Understanding The Tarot Card Deck

There are any number of Tarot card decks on the market. The most popular of these is the Rider-Waite deck. The standard deck of Tarot cards consists of 78 cards, many of which are quite familiar to even those who do not know much about Tarot cards.

You may have seen or read about these cards in TV, movies or books. Here is a very brief summary of the meaning of the Major Arcana cards:

  • The Fool (about beginnings, taking changes, trusting your heart, and having faith)
  • The Magician (about taking power, taking action, being strong, and realizing your goals)
  • The High Priestess (about calm, listening in your inner voice, and looking deep for the secrets in your life)
  • The Empress (a maternal, earthly, grounded card, nurturing and wise)
  • The Emperor (a fatherly card, strong, authoritative and commanding)
  • The Hierophant (the card of knowledge and beliefs, and of groups and conformation with rules and guidelines)
  • The Lovers (the card of relationships, sexuality, the primary senses and values)
  • The Chariot (the card of control, exercising your will, and being victorious),
  • Strength (patience, courage, empathy and compassion)
  • The Hermit (seeking solitude, looking for inner wisdom and calm, teaching and guiding others)
  • Wheel of Fortune (change in direction, adventure, action, vision and coming to a crossroads)
  • Justice (ethics, responsibility, accountability, balanced decisions)
  • The Hanged Man (compromise, letting go of old issues, reversing direction, suspending judgment)
  • Death (transition, accepting the inevitable, dismissing old habits)
  • Temperance (balance, health, considering multiple directions or options)
  • The Devil (hopelessness, depression, imprisonment, materiality)
  • The Tower (epiphany, change, release, acceptance)
  • The Star (serenity, hope, inspiration, giving and generosity)
  • The Moon (confusion, illusion, imagination, fear and longing)
  • The Sun (energy, confidence, positive movement, success)
  • Judgement (decisions, rebirth, forgiveness, cleansing)
  • The World (fulfillment, integration, accomplishment, contentment)

The Tarot Card Suits of Wands, Cups, Swords Pentacles and Coins, include Ace (a gift or opportunity), Page (creativity and enthusiasm), Queen (confidence and security), King (a bold direction) and Knight (charm, confidence, adventure) of Wands, and ten numbered cards with the numbers depicted in the form of wands, cups, swords, coins.

A spread of Tarot cards that reveals a dominant suit might be interpreted in one of the following ways:


  • Negative – Stubborn, Controlling
  • Positive – Dependable, Consistent


  • Negative – Thin Skinned, Temperament
  • Positive – Concerned, Sensitive


  • Negative – Arrogant, Critical
  • Positive – Logical, Organized


  • Negative – Disorganized, Short Tempered
  • Positive – Courageous, Confident

When you are buying a deck of Tarot cards, you might find that you start with a standard, Western deck (Rider-Waite) and then wish to explore the symbolism and designs on other types of decks.

There are many types of Tarot decks. The older Italian and French decks, starter decks for the beginner, The Hanson Roberts deck (a colorful, graphic design), an Egyptian Tarot card deck that uses Egyptian symbolism, the Diamond Tarot card deck (brightly colored and quite unusual), The Crowley Thoth deck (based on Kabbala and astrology), and the Dali Universal Tarot card deck (with surrealistic images from the master).

There are Tarot decks that use images of Fairies and Angels, Meditation decks, Arcani decks with sepia toned drawings, and even Gummy Bear Tarot card decks for children. Many readers like to use the new designs that incorporate cultural diversity. These Tarot cards are designed in African and Afro-Brazilian designs, as well as Swiss themes, animal totem themes, Wiccan and other foundational themes.

It is wise to choose a standard set of cards with which to learn Tarot so that you can consult books or instructional articles and compare the card faces and images in these books and articles to those on your cards.

If you decide to become more involved in Tarot card reading, you will probably find that you buy and use more than one set of Tarot cards and that you will gravitate toward a favorite theme, symbolism or cultural focus.

Because Tarot is, first and foremost, an expression of symbolism and personal interpretation, it is important that you feel comfortable with the Tarot card deck you choose and that you relate to the images you see as you read the Tarot cards.

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