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The tarot deck in its complete form comprises 78 cards. These are split into the major and minor arcana, sometimes also known as the greater and lesser arcana. The Minor Arcana The minor arcana comprises 56 cards, which are divided into four suits numbered from Ace (l) to 10, with a King, Queen, Knight and Page. You will note the extra card here when comparing the cards to the standard playing cards we now have. When the cards increased in popularity, the Cavalier (or Knight) and Page (or Knave) were amalgamated into the Jack, and we arrived at a standard pack of 52 cards, plus the Joker (which is the Fool from the major arcana).
The minor arcana cards are basically concerned with jobs, status and everyday things. The suit names of swords, wands, cups and pentacles are the forerunners of the suit names we have now, and can be broken down as follows (please note, the representation of class systems is a generalisation, and for guidance only): Swords or epees correspond to spades Represent executive classes Wands, sceptres, rods, batons or clubs correspond to clubs Represent lower income groups Cups, chalices, goblets or coupes correspond to hearts Represent clergy/religious groups Pentacles, coins, money, circles, discs or deniers correspond to diamonds Represent merchant/business classes You will see that some of the words are not English.
Remember the category. The four elements identified by the ancient Greeks can be connected to the minor arcana suits. The suit of cups is connected with water, wands with fire, swords with air and pentacles with earth. This can be extended to see cups as being emotions, wands challenge, swords mental matters and pentacles possessions, and ties in with the representative class list.
The court cards within the minor arcana can also be categorised – Kings are associated with power, Queens with support and creativity, Knights with new projects and Pages with new information. Court cards can be further divided into personality types, zodiac signs and physical types. In general terms only: cups are fair, plump, emotional and creative people and correspond with the water signs of Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces; wands are brown- or red-haired, well-built people, who are energetic and restless, and correspond with the fire signs of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius; swords are either very dark or very fair, tall, slim people with an unemotional, logical nature, and correspond with the air signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius; and pentacles are short, dark people, who are earthy, practical and stubborn, and correspond to the earth signs of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.
The Major Arcana In addition to the 56 minor arcana cards, there are 22 major arcana cards. These are sometimes also known as trump or triumph cards, and it is these cards which have the most elaborate designs and have led to the tarot’s mystical reputation. These cards are usually numbered, with the exception of the Fool card, which has no number, and is the equivalent of the Joker in a pack of standard cards. However, unlike the Joker we now have, it is very much in use in the tarot readings. The last card, which is the 22nd card, is the World card. There are some packs where cards numbered 8 and 11 are transposed and Justice appears as 11 and Strength as 8, and some, like mine are not numbered at all. It is therefore essential to learn using the names of the cards rather than the numbers upon them. Those who are interested in the history of the cards may be interested to learn that the surviving trump cards from the fifteenth century are, in the main, unnumbered, and the original or proper sequence of the cards and their numbers is open to conjecture. The cards of the major arcana represent the physical and spiritual side of mankind. They can also refer to actual events or planetary influences. In many cases they can also be the story of a myth or legend.
This index holds a link to all pages for Tarot Readings by Decks Suits and Reading Type. You will find many more tarot readings pages that will be of great help if you need tarot card meanings. Use the search at the bottom of the page. Please see our book suggestions below.
Here are some short extracts from my favorite books to give you a feel for the book.
Complete Book of Tarot: Waite (1911): Prudence, circumspection; also and especially treason, dissimulation, roguery, corruption; (R) concealment, disguise, policy, fear, unreasoned caution.Complete Book of Tarot: The decanate system divides the 360-degree circle of zodiac signs into thirty-six equal parts of 10 degrees each. Each sign consists of three decans. There are twelve signs, so there are 12 x 3 = 36 decans. For thousands of years, astrologers have assigned the visible planets to these decans. Thus, each tarot card numbered from two through ten is associated with a decan as well as with the planet ruling the decan. In his book Mystical Origins of the Tarot, author Paul Huson shows how the decans’ esoteric meanings influenced the Golden Dawn’s interpretations of the cards.
Complete Book of Tarot: Mathers (1888): Riches, fortune, opulence, magnificence, grandeur; (R) surprise, astonishment, event, extraordinary occurrence.
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Complete Book of Tarot: When reversed, the World card suggests that you are somehow hindered or delayed in your journey toward an important destination. Perhaps you are unaware of your own limits and have failed to set realistic goals. You need to examine and confront what is holding you back so that you can resume your forward movement. Will your current attitude or behavior result in expulsion from the Garden of Eden?