Tarot cards are the most well-known symbol cards in the world today. A tarot deck classically consists of 78 cards which are divided into two groups: the so-called Major Arcana (big secrets) consists of 22 cards and the “Minor Arcana” (little secrets) consists of 56 cards.
The Major Arcana shows symbolic situations or types, which in the style of C.G. Jung could also be referred to here as “archetypes”: the Magician, the World, Justice, Strength, the Star, etc., just to name a few.
The Minor Arcana, on the other hand, is a further development of the playing cards and consists of 4 sets of 14 cards each, correlating to the color suits of a normal deck of cards (10 cards each plus 4 court cards). Instead of spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs, the symbols here are swords, coins, cups and wands (according to the four elements air, earth, water, fire).
Tarot cards have been verifiably in use since the Renaissance. They represent the first cards with “trumps”, that is, with figural cards. The human self comes in this way more into the center of attention.
At first, the cards were used purely as parlor games. Only since the 18th century are there indications of a prophetic, occult or even symbolic interpretation of the cards. In the beginning of the 20th century, the esoteric or occult interpretation of the cards experienced a boom: Aleister Crowley and A.E. Waite are the leading figure who worked with the painters Pamela Colman Smith and Lady Frieda Harris to create the most famous decks.
Since about 1970, card reading has been experiencing a new trend: it is no longer just the classic fortune-telling version, that with the help of the cards the (already determined) future can be told that counts, but instead there is also an increasingly widespread practice of reading the cards as a means of an original access to one’s own inner self, one’s own inner truth.
Nowadays, millions of people reach for the tarot cards themselves, which activate their imagination and allow a collective symbolic language to be expressed. The message is interpreted by each person for himself or herself – the tarot cards speak to the subconscious in each of us. They are understood as a mirror – a reflection of our own (subconscious) possibilities, perspectives and views, a means of self-experience.
Today there are a great number of various tarot decks, often painted by well-known artists. The Königsfurt-Urania / AGM-Urania publishing house has to date sold well over 10 million tarot decks or tarot sets.