The Rider-Waite Tarot deck is one of the most
popular with it's simple but powerful images.

Images from Rider-Waite Tarot.
Published by U.S.Games Systems Inc.


Tarot for Life

     About Tarot 

    The standard modern Tarot deck consists of 78 cards and its early versions are thought to have originated in the 15th Century in Northern Italy.  Since then, Tarot cards have been used for gaming, fortune-telling, meditation, psychological insight, ritual, creative inspiration and healing.  In some ways they are very similar to a standard pack of playing cards. A deck of Tarot cards is basically a pictorial description of the human life journey that takes us from birth through to death. The images on the cards are archetypal - they describe situations and patterns which are experienced by all humans at some time during our lives.

    The Major Arcana  (which means Greater Secrets) consists of 22 cards and represents major events, feelings, motivations and even turning points in life.  It is the most symbolic part of the Tarot, depicting unusual scenes and figures with various meanings.  Arguably the most important cards of the deck, they embody archetypes with rich psychological associations and can indicate the life lessons that need to be learnt in a situation.

    The Minor Arcana  (which means Lesser Secrets) consists of 56 cards and has 4 suits of cards: cups (hearts), wands (clubs), swords (spades), pentacles (diamonds) and also the Court cards which are Kings, Queens, Knights and Pages.   The Court cards reflect aspects of yourself or someone you know or can show the energies you should aspire to.  They can also suggest a certain mode of thinking and acting to adopt in order to deal with the situation at hand. The Minor Arcana represents day to day occurences, concerns, activities and emotions - the more mundane and superficial happenings in your life together with the events, experiences and people that are a part of a person's everyday existence.

    There are varying opinions on how Tarot cards originated and evolved. It is possible that they were used to play a card game (similar to Bridge) in the 16th Century in Paris. Another use of them was to model the Court cards on the personalities of the popular celebrities of the day. The cards could be arranged into entertaining and scandalous story lines and this would provide a great deal of amusement for all classes - rich and poor. Before the 1800s, the Tarot cards were not used for divination. At around this time a secret order of magicians, in Venice  realised there were significances in the cards' numbers and symbols but their reading methods were kept very secret. Gypsies had been using ordinary playing cards for divinatory purposes for centuries before the Italian magicians started using a Tarot deck. In modern Italy there is still a card game played with the Minor Arcana called Tarrochi.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: Will the Tarot tell my future?

    It is unlikely that the Tarot cards will be able to forecast your future. Your future is not set in stone. Depending on the choices and decisions you make it is possible to change a possible outcome or future event. A Tarot reading can help you with these decisions and choices, it can show hidden agendas and solutions that may have been previously overlooked. A reading can reveal aspects of the problem not seen before and enhance problem solving capabilities.

    Q: What if the reading tells me something that I don't like?

    If the Tarot shows something you don't like then you have the opportunity to change that outcome. The Tarot tells what will most likely happen if you stay on the path you are currently travelling. If you change that path then the outcome will change. I try to make my readings empowering and positive although I will not hide anything that you should be told about.

    Q: How does the Tarot work?

    The Tarot cards are a tool and an experienced reader will use their interpretation of the cards along with their sense of intuition in order to convey the message to the client. Using Tarot cards makes it possible to tap into the unconscious, where all the answers lie, and bring them to the surface - the conscious. It will then be up to you to decide what to do, or not do with this information. The Tarot cards can not tell you what to do. If you are asking a question, try not to make it too vague. A vague question can get a vague answer. The Tarot is not particularly suited to giving yes/no answers, it speaks of energies and trends rather than definites.

    Q: How is it possible to conduct a reading by email or from a distance?

    We are all linked together in some way through the Collective Human Consciousness or the 'Akashic Records'. It is possible to tap into this level of consciousness and gain information. The Akasha is said to be the library of all events and responses concerning Human Consciousness in all realities. Every human therefore supposedly contributes and has access to the Akashic Records.  This can be made possible by using cards, crystals, spiritual guidance, intuition and even physical sensations.  The Akashic Records are said to have existed since the beginning of the planet.

    Q: What kind of questions are best suited for asking the Tarot cards?

    The Tarot is well suited for for receiving clarity on problems and issues such as relationships, work, families, career, finances, well-being and even life in general. Tarot cards can be used for practical problem-solving. self-improvement, a tool of understanding - to name just a few.

    Q: Why should I pay for a reading when I can get a free one?

    Most free reading sites are automated or computer generated. These readings are very impersonal - rather like reading your horoscopes in a daily newspaper or magazine. Personal readings are just that - personal to you and nobody else.

    Q: There seems to be a lot of different decks and I am not sure which one to buy. How do I know which deck is right for me?

    If you look through the many decks that can be found on the internet or at the bookstore you may see a deck that jumps out at you. Maybe you are drawn to the name of it or the symbolism you can see or perhaps you just like the pictures and/or colours. If you don't like the look of a particular deck then you will find it difficult to read with. Just because someone has recommended it to you - doesn't mean it is right for you. Some decks are easier for beginners than others. Don't just buy one because you can't make up your mind - go away and think about it and come back another day. Get a deck that speaks to you.

    Q: Do I need to buy anything else with my cards?

    Some people like to keep their cards in a wooden box or a drawstring bag or wrapped in silk. Do whatever you feel is right for you. Just keep them clean, dry and out of sunlight (to prevent fading).
    A reading cloth on which to spread your spread is popular but again not necessary.

    Q: Should I read any books about Tarot and Tarot reading?

    Yes, it can be useful to read a selection of books but it should be realised that every author will have a slightly different interpretation of the cards' meanings. This can be very confusing to the beginner when each book has slightly different meanings for the cards. As your studying of the cards progresses then you will develop your own interpretations, intuitions and feelings about what the cards are saying and these will be invaluable when conducting readings for yourself and others.


    TAROT - a brief introduction   by Lori Hampson

    The Tarot has many myths, mysteries and misconceptions associated with it and it is often regarded with suspicion. It is one of the most enigmatic systems of divination and prediction and has fascinated all who have come into contact with it for hundreds of years. No one really knows for certain how or when the Tarot began as its origins remain shrouded in mystery although the general opinion is that it originated in the 15th Century in Northern Italy. Since then, Tarot cards have been used for gaming, fortune-telling, meditation, psychological insight, ritual, creative inspiration and healing.

    These days, the Tarot Reader is much less likely to use the Tarot as a 'fortune telling' device and more likely to use it for advice, guidance, empowerment and enlightenment both for others and her/himself. I believe that the future is not set in stone or predestined as our free will and the decisions and choices we make can change the direction in which we are travelling. The Tarot can help us to make these decisions and choices by showing us options that we may not have considered before. Sometimes we can be so involved in a situation that we cannot see the way forward.

    The Tarot does not take away our free will or ability to make choices for our self and does not predict a fixed, unchanging future. It is best to consider a Tarot reading as advice and guidance.

    A standard Tarot deck consists of 78 cards depicting scenes, symbols and images which can seem mysterious, curious, fascinating, disturbing or even amusing. There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana (Arcana means secrets) and 56 cards in the Minor Arcana. Each card of the Major Arcana symbolises an aspect of human experience or one of the life lessons that we need to learn. The cards of the Minor Arcana represent the day to day events and happenings, the dramas of our everyday lives and are divided into four suits. These suits can be compared to a standard pack of playing cards. The suit of Wands relates to Clubs, the suit of Pentacles relates to Diamonds, the Swords to Spades and the Cups to Hearts.

    There are literally hundreds of different styles and themes of Tarot decks to suit all tastes and needs. Many of the early packs are French in design for example the Tarot de Marseilles and this deck is still very popular today. Some are more suitable for beginners than others for example the Rider-Waite (or similar) but it is important to choose a deck that suits you, one that you like looking at, one that you feel you can relate to and which stimulates your imagination. Take a good look around before you buy. Look on the internet; some books have lots of pictures of different cards and some shops have display packs to look at. If you like dragons - get a deck which features dragons, if you are into Medieval art - get one that features this type of artwork, if fairies or angels are what you are into - then get one of these decks. Although the pictorial images of the cards of different decks vary considerably, the basic essence of what each card is saying is the same. It is unlikely that you will be unable to find a deck that appeals to you or that you feel comfortable with.

    About the Author

    Tarot reader, Lori Hampson, offers advice and guidance for all life's challenges through her website. Please visit for further insights and information on readings and Tarot in general.


    RWS Tarot - a brief introduction

    by Lori Hampson


    The Rider Waite Smith Tarot deck is probably the most popular and well known of all the many Tarot decks available today. The name comes from William RIDER & Son - the original publishers, Arthur Edward WAITE - the academic and mystic who commissioned the creation of the Tarot deck, and Pamela Colman SMITH - the talented but often ignored artist who drew the images of the Rider-Waite (as it is often referred to) Tarot deck. Waite and Smith were both members of the Order of the Golden Dawn, a famous but short-lived occult group of the 19th Century.


    The RWS Tarot deck was published in 1909 and was the first widely available deck with illustrated Minor Arcana cards.  The 56 cards of the Minor Arcana, also known as "pips" now had a wealth of symbolism depicted in the illustrations - as did the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. Up until then the numbered Minor Arcana cards of a Tarot deck would show just 4 cups, or 6 Wands or 8 Swords. The RWS Tarot with its illustrated "pips", together with the evocative images of the Major Arcana ultimately revolutionised the Tarot world. When Waite designed his Tarot deck he kept the basic sequence of the cards although he switched the numbering of the Strength and Justice cards in the Major Arcana. There is some discussion about who actually designed the Minor Arcana cards - did Waite conceive them and give Smith full instructions or did he just tell her his ideas and allow her some free rein with her artistic talents to create the images? Each card carries Pamela Colman Smith's monogram, usually in one of the bottom corners.


    Tragically, the original printing plates were destroyed in the London blitz and publication came to an end. In 1971, US Games inc. began publishing a copyrighted facsimile version of the deck.


    These days there are many, many decks which follow the basic template of the RWS Tarot deck. There are RWS versions that have been re-coloured but which retain the original line drawings. Versions that have been redrawn generally have the same basic figures and settings on the cards with similar symbolism. A RWS type of deck is usually recommended for beginners as the basic visual scenes can be more easily associated with keywords for easier recollection and understandings of the meanings for each card. However, there are also many experienced readers whose favourite reading deck is a RWS or variant. The majority of beginner and novice books use illustrations of the RWS deck for learning purposes.


    One thing is for sure, if Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith had not collaborated and created the RWS Tarot deck - Tarot decks would be quite different to what we are used to today.


    2010 Lori Hampson. Nothing herein may be copied, reprinted, or reproduced in any way without permission.


    Endorsed Tarot reader for the Tarot Association of the British Isles (TABI)

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