What is Tarot Cards

The tarot consists of 78 cards in a deck, each having its own story, symbolism, and imagery. However, the illustrations may vary depending on the deck maker. More so, there are sometimes differences in the number of cards in a given deck.

Nevertheless, the different cards, their meanings, and suits are all the same.



A tarot card deck contains 22 Major Arcana representing life's spiritual and karmic lessons. The remaining 56 cards are Minor Arcana, reflecting the daily tribulations and trials of life we experience. Inside the Minor Arcana cards, you'll see 16 Tarot Court cards representing 16 diverse personality traits we might express at various given times. The Minor Arcana also consists of 40 numbered cards arranged into four suits with ten cards per suit, representing different situations we encounter daily. During tarot reading, you'll need to choose from these cards. Whatever card you pick comes with an interpretation. Note that the position of spread will determine the explanation of the card. There are several tarot spreads, and the reader uses their discretion to adopt one depending on the particular kind of reading taking place and the neighboring cards' position. Depending on the card you pick, it could deal with your future, current situation, tribulations you're suffering, relationship, amongst others. It can also offer some reflection and clarity about your life.

The ways in which this question has been answered takes somewhat for granted that we are referring to a deck of 78 cards, of which 22 are images, and 56 reflect, with the addition of Knights, our ‘standard’ pack of fifty-two playing cards. I am reminded of reading an ethnographic study, in which the native, responding to a question as to the origin of new-borns, indicated the Dreaming or the Stars: the study concluded that the native was ignorant of the relation between sex and pregnancy. Rather, some knowledge, in context, is taken as given, and a student new to a subject may at times want far more straightforward answers to a question which has material, psychological, historical, social and spiritual ways in which responses are possible. Below are some of the many possible answers… reflecting on these, with a deck by one’s side, may certainly deepen our own understanding.

I would like to extand a special thankyou to the many at Aeclectic who have provided the various responses here included and intersperced with extracted quotes from various books – these latter of course taken totally out of their peculiar contexts, and may therefore not reflect respective authors’ central views.

The Tarot is of intense interest to the occult student because it contains an outline of Initiation; and as some form of Initiation has formed the heart of every world religion, the truths contained in the Tarot symbolism are universal and belong to no one race, creed or culture, but constitute a textbook for every serious aspirant on the Path of Light.

~Corinne Heline in The Bible & the Tarot, pp129-130.

Tarot is art. Tarot is a focus on what it is to be human. Tarot is a guide through our conscious allowing us to view the options and chose better paths. Tarot is an ancient gift from our ancestors, and even though we modernize it or view it in different fashions, the basic truth of the human reality is there to be learned from.

~mercenary30 on Aeclectic

Tarot is the instrument of our wisdom.
Tarot is a navigation tool for the soul.
… and my favorite,
Tarot is 78 images that are gateways to the imageless.

~Rachel Pollack, Conference Presenter