This is a very brief historical account. The history of tarot is ancient. It began in the fifteenth century in Italy. Although there is no agreement on what the word tarot means, it seems to have originated in the word tarocco or tarrochi, which was the name of a card game that included what we today call tarot cards. According to some, tarot is even older than that, going back to the ninth century in China. So you might be asking yourself, how did a simple card game begin to be associated with the occult? Well, in about the eighteenth century there was a counter-enlightenment taking place in Germany. During this time we begin to see “secret clubs,” which were often rooted in religion. When the idea of these secret clubs reached the North American continent, we begin to see groups like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. These groups believed in mystery and magic. Two members of the Golden Dawn were Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith. Waite and Smith took the tarot deck and created the imagery that we see on the Rider Waite Tarot Deck. For you feminists out there, yes, I too was wondering why it is called Rider Waite and not Waite Smith. Where does Rider come in? Rider comes from the original publisher, William Rider & Sons. So perhaps they could have been called the Rider Waite Smith Tarot Deck?
A tarot deck is made up of 78 cards. This deck is made up of the major arcana and the minor arcana. Arcana means “mysteries” and how appropriate to be able to use cards to better understand the mysteries of life. The major arcana represent the BIG things in our lives. Think of things like weddings, births, or new jobs for example. These cards also represent a story that is woven through cards 0-21. The story begins with the Dreamer’s Journey and it can be your journey as well. The minor arcana represent the remaining 57 cards and are similar to a regular deck of playing cards. The minor arcana represent the smaller mysteries of life; our day-to-day experiences. They include pip cards (cards numbered Ace to Ten) in four suits. The Angel Tarot Deck uses elements as the suits–fire, water, air, and earth. The The Rider Waite Tarot Deck uses wands, cups, swords, and pentacles for the four suits. In addition to the pip cards there are court cards. Both decks use the page, knight, queen, and king for the court cards. These cards frequently represent people in our lives. That is a short history of tarot and angel tarot.