How Many Cards are in a Tarot Deck? The Anatomy of a Tarot Deck

Updated by Onyx Wolfe

Tarot was first introduced in the 15th century and since then every tarot deck has been based off of that initial first deck. The original Italian deck consisted of 22 trump cards (including The Fool) and four suits of 14 cards each, making a complete 78-card deck. If you're interested in exploring the world of tarot, consider checking out the Nine of Earth Tarot/Oracle Box, which includes a full-size tarot or oracle deck along with other magickal items (linked below). Tarot at this time was not used for divination purposes, it was actually used as any kind of playing card deck. The tarot we use today is most directly associated and connected to the elaborate claims from the French occultists in the 18th century. They made unsubstantiated claims about the history of the tarot cards that they weren't able to prove and has been disproven throughout the time of history but in the 18th century the French occultists were saying that the tarot cards are used for divination.


 

The Standard Tarot Deck Structure


Tarot card decks will always have 78 cards within it. You're going to have 22 major arcana cards or trump cards and then you'll have 56 minor arcana or minor trumps or pips. If you pick up a deck of cards and you're not sure if it's tarot or oracle, if you look to see what the card count is you'll be able to pretty quickly figure out if it's an oracle card deck or a tarot deck. From June through August 1457 there were two other decks that were published or released from an artist that actually visited through Ferrara and resembled the Melanese heir of dukedom, Galazio Maria Sforza, and consisted of 70 cards. A little bit closer to the 78 card deck that we use today. While Matteo Maria Boiardo of Ferrara mentioned tarot in his poems between the years of 1461 through 1494, the exact structure of the deck he referred to is not clearly defined.

 

The Major Arcana


Then you'll have the major arcana cards which shows the journey of a fool all the way through to "The World" card. The major arcana cards are the foundation of the deck and tells the story of the fool's journey. It reflects the story of spiritual awareness pulled through imagery. With those four suits we also have 22 trump cards or also known as the major arcana, including the fool. The major arcana was created first followed by the minor to keep the project spontaneous.

 

 

The Minor Arcana

The minor arcana is divided into four suits: wands, cups, swords, and pentacles, each containing 14 cards. The court cards in each suit are typically the king, queen, knight, and page, and the remaining 10 cards are numbered from ace to 10. These numbered cards are called the pip cards or now commonly known as the minor arcana. If you want to dive deeper into the world of tarot and astrology, the Magickal Earth Essential Astrology, Tarot, Crystals subscription box (linked below) provides you with an astrology calendar, horoscope, and a tarot card pulled just for you each month.

Variations in Tarot Decks


Some decks may have variations in the names of the suits or court cards, but the overall structure remains the same. Tarot decks are based on a fixed system, with a consistent number of cards and structure across different decks. This deck was structured just like our tarot deck today but the suit signs and the motifs were completely different. What we have now is cups, wands, and pentacles. It was different symbols that were age appropriate as well as regionally appropriate. Many adaptations were created throughout this time period because, as we are all fully aware, it was a really long and hard process to bring news and items from one country or region to another one.

 

Using Tarot Cards

Unlike tarot where you have a spread of cards so you have the past present and future, this one is you just pick one after you shuffle then that is your card for that question that you had or for that day or for that week whatever you want it to be. This one just helps give you a much more in-depth longer look at a question or your life. Also there are certain themes within the tarot deck so you're going to have a set of cups cards, you'll have one through ten and then there's also one through ten of wands and these are all part- this all makes up the 56 minor cards. For a simpler introduction to tarot and astrology, consider the Magickal Earth Astrology & Tarot subscription (linked below), which includes a monthly astrology calendar, horoscope, and a tarot card drawn just for you.

 

Conclusion

 

That's the origins of the tarot deck in general but how does it relate today since that was a playing card and what we use today is more for the occult purposes? Tarot at this time was not used for divination purposes, it was actually used as any kind of playing card deck. Thus creating two very distinct ways to use tarot cards and how it is used in modern times. One made for playing games which is the Italian deck and then for occult purposes which is directly related to the French occultists. These cards are still used throughout Europe to play traditional card games such as French Tarot and Italian Tarocchini, with varying degrees of affiliation to the occult. If you're traveling through Europe although it's usually the non-english speaking countries rather than the english-speaking countries know that I'm very jealous and I wish you the best of time there but you could come across people playing a simple game of cards with a tarot deck and now you know why.

Check out the tarot and astrology-related products linked below to start your own magickal journey!

 

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