Comprised of 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards in four suits, Modern Tarot decks much like the standard playing cards used for regular card games today. This 78-card deck is the widely-accepted standard. There are also lots of other decks with various styles and numbers of cards. These are generally called Oracle decks.
The origin of Tarot cards is no longer known. One strong held belief is that Tarot originated in ancient Egypt, spreading thence to the Greeks, and moved through the world by the Gypsies. There are still links to Egyptian, Greek, Roman and other early religions in modern Tarot. It is also generally believe that what we know now as modern Tarot came about in the 13th century, and while it shows obvious differences from that time, it still follows the same basic principals.
Tarot cards have had an arduous journey through history, at times only being allowed to nobles, occasionally sanctioned by the Catholic Church, and sometimes seen as something evil. Some, even now, believe Tarot cards to be something dark and evil. While this is not the case, Hollywood has taken hold of this idea and frequently presents it as such.
The cards of the deck are used to represent the different stages in the journey through life. The cards give their meaning in the different positions and corresponding cards in the spread. Each position in the spread has a meaning, and each card has a meaning as well.
The Major Arcana are generally seen as an important significator. If a Major Arcana card shows up in a reading, it means that is something you want to pay closer attention to in your life. Major Arcana cards represent the journey through life; the major points one may go through while traveling the path of existence.
The four suits that make up the Minor Arcana each have an overall meaning, and each individual card has a more specific meaning.
Cups, which coincides with the element of water, is associated with relationships and emotions and the development of feelings.
Wands, coinciding with fire, is the development of creative imagination and the challenges one meets through their life.
Swords which represents air, is the realm of the mind, looking at intellect and thoughts.
Pentacles, representing earth, is the material world and its reality, the resources the one will have or need on the journey.
Each of the suits contains 14 cards; ten numbered cards and four court cards. Day to day events are generally depicted in the numbered cards, whereas the court cards tend to indicate personal characteristics or stages of development. Tarot cards can be a wonderful tool to help you see into your life.