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Tarot is a deck of seventy-eight cards, now most often used for divination, that originated in Italy’s upper class in the 15th century. Also called tarocchi or tarock, they were used at the time to play card games particularly an ancient form of bridge, but slowly began to be used to tell the future, much as regular playing cards were.

A tarot deck is divided into two sections: the Major Arcana (“big secrets”) or Trumps, and the Minor Arcana (“small secrets”). There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana and  56 in the Minor Arcana.

The Minor Arcana is divided into four suits and are very similar to our current playing card deck.

As the cards originated in a Medieval and Christian society during the European Renaissance, the artwork and symbolism for the cards we use today often reflect that: The Hanged Man shows a man ‘hanging‘ by his foot, a twist in the form of execution popular at the time. The Pope (or Hierophant) symbolizes a leader in a structured religion because the Pope was the spiritual leader at the time.

Similarly, the “Court Cards” reflect the hierarchy of the ruling class of the period – King, Queen, Knight, Page – and are, of course, all white and predominantly male.

Although many theorize that tarot originates with Kabala or Egyptian Toth, this has has not been substantianted.

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