Origin of the cards
The Hebrew word “naibes” is similar to the old Italian name for the cards “naibí” as well as to the Spanish “naipes”. These words come from Arabic “nabí” which means prophet. In several languages it actually means magic, clairvoyance and prediction. For many people “tarot” comes from “torah”, which in Hebrew means “the law”. For others, it comes from the latin roots “rota” (wheel) or “orat” (talk). The most accepted thesis is that it comes from the Egyptian words “TAR” (path) and “RO” (real). However, there is another theory that affirms that the word “naipes” comes from the initials of the person who invented the cards: N.P., someone called Nicolao Pepin.
What are these cards and what are they used for?
Tarot is a deck of playing cards that is used as a way of divination of present, past or future events. It is formed by 78 cards, divided in Minor Arcana (56) and Major Arcana (22). Arcane comes from the Latin “arcanum” meaning mystery or secret.
The Minor Arcana are the cards divided equally in four suits: swords, cups, wands and gold, like in the Spanish playing cards, with a little variation: cards numbered from Ace (1) to 10, plus the characters of the royal family: jack, knight, king and queen.
The Major Arcana are cards that represent an image with various symbols. Each image has its own meaning and explanation. Even though there are decks with the number and name, the older tarots don’t have either.
Types of Tarot decks
One of the most traditional ones and most used ones. It is the tarot that has had the most acceptance in the whole world. This deck is composed of 22 Major Arcana and 22 Minor Arcana.
Each of the cards have clear and simple characters in medieval style and they appear whole. In the top part there are Roman numbers and in the lower part there is the name of the card in French.
The painting style is very similar to the stained glass window in cathedrals. This is because the symbols in the cards come from them.
Its origins can trail back 30 centuries back in the Egyptian times. Part of the gypsy tribes come specifically from Egypt, that’s where their name “gypsy” comes from as well. This tarot is similar to the Tarot of Marseille, it has the same number and division of cards.
Arthur Edward Waite dedicated his life to dark science and wrote quite a few texts about astrology, tarot and other divination methods. However, the creation of the Rider Tarot made him famous in 1910.
Unlike the Tarot of Marseille, this tarot has 78 cards, 22 are Major Arcana, 40 are Minor Arcana 16 are “the royalty”. It still has most symbolism of the original one but it is the one most used because of its “updated” painting style.
These are cards inspired in the Buddhist School Zen. The purpose of these cards are to enable the spiritual development of an individual. Unlike the aforementioned, they were not intended for divination.
It has Major and Minor Arcana as well as an added card which represents Osho himself. The Minor Arcana are divided in 4 houses related to the elements: fire (red), earth (rainbow), air (grey) and water (blue).
- Tibetan Tarot or Bhuddas’ Tarot
It has 22 Arcana cards, but neither the names or images coincide with the traditional tarot. Since it is a self development tarot, its cards invite to meditation and tranquillity we need in order to be in harmony with ourselves. It can be considered as an “evolutive tarot” because it starts with the card 0 (confusion), showing a child who is starting to walk, until number 21, when there’s the ending of a human being.
Oracles are decks of cards that, unlike the traditional tarot, don’t have a specific organisation or number of cards. Each card has a meaning and it is what the author of that Oracle deck gives it. Of course, it also depends on the person doing a reading with the cards and their intuition. These cards work as a compact system in itself. It is defined by the theme the author decides to give to the oracle and messages are a bit more specific. They usually come with a guide book to aid you learn how to read it.
Created by Marie Anne Lenormand in France in the 18th century, the Lenormand Orale is a special case in this tarot/oracle world. It has a very specific system. It is constructed by 36 cards and has a very specific way of being read. There is a simpler version (past, present and future) but the most common reading is called Grand Tableau (9×4).
The following oracles are the ones I have and use often. I think they are very personal and that you have to like and feel a calling to them.
- Work Your Light Oracle- Rebecca Campbell
Types of tarot readings
Tarot readings start in the belief that cards can be utilised to understand life in a different light. Some say that cards are guided by a spiritual force, others that cards help them introduce themselves in a collective consciousness. There are also people who think that cards absorb the energy of the person shuffling the cards, while others prefer that no one but them touches their cards.
One of the most common methods to read cards are the spreads. There are many, depending on the purpose and the question. The three spread ones are usually present, past and future; or mental, emotional and spiritual state… There is also the Celtic cross, which is a rather extensive reading about the person consulting. There are heart shaped spreads for love questions.
Another way of consulting the cards is by shuffling until one card or more pops out and read its meaning. It is one of the methods that are most recommended when starting out. This way, one can understand one card at a time.
Apps or programmes for the phone are also a thing now and they replicate the spreads with cards and also explain their meaning. I personally think that, depending on the app, it can help learn about the cards and different spreads as well.
All this world, though fascinating, has to be seen as what it is: a tool to learn to understand our life and ourselves with a different perspective.
If you are interested in a Tarot and Oracle reading, I offer Tarot and Oracle readings HERE.