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What is the Tarot?

This article was written by Gerald and Betty Schueler on January 07, 2004
posted under Tarot

The Tarot is a deck of cards that is primarily used to foretell the future. Forecasting the future, however, is only a superficial use of the massive powers of the Tarot. The Tarot is a very powerful tool that allows you to look deep inside your subconscious and "see" the direction your life is taking. It is a tool that is inexpensive, easy to use, and entirely reliable—if used correctly. It is a tool whose power has been authenticated through centuries of use.

The traditional Tarot is a deck of 78 cards that is divided into two main sections: a Major Arcana and a Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana is a set of 22 picture cards that is also called the Greater Arcana, Trumps, Atouts, or Triumphs. These cards are symbolic representations of various cosmic forces such as Death, Justice, Strength, etc. Fifty-six cards of the Minor Arcana are divided into "court" and "suit’’ cards. The 16 court cards are comprised of a King, a Queen, a Knight, and a Knave (or Page) for each of the "four" suits of the deck. The remaining 40 cards are divided into the four suits called Pantacles (also known as deniers or coins), Cups (coupes), Swords (epees), and Wands (batons or scepters). The suit cards are numbered from one (ace) to 10 for each of the four suits. The Minor Arcana cards are used to represent people, relationships, finances, action, energies and forces.

The Tarot is the medieval equivalent of today’s highly respected Rorschach test. Robert Wang described the Tarot as:

"A system of enlightenment, a system whose ultimate aim is assisting the individual in understanding his relationship to the Cosmos. It is a system accepted by many respectable sources, such as the school of Carl Jung, which views the Tarot images as agreeing perfectly with the archetypes of the collective unconsciousness."

In simpler terms, the Tarot is an easy-to-use system of self-discovery that allows you to see your relationship to God and the universe.

To use the Tarot cards, one must acccept the doctrine of free will—for if nothing can be changed, what is the purpose of knowing the future? One must accept the concept that each life is a many-branched road rather than a single straight path. Each new path has signposts to guide the traveler. Some paths offer immediate rewards, but end abruptly. Other paths are terribly complex and hard to navigate but promise ultimate fulfillment at the end. Some paths are easily traveled but offer no great prize at the conclusion. Each path has its own set of characteristics and remuneration. It is up to you, the traveler, to choose the desired path as it appears.

The Tarot is your map of life. With it, you can choose the road you want to wander. Instead of being an uninformed victim of your subconscious will, you can gather your inner strength and consciously change the path your life is to take.
Angus Hall states in his book, Signs of Things to Come: "The Tarot is to be respected, but not feared, listened to, but not panicked by."

The Tarot is humankind’s key to self-determination, and with that key, a person can open any door.

While Llewellyn's Classic Tarot has my name on the cover, I did not so much design this project as direct it. Llewellyn wanted a deck that was designed to be faithful to the traditional tarot images, symbols, and meanings recognizable to most modern tarot readers and students. Creating a faithful yet new expression of timeless tarot imagery is... read this article
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