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Tarot cards are said to have their earliest origins in ordinary decks of playing
cards. Playing cards were enjoyed in Central Asia as long as 1,000 years
ago. The first 78 card tarot deck that we know today was probably
the Visconti-Sforza deck, painted by Bonificio Bembo in Renaissance northern Italy
in the 1400s. At first they were just used as playing cards or
as inspiration for writing and art. However, starting in the late 18th
century the cards began to acquire a magical or "occult" meaning.
Gradually, the Italian-based deck became linked to ancient Egyptian
mythology and religion and to Kabbalah, ancient Jewish spirituality.
The meanings typically assigned to modern tarot decks can be traced to
the Waite tarot deck, published in 1910. Waite was a member of the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a society that studied ancient
forms of divination and high magic.
Hundreds of decks exist today, many with beautiful artwork and reading methods.
Most of the decks still do keep a lot of the symbolism of the Waite
deck or Golden Dawn origins.
There is a tarot deck for everybody. Many chain bookstores sell several
varieties and New Age stores tend to have wider selections if the local
bookstore doesn't carry a deck that you like.
To begin using this tool, select a deck that feels right to you. You
may like the artwork, or the symbolism behind it. Most stores carry
the Rider-Waite deck (a newer edition of the Waite deck), which is a deck
that most tarot readers own.
Start off by reading the book that comes with the deck. Some decks are
designed to be read in a certain way in order to work most effectively.
Try to find out what this deck is best for, and what you will want to use it
for. Will you primarily use it for personal work or introspection?
Do you want to eventually read for others? These are important questions
to keep in mind as you begin your study.
The traditional tarot deck contains 78 cards. The first 22 cards are called
the Major Arcana. These are cards having to do with key symbols and
historical archetypes. If you're doing a reading and you draw a lot of cards
from the Major Arcana, you're dealing with some big questions or issues
in your life.
The other 56 cards are called the Minor Arcana. There are four suits
in the minor arcana. Traditionally these are Cups, Coins, Swords and Wands.
Different decks may have different names for these suits. For example,
the Mythic Tarot deck uses Pentacles for the suit of Coins. The Minor
Arcana deals with more general questions than the Major Arcana.
Take the time to go through each card and read any information that came
with the deck. It isn't necessary to memorize card meaning right off.
Over time, tarot readers will become familiar with the meanings and symbolism
of each card.

One of the basic readings is the three card reading. This reading is simple
but powerful. It can give the reader a general overview of any question
or problem in life.
To perform this reading, shuffle the tarot deck until you feel comfortable
that it has been shuffled enough. As you shuffle, think of a question
you'd like answered or a problem or situation that you'd like more insight into.
Place the cards, face-down, on a flat surface.
Draw the top card and place it in front of you on the left. Draw the second top
card and place it to the right of the first card. Draw the third top
card and place it to the right of the second card. These are the cards
you will read. Turn the cards over in the order you placed them down, from left
to right. The first card you drew represents past influences. This
card shows people or events that were important in your situation, but
are now passing out of it. The second card you drew represents the present.
This card shows people or events that are currently important in
your situation. The third card represents future influences. This card
represents people or events that might be important to you in the future.
This card is the most uncertain, as the future is constantly changing due
to our actions and the actions of others.
There are two primary rules to keep in mind when learning the tarot.
The most important is to treat the cards with respect. The deck
is not a toy, and like anything else in life, the amount of respect
and care you give the deck will influence the kind of answers and insight it
gives to you in readings.
The second important rule is that anything the cards predict is subject
to change. The future isn't really "fixed". You have the power to change
anything in your life. If the cards predict an unhappy ending or outcome
to a situation, think of ways that you can change the outcome. The tarot
is a psychic tool that can help you make balanced decisions and lead a
balanced life.