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What Are Tarot Cards? Features 

What Are Tarot Cards?


There is no one origin story for Tarot cards, and their true origins are unknown. The cards borrow designs, symbolism and wisdom from many sources, including alchemy, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome and Chinese mythology.

The most common modern deck is called the Waite pack, named after Arthur Edward Waite who in 1891 commissioned artist Pamela Coleman-Smith to draw the pack for him. This version of the Tarot deck was the first to include images and meanings for the Minor Arcana. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that Tarot’s popularity soared in the modern world. Thanks to an interest in New Age phenomena, Tarot cards reached a wider audience.

How Tarot Works

A Tarot card deck contains a total of 78 cards. The first 22 cards are The Major Arcana, while the remaining 56 cards are The Minor Arcana which are divided into four suits. Each card has a unique symbol and meaning, with the cards of the Major Arcana holding deeper meaning and value. The cards of The Major Arcana are numbered from 0 to 21.

Readings can be done by someone else, or yourself. Readings can also be tailored to the user’s needs or preferences in terms of layout, Arcana used and other divination techniques used with the cards (crystals, astrology, numerology etc.).

The Purpose

There are many reasons to use Tarot according to those who are regular users and readers. Some use Tarot to see themselves and their actions more objectively. Others use Tarot to rediscover their sense of purpose, and to gain a firmer grasp of what they really need. However, the card’s main purpose is to serve as a guide to the user, and to reveal the general path that the future will follow.

Tarot Cards in the Modern World

Today, people from all walks of life regularly do Tarot card readings for themselves and others. Tarot cards also make appearances in many modern media, including movies and videogames. Tarot is an especially popular motif in the urban fantasy and horror genres.

For example, in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, a redesigned version of the Tarot deck was commissioned specifically for the film. Also, in the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back, there is a lot of Tarot Card imagery shown through the character ark of Luke, as well as the characteristics and motivations of Darth Vander and Yoda, with each of them representing opposite Arcana (Death and Hermit).

Videogame wise, Tarot cards are a central element of Persona 4, with each character in the game being associated with a Tarot card from the Major Arcana, and their character ark and personal backstories having strong correlations with the meaning of their respective card. Other videogames that have elements of Tarot cards include Dragon Age Inquisition, Final Fantasy XI and Max Payne.


Written By: India-Lynn Upshaw-Ruffner

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