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Tarot cards are most widely known for their use in “fortune-telling” or divination purposes (meaning the attempt of ascertaining information by the interpretation of the cards by a “diviner.“) The Tarot is a specialized set of 78 cards that features 21 trump cards, the fool, and an extra face card per suit, in addition to the usual suit cards found in an ordinary set of playing cards. The oldest surviving set of Tarot cards are from 15 fragmented decks painted in the mid 15th century for the Visconti-Sforza family, who were the rulers of Milan. It’s not known when Tarot cards were first used for divination purposes, as no documented examples exist prior to the 18th century. Divination using similar cards, however, dates to as early as 1540. What is known is that Tarot cards eventually came to be widely associated with magic and mysticism and were used by mystics, occultists and secret societies of the 18th and 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck was published and became one of the most popular and most recognizable decks of Tarot cards.

There are lots of variations, but a typical reading of Tarot cards begins with the querent (person requesting the reading) shuffling the cards and then the diviner lays out the cards in a pattern called a spread. One of the most popular is the Celtic Cross spread. The cards are then analyzed or interpreted according to their positions. There are different meanings depending on the position of the cards or whether the cards are upside-down. If a card is inverted, it has its own set of modified meanings, sometimes opposite, sometimes weakened or sometimes twisted. Tarot cards are sometimes used as an aid to meditation and also as a card game. In fact, it’s likely that the Tarot deck had its origin in the card game Tarocchi (Taroc or Tarock,) which was a 14th century card game originally from Italy. Anyone can learn to read Tarot cards - an unlimited number of books and online courses are available that teach the basic meanings of the cards.


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