Disclaimer: All of the information in my Tarot blogs are based on my own personal research and experience.
The exact origins of Tarot are unclear, but it has evolved over time. It’s thought that the Tarot originated in the mid 15th century. The earliest “modern” deck is typically considered to be the Rider-Waite-Smith deck as it was the first to have fully illustrated cards in both the major and minor arcana. Before this the deck the minor Arcana were usually just decorative pips. In the images below I have shown the difference in the pips of the earlier Tarot de Marseille and the guilt illustrated minor arcana of the Rider-Waite Tarot.
As you can see, for intuitive reading the fully illustrated minors give a lot more to draw on. The pips require memorization of the numerology and other associations with the card. These fully illustrated images have become expected in most modern decks. In addition to this, many modern Tarot decks echo the images of Pamela Coleman found in the Rider-Waite. This is so much that case that some new to Tarot seem to think that decks with dramatically different imagery shouldn’t be considered Tarot.
The Tarot is a deck of 78 cards consisting of 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana tell the story of the Fool’s Journey. Each card represents a stage in the journey of the Fool, and by proxy, our own lives. The Minor Arcana is divided into four suits. Traditionally these suits are Pentacles, Wands, Cups, and Swords. Each suit is divided into 10 numerical cards, and four Court cards: Page, Knight, Queen, and King. Each suit corresponds to a different element and have different relevance in each reading.
There are many common misconceptions about Tarot. The most common of these is that it’s used to tell the future. This isn’t necessarily true, not in the way we tend to think about it. Tarot taps into our subconscious and can give us glimpses of what may be coming at this very point in time, but it’s very important to remember the each of us is a free agent and therefore can make choices. Choices we make can, and do, change our future minute to minute. Tarot is useful for helping us analyze situations or learn things about ourselves. It can guide us and help us move in the directions we want to move.
Another misconception is that Tarot belongs to a specific religion or to witches or something along those lines. This is not at all true. Tarot is connected to no religion. Anyone can gain insight from Tarot and anyone can learn to read Tarot. It requires no magical skill or special gifts. It simply requires a connection to your intuition and a willingness to learn. That said, tarot can be daunting to learn. It’s language is that of symbolism and requires study to master. As a Tarot reader I can say that I am always learning and gaining new insights from the cards. Each deck has different symbolism and its own approach to each card. Each deck reveals new nuances as well.
In my practice I use multiple decks. For each reading I select the deck that calls to me for the individual question or situation. In each reading for a client here I may use a different deck. No two readings of mine are alike. I personally lay out each spread and write each reading.
There is actually a practical purpose to having multiple Tarot decks. Each deck brings with it the beliefs and thoughts of the creator. The images tell different stories. Some think that The Fool always tells the same story. This isn’t necessarily true. The Fool always tells a similar story, but the art on the card should not be ignored. What is it telling? Below is an example of different versions of The Fool.
As you can see, there are clearly common themes and it appears each card is telling the same basic story, yet each iteration of the Fool has its own nuance. I find it important to pay attention to these nuances during readings.
The most important thing about Tarot is to study. Study as much as you can. Also, listen to your intuition. Doing a Tarot reading with a million books in hand will never be as accurate or as fulfilling as the reading drawn from intuition telling the story of the images in front of you.