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What is a Tarot Deck?

Have you ever wondered what sets a tarot deck apart from regular playing cards? Tarot originally began as a game in the mid-15th century, known as Tarock or Tarocchi. There were many variations of the game and its forms, all across Europe. In the 18th century, there grew a strong fascination with spirituality and fortune telling, leading to different forms of divination. Using various types of playing cards to predict the future and gain insight into spiritual matters, a practice called “cartomancy” developed and the popularity of tarot grew.

There have been several benchmark iterations of card packs that have informed most modern tarot decks in the realm of symbolism and imagery, most notably, the Tarot de Marseilles, Thoth Tarot, & the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot. These each have fairly different characteristics in the variations of symbols and meanings, yet the structure is generally the same. Through the years, the format of tarot has varied widely with a few distinguishing characteristics remaining mostly consistent.

A tarot deck is really two decks combined into one! The deck consists of a group of twenty-two archetypes known as the Major Arcana, and fifty-six “suit” cards known as the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana cards generally depict a figure or concept that represents a strong force of nature or intrinsic human characteristic. The Minor Arcana cards are broken into four suits, as is commonly found in regular playing cards, however the suits are usually representative of the four elements and how they manifest in our daily lives - Earth, Air, Fire, & Water.

When a reading is given, the combination of the Major and Minor Arcana cards laid out in a “spread” gives a multifaceted depiction of the bigger picture themes of humanity combined with the small scale events of our life experiences. These readings are intended to help us to see ourselves from a different perspective and gain insight into the forces at work in our lives This can give us the opportunity to act with confidence and find solutions to challenges that we all face.

For more in-depth information about the basics of tarot decks and different spreads, consider joining The Mana Sphere - a monthly online content club & private facebook group for those who enjoy tarot readings and want to learn more about how it can be a beneficial tool in our lives. Members of The Mana Sphere receive a zine each month with information about tarot & astrology; exclusive tarot spreads & instructional information; and videos for tarot, ritual & meditation. If you are a Bodhi Tree Tarot VIP member, you receive access to The Mana Sphere as one of your member perks. Check out more information at

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