Tarot Cards

What are tarot cards?

What are tarot cards - a spread of tarot cards on a table

There’s an air of mystery around tarot cards. Maybe you’ve just received your first deck. Or perhaps you want to share a full response with a family member who’s asked, “What are tarot cards?” No matter why you’re wondering what tarot cards are, we’ve got you covered! 

Tarot cards have a rich history spanning hundreds of years, and they’ve helped people just like you make sense of what’s happening in their lives. The team at Pure Journi loves using tarot cards as a tool in our spiritual practices, and we want to help you fall in love with them, too. 

In this article, we’ll talk about what tarot cards are, share a brief history, teach you how to use them to improve your life, and offer tips on picking the best tarot deck for you. 

What are tarot cards?

Tarot cards are a collection of 78 cards full of imagery designed to help people divine wisdom and guidance. The tarot deck includes 22 major arcana cards and 56 minor arcana cards. 

The major arcana represent overarching themes and big spiritual lessons. You can use these cards, numbered 1 through 21, plus The Fool, to discover a long-term direction in your life. 

The minor arcana shed light on everyday actions and situations. These cards are separated into four suits, wands, cups, swords, and pentacles, with 14 cards each. In each suit, you’ll find 10 numbered cards and pages, knights, queens, and kings.

Together, the major and minor arcana can help you uncover the choices you need to make to live your desired life. While you may hear that tarot cards tell the future, that’s not the whole truth. Tarot cards can help you use your intuition to be more attuned to what’s happening around you. In this way, you can think through how you will respond to events. Then you may face or make changes if you need to. The events predicted by tarot aren’t set in stone. It is an excellent way to decide whether it’s time for a new direction. 

A few examples of Tarot Cards are:

The history of tarot cards 

If you add tarot cards to your spiritual practice, it’s good to know where they came from and how they rose to popularity. Today, people use tarot cards for divination, mystical purposes, and fortune-telling. That hasn’t always been the case. 

In the 14th and 15th centuries, Italian aristocrats played a game called tarocci. This game was similar to the modern-day game of bridge. Aristocrats played with beautiful, hand-painted cards and eventually spread from Italy across the continent of Europe. In France, the game became known as tarot— the name we still use today. 

A Game For Aristocrats?

If you’re wondering how a game for aristocrats became a tool for divination, we have Jean-Baptiste Alliette to thank for that. Under the pseudonym Etteilla (Alliette spelled backwards), he published Manière de se récréer avec le jeu de cartes nommées Tarots (How to entertain yourself with the deck of cards called Tarot) in 1785. It was the first book on how to use tarot cards for divination purposes. In 1789, he published the first deck for esoteric purposes and became the first professional cartomancer, or tarot card reader. He assigned meanings to cards, in both the upright and reversed presentation, and would introduce the four elements and astrology into tarot.

Since Alliette’s time, the deck has undergone a few more evolutions. In 1909, the Rider Company published a tarot deck illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith based on the teachings of academic and mystic A. E. Waite. This Rider-Waite-Smith deck leaned into astrological associations and modified the Christian imagery in previous decks— adding some, removing some. The deck’s imagery was simple yet rich symbolically. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck is the most common type now. 

How do tarot cards work? 

Now that you know what tarot cards are and where they came from let’s find out how they work. Tarot cards can be pulled as a single card for a single, non-yes or no question (called question reading). Or it can be laid out in a spread to give a more holistic overview (called open readings). 

Tarot readings help you connect with your higher self. It will attune you to the infinite power and wisdom available to you. 

These cards aren’t a Magic 8 ball. They can’t dictate your every move. Instead, they’re a tool to guide you to make decisions using your intuition. The cards show you possibilities that may open to you depending on the path you take, rather than offering a set in stone guarantee about your future. 

It’s important to enter a tarot card reading with a neutral mind and without preconceived notions to allow the cards to be the most impactful. Here are a few tips for making the most of your reading:

  • Enter with an open mind
  • Ask targeted questions, but not too specific
  • Keep the focus on yourself (ask how you should handle a situation, not how to get someone else to change)

As you get more comfortable with your tarot deck, you will begin to trust your intuition and open your mind to the wisdom of the universe. 

How should I choose a tarot deck that’s right for me?

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what are tarot cards?” it’s time to decide which tarot deck is right for you. Some people believe in the superstition that you shouldn’t buy your own tarot deck. Instead, they say you should only receive tarot decks as a gift. We wholly disagree! 

Buying a tarot deck is personal and should be treated that way. We’re not saying you should never buy a tarot deck for anyone else. However, there’s something powerful about choosing your own deck. 

If you’re a modern mystic, Mystic Mondays Tarot Card Deck offers fresh interpretations of the major and minor arcana. Would you prefer to plunge into darkness and do some shadow work? There’s a whole host of tarot decks that will aid you on your journey. 

There’s no right or wrong deck— only the one that feels right to you.