Tarot Cards are probably one of the greatest mysteries that surround the occult, and their true utility rests in the art of divination. With the word ‘divination’, we refer to the practise of acquiring unknown knowledge, or information on events which have not occurred. This knowledge can only be obtained by supernatural means. Moreover, these cards are a useful tool for communicating with the deceased, and they are a gateway to answers from another world. This gateway consists of an unseen dimension; which coexists with the wicked world we all live in today.

A deck consists of 78 cards: 22 for the Major Arcana. The other 56 cards form the Minor Arcana. The word ‘Arcana’ denotes the plural; ‘Arcanum’ denotes the singular. Furthermore, ‘Arcana’ derives from the Latin word ‘Arcanus,’ which means ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’. The Major Arcana is the most powerful division of a deck; and often carries a deep spiritual message for the seeker (the individual receiving a reading). Alternatively, the Minor Arcana is divided into four different classifications: Swords, Cups, Pentacles, and Wands. The true function of the Minor Arcana is to depict events or circumstances in the past, present, or future. Each class consists of 14 cards, 4 of which are known as the ‘Court Cards’, which feature a Page, a Knight, a Queen, and a King. Each class of the Minor Arcana, also represents a different social class of medieval society.

Swords are the most powerful class of the Minor Arcana, and thus represent the ruling class, the aristocracy, the group who ruled society with the sword. Swords also represent the element ‘air’, ideas, thoughts, logic, alongside razor sharp intellect. Cups are the second most powerful division of the Minor Arcana; they represent the clergy, organised religion, and religious institutionalism. They exercised a very different form of power to the aristocracy, and power comes in many different forms. Cups also represent the element ‘water’, encompassing emotion, love, and the most psychic class of the suits.

Pentacles or Coins are the third in terms of power; they are symbolic of the merchant class, commerce, trade, business, and money. Pentacles also represent the element ‘earth’, and all those earthly blessings that the material world can offer. Wands are the least powerful suit, and this is represented by the peasant class of medieval society. These are the people who will have to start at the bottom; and work their way up to the top with great effort. Wands also symbolise the element ‘fire’, passion, drive, and the spirit of ambition. Nevertheless, these cards are becoming increasingly used and recognised in modern society. However, to use these cards effectively, requires a certain skill which most people lack. Many theories exist on the origins of tarot, but, as usual with all things occult, nothing can be proved.

Some historians claim that tarot cards have originated from Ancient Egypt, whereas others claim they are the work of Gypsies, and other bizarre mystics. It has also been claimed that even ancient Chinese divination has influenced tarotI Ching, which involves creating an image by casting three coins to form lines into hexagrams; this image or message, is then subsequently interpreted within the theories of yin & yang. Moreover, tarot also has some religious influences which are visible on some of the cards. Early Gnostic Christian sects, who developed their own occult practices in secret, may have played their part in shaping the future of tarot. The Jewish tradition of the Cabala, where higher planes of consciousness are reached; through the mystical interpretation of Holy Scriptures, may have also had some influence on the Major Arcana. It is also apparent that the cards have some numerological significance too. All this, thrown in with Classical Mythology, Astrology, and the influences of various other systems of divination, make tarot truly unique.

In Europe, it was documented that these mystical cards had first appeared in Italy, at some point in the fourteenth century. These Italian cards depicted medieval illustrations, and represented the hierarchical nature of medieval society. It should be noted that no one knows what a tarot card looked like before this period; assuming of course they were in existence prior to this date. Therefore, a sensible explanation would describe tarot as an evolutionary concoction of many different cultures. Tarot cards represent a mixture of all things spiritual; they are a fusion of multiple mysteries. Moreover, the origin and meaning of the word ‘Tarot’, is open to interpretation. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the ultimate origin of the word is unknown. However, academics have noted that it has in part derived from the French and Italian usage of the word ‘tarocchi’.

Tarot Cards will form the main, but not the only system of divination for your reading…

Note: The tarot cards featured in the photographs are from the Universal Waite Tarot Deck.