Tarot cards have almost become an ancient relic though the 78 card deck was the inspiration behind the birth of modern playing cards.
The original Tarot deck consisted of 78 cards, which were divided into 4 suits of 14 cards each – each suit made up of the standard set of ace to 10, page, knight, queen, and king – and 22 un-numbered cards called ‘triumphs’ (also known as ‘trumps’). However, over time, the trumps were numbered from 1 to 21 with one card representing the ‘fool’ or the number zero.
In modern tarot, the 4 suits are known as the ‘Minor Arcana’ whereas the trumps are called the ‘Major Arcana’. Each suit in the Minor Arcana is symbolized by cups, swords, wands or staffs (which are probably a modernized version of polo-sticks); and pentacles (derived from the original coin symbol). You can learn about the history of Tarot symbols by studying Western Mystery Tradition.
Most people think that Tarot was brought in from China, India or Egypt. However, according to modern tarot scholars, Tarot was probably introduced by crusaders travelling back to Europe from the Middle East during the 12th century. The most antique set of Tarot cards preserved to this day is a 14th century deck from Italy. The hand-painted cards were a wedding gift from an Italian nobleman to his beloved daughter.
The age-old custom of card reading came about when ancient man used the images on the Tarot to foretell the future. This olden practice has been employed to interpret the times and find guidance to resolving matters like relationships, careers and finances for over 5000 years. In fact, some believe that the tarot has been in use even before the Egyptian civilization.
The Tarot can speak, so they say, through a pattern of randomly drawn cards. Mediums or those who are experts on mystical symbolism frequently use tarot cards as a divination tool to satisfy inquiries of all nature. Today, even the Western world has availed itself of this pagan ritual of deduction. As a matter fact, the tarot is so well known for its soothsaying powers that all cards used for fortune-telling or any form of clairvoyancy are loosely termed Tarot.