A Brief History
The origin of the tarot cards, the region of the world, and the precise
purpose of their origin, are wrapped in a haze of conjecture, doubt and
superstition. Some authorities claim that the Tarot evolved from the
Chinese divination system called I-Ching; others say that it was adapted
from the legendary Book of Thoth. Still others place its origin as
recently as fourteenth or fifteenth century Europe, since the earliest
known complete deck dates from that time.
The most eminent and profound occultist, several of whom, including
Court de Gebelin, Papus, Charles Barlet, boldly affirm that tarot cards
are nothing less than the leaves of the sacred Book of Thoth, which
contained a summary of the profound occult lore of ancient Egypt.
Moreover, these occultists agree that Tarot presents an epitome of the
mysteries of the Jews Cabbala, which (Jews Cabbala) is largely Egyptian
in its origin. In fact, even the name 'Tarot' hints on an Egyptian
origin. Etteilla, a great exponent of the Tarot, explains that the name
has been derived from Egyptian words' Tar'," a path" and 'ro or ros',
"royal," meaning together "the royal path of life." J. F. Vaillent (in
les romes, histoire vraie des vraise bohemiens, 1857), states" the great
divinity Ashtaroth, As-Taroth, is no other than the Indo-Tarter
Tan-Tara, the tarot, the zodiac." And still other authorities teach that
both the Tarot and the Book of Thoth derive their names from the
Egyptian word 'taru' meaning "to require answer" or "to consult"
Whatever the origin of the Tarot, it is clear that the symbolism on
the cards is universal, speaking to many different cultures and
The Tarot Deck
The Tarot deck consists of 78 cards, divided into: -
1) The Major Arcana, consisting of 22 pictorial and symbolical cards, and
2) The Minor Arcana, which are composed of 56 court and numeral cards, divided into 4 suits.
The word "Arcana" comes from the Latin word 'arcanus' meaning closed or secret.
The major arcana, or trump suit, consisting of 22 cards has different
pictures on each card illustrating an action, behavior and or event.
Each card also has a label, which is a name, a title, or the description
of the picture on the card.
All the cards in the major arcana except one are numbered, from 1 to
21. The Fool, which is an unnumbered card, is generally considered to be
The remaining 56 cards, the minor arcana, are divided into 4 suits:
Swords, Cups, Coins, and Wands. There are 14 cards in each suit: 10
numbered (or pip) cards, from Ace to Ten, and 4 face (or court) cards:
Page, Knight, Queen, King.
In the divination, the major arcana represents states of being- i.e.
ones mental, emotional, and/or spiritual condition at the time of tarot
On the other hand the minor arcana describes events or situation, and
each suit focuses on a different area of life. In general, Swords
describe mental or intellectual state of the questioner and Cups his
emotional life. Coins represent his material status, and Wards his
career, abilities, or potentials. The court cards sometimes symbolize
actual people in questioner life or may have same interpretation as the
Divining with Tarot
There is no absolute destiny: there is only Cause and Effect. Sometimes
the process is simple like mixing blue and yellow will give green.
However most of life's situations is not that simple. It is difficult if
not impossible to discover a causal relationship. These are the
situations for which one needs Tarot a means to see beyond the sensory
The important thing to remember is "if you change the cause, you
change the effect" i.e. if you change either blue or yellow (the cause),
you change green (the effect).
The Tarot works, by helping the conscious mind focus, via
meditation, on the clairvoyant powers of the unconscious mind. The
underlying premise is 'solutions are inbuilt in the problem, one has
only got to search for it.' Tarot is one of the tools, which help in
this search .
There are many spreads to choose from. Some spreads are suitable for
answering in' yes or no' while others require a great deal of skill from
the reader and fair deal of patience from the questioner, for these
spreads are complicated; but they provide an indepth analysis to the
The spreads mentioned below have been chosen for their ease of use and the depth of answer that they impart.
1) The Four-Card Spread : - This gives a reasonably
detailed answer to simply phrased question. The beginner with minimum
knowledge of the Tarot may use it with ease. It may be of further use as
a part of a longer reading using another spread to answer secondary
question relating to specific part of the questioner's life.
2) The Celtic cross Spread : - This is perhaps the
most widely used and most popular of all Tarot spreads. It gives the
questioner a much more detailed view of his/her circumstances than the
Four Card Spread. The reader should attempt to read the cards in
relation to each other for all the cards taken together would provide
more meaning than the sum of their individual parts.
3) The Astrological Spread : - This spread, as the
name implies is based upon the principles of astrology. 12 cards are
placed in positions representing the 12 astrological houses. Each card
is interpreted with in the context of the individual house. This may
take a little longer to learn for the beginner but any one with the
knowledge of astrology will find the principle straightforward.
Both the Celtic Cross Spread and the Astrological Spread together
give a very detailed and in depth understanding of the questioner's
situation and there by help in deciding a course of action.
There are some other popular spreads namely Etteilla's Great Figure
of Destiny and Papus's Rapid methods of divination. However, an indepth
analysis of all the Spreads and exact methodology employed for
divination using Tarot cards is beyond the scope of this treatise.
In the course of this treatise an effort was made to present a lucid
description of the principles of Tarot. For the benefit of the serious
students of Tarot, we would like to emphasize that the prognostications
of the Tarot cards are not bound infallibly to be fulfilled but should
be regarded rather as signpost of guidance and encouragement, for the"
stars impel, they do not compel."
Life is the quest, a quest for the unknown. The insatiable curiosity of
man and his power of thought and speculation have never been more keenly
exercised than in his effort to penetrate the barriers that separate
the world of reality from the mysterious realm of the supernatural, and
to possess himself of its secrets.
Cartomancy or fortune telling by cards, specifically Tarot (pronounced
Ta-row) has helped man in this quest by embracing knowledge that is
beyond the realm of five senses.