I love Tarot. I love it so much that I’ve been studying it for over 50 years. Tarot has never bored me, nor failed to challenge me, both intellectually and emotionally. It has taught me, surprised me, corrected me and shown me which direction to take when life is confusing. Tarot cards and their meanings have encouraged me toward horizons I’d never have chosen without its guidance, always for the better.
Tarot can be all this and more for anyone who picks up a deck and takes the time to learn the basics. I’m not kidding; that’s all it takes. If you begin the process, sincerely and with a goal to learn and to help others, you’ll succeed. Don’t be intimidated and don’t think it’s beyond your ability.
Anyone can learn to read the cards and tap into an immense source of wisdom. That includes you.
Tarot Cards or Oracle Cards?
Although Tarot has become a generic term for any oracle deck, not every pack of cards designed for divination is Tarot. Tarot began as a game, and is still popular and played all over the world. The game is called Jeu de Tarot in France, Tarock throughout much of Europe and Tarocci in Italy. A French Tarot deck uses clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds, just as most modern playing cards do. Other decks use Tarot familiar Wands, Cups, Swords and Disks.
Generally speaking, Tarot, as a game, is somewhat similar to Bridge, and involves taking tricks, bidding, trump cards and a sophisticated strategy. I enjoy playing the game, but I’m no shark. The game itself is easy to learn, but the complexities of bidding and winning are formidable. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying a few hands every now and then.
This brings me to my point, for a deck to qualify as a Tarot deck, it needs to be able to be used to play the game of Tarot. It’s really that simple. Here are the parts necessary.
Tarot Cards and Their Meanings
The majority of the cards in a Tarot deck are numbered cards and royalty. There are four suits in Tarot. Each suit consists of an ace through 10, plus four royalty cards. Most royalties consist of a King, Queen, Knight, and a Page, although it may vary. These suited cards are known as the Minor Arcana in divination. In addition to these 56 cards, there are 22 cards, known as the trumps, or Major Arcana. There it is.
You may notice that I didn’t specify the suits involved, nor the names and meanings of the trump cards. I used to think that if it didn’t reflect traditional aspects of classical decks, it wasn’t Tarot. I was wrong. I’m not sure if it’s age, or being corrected by Tarot itself, but as long as it meets the above criteria, it’s a Tarot deck. Anything else should be considered to be an oracle deck, which in no way diminishes the efficiency or accuracy of that deck. It’s important to remember that any form of divination is dependent upon the practitioner and not upon the methodology. There’s a saying about carpenters and their tools that applies here.
Which Deck Is Right for You?
When I bought my first Tarot deck in the mid 1960s, there wasn’t much of a choice. The Rider Waite deck, the Tarot designed by Arthur Edward Waite and rendered artistically by Pamela Coleman Smith, was available here and there. Waite’s deck is probably the most popular in the world. AE Waite and Smith were members of a magical society known as the Golden Dawn.
Members were expected to understand esoteric Tarot fully and use it as a tool for divination and self-knowledge. The Marseilles deck, as well as the Oswald Wirth deck, had been available for some time, but Waite’s offering included pertinent illustrations on each of the minor cards, giving clues as to their meanings. I’ve never used the Rider Waite deck, although I do own it. It may work for you and it’s certainly an excellent option.