarot is rich in symbolism with a long and mystic history. Significance of the cards and their interpretations have altered and evolved over the centuries. However, it is broadly agreed that the four suits correspond to the four elements – Wands to fire, Cups to water , Swords to air, Pentacles to the earth.

Types of decks & Layouts

Tarot decks are used for multiple purposes and hence different varieties of decks are available. The most significant is Tarot of Marseille which became extremely popular since the 19th century. “Art decks” consist of only the major arcana as they are of artistic interest only. Swiss , Minchiate, Rider-waite, Thoth are other chief varieties of decks.

The tarot cards must be spread out in specific patterns called “layouts”. The types of layouts are :

  • The Celtic Cross layout
  • The Five Card Spread
  • The Romany Draw layout
  • “Crowley’s” Thoth layout

Tarot readers are believed to possess the gift of foretelling the unknown through the use of tarot decks. The person who wants a reading has to lay out the cards in a spread and the reader then scrutinizes the pattern so formed to give answers. Clairvoyant vibrations given out by the seeker are also assessed as they are said to have passed on to the cards they touch.