The Tarot Deck
The conventional 78-card deck is structured into two distinct sets, called the Minor Arcana and
Major Arcana (arcana is the plural of the Latin word arcanum, meaning
"hidden truth" or "secret knowledge").
Alternate names are the Minor Trumps and Major Trumps, or simply the Minors and the Trumps.
Differences between decks
Tarot cards serve many purposes, and this leads to a variety of Tarot deck styles. Some decks exist primarily as
artwork; art decks often contain only the 22 cards of the Major Arcana.
Esoteric decks are often used in conjunction with the study of the Hermetic
Qabala; in these decks the Major Arcana are illustrated in accordance
with Qabalistic principles while the numbered suit cards (2 through 10)
typically bear only stylized renderings of the suit symbol. In contrast,
decks used for divination usually bear illustrated scenes on all cards.
The more simply illustrated Marseilles style decks are used
esoterically, for divination, and for game play.
The most popular deck today is probably the fully-illustrated deck confusingly known as the
Rider-Waite-Smith, Waite-Smith, or simply the Rider deck. The images were painted by artist
Pamela Colman Smith, to the instructions of academic and mystic
Arthur Waite, and published by the Rider company. According to many
accounts, Aleister Crowley also had substantial creative input. While the
images are deceptively, almost childishly simple, the details and
backgrounds hold a wealth of symbolism. The subjects remain close to the
earliest decks, but usually have added detail. The chief aesthetic
objection to this deck is the crude printing of colours in the original:
several decks, such as the Universal Waite, simply copy the Smith line
drawings, but with more sophisticated colouring.
Probably the most widely-used esoteric Tarot deck is Aleister Crowley's
Thoth Tarot (pronounced tote). In contrast to the Thoth
deck's colorful artistry, the illustrations on Paul Foster Case's
B.O.T.A. Tarot deck are black line drawings on white cards; this is an
unlaminated deck intended to be colored by its owner. Other esoteric
decks include the Golden Dawn Tarot which is based on a deck by
SL MacGregor Mathers, the Tree of Life Tarot whose cards are stark
symbolic catalogs, and the Cosmic Tarot which is unusual for an esoteric
deck because it is fully-illustrated.
The Marseilles style Tarot decks
generally feature suit cards which look very much like modern playing
cards. The numbered cards sport an arrangement of pips
indicating the number and suit, while the court cards are often
illustrated with two-dimensional drawings.
Other decks vary in their
conventionality. Cat-lovers have the Tarot of the Cat People, a fairly
standard deck complete with cat in every picture. The Tarot of the
witches and Aquarian Tarot retain the conventional cards with varying
designs. The witches deck became famous/notorious in the
1970s for its use in theJames Bond movie Live and Let Die.
Other decks change the cards partly or completely. The Motherpeace Tarot is notable for its circular cards and
feminist angle: the mainly male characters have been replaced by females.
The Tarot of Baseball has suits of bats, mitts, balls and bases;
"coaches" and "MVPs" instead of Queens and Kings; and major arcana cards
like "The Catcher", "The Rule Book" and "Batting a Thousand".
A very spiritual Tarot deck is the Isis Tarot also known as Tarot van Isis, Tarot d'Isis, etc., by Erna
Droesbeke, usingarchetypical symbols.
Computing professionals might find the Silicon Valley Tarot most intelligible, which offers online readings.
Major arcana cards include The Hacker, Flame War, The Layoff and The
Garage; the suits are Networks, Cubicles, Disks and Hosts; the court
cards CIO, Salesman, Marketeer and New Hire.
Free Tarot reading