The exact origins of the tarot cards are unknown but they are thought to closely resemble a pack of cards which were used to play a game in 15th century Italy where the cards were known as tarocchi. How exactly tarot cards came to be used for divination is unclear but as early as 1540 drawings show simple cards being drawn and used as methods of divination or fortune telling.
The tarot deck
The typical deck of tarot cards holds 78 cards and are in two distinct parts, the first part is called the trump cards and these consist of 21 cards without suits, with the addition of a 22nd card which is called the fool. These cards are known as the major arcana or greater secrets; the second part consists of 56 cards which are divided into 4 suits of 14 cards in each.
In the traditional Italian card deck, they were known as swords, batons, coins and cups but decks that are more modern call the baton suit rods or staves while the coins suit is called pentacles or disks. These cards are known as minor arcana or lesser secrets.
The use of the tarot cards
In most parts of the world, the tarot deck is widely used as a form of divination or as a tool for assessing the unconscious. The cards are shuffled as a deck and then dealt out in various formations or patterns; they are often thought to show a persons thoughts or desires. The cards can be used to show events that have happened in the past, present or future and are able to give answers to questions regarding uncertainties and indecision.
Each card in the deck has a variety of meanings which have varied widely throughout the years and many decks are customized for a particular person's use, the kings, queens, pages and knights signify different people in the readings of the cards and each suit can provide information about the person's attitude, emotional state and physical characteristics.
Scepticism of tarot readings
Many religious groups oppose the use of tarot cards because of their association with divination and fortune telling and consider them a form of witchcraft, many sceptics also oppose the readings of the tarot deck and believe that readers mislead their clients and exploit vulnerable people. These people often come to depend on the tarot reader and return on a regular basis for help with problems of course at great expense.
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