The Origins of the Tarot are shrouded in mystery but there are many myths and legends. Although it seems like a logical deduction, very little evidence exists to prove stories of the Tarot being the precursor to our modern playing cards. There is even less evidence of the Tarot being carried into Europe from Egypt.
The evidence we do have tells us that around 1440-1550 the Tarot appeared in Italy. Wealthy and influential patrons commissioned elaborate decks to be created, often using gold leaf. The cards continued to develop with rich symbolism and our modern decks of 78 cards became the standard in the later 18th and 19th centuries.
Several secret societies have embraced the Tarot as an oracle and mystical path to enlightenment. Influential scholars have drawn parallels and shown similarities between the Tarot and alchemy, Jungian psychology, Hermetic philosophy, the Kabbalah, astrology, and many other mystery traditions. The cards now have a long tradition of use in spiritual growth, divination, and seeing into a person's past, present and future.
The Tarot deck is separated into two main parts; 22 major arcana cards (arcana means hidden, or secret), and 56 minor arcana cards. The major arcana includes all the cards everyone associates with the tarot, such as the Lovers, the Fool, and the Magician. They are often numbered with Roman numerals, from I to XXI. The Fool is left without a number, or is given the value 0.
The minor arcana is similar to modern playing cards because it contains four "suits". These suits are labeled differently in many decks, but are usually cups, pentacles (disks or coins), swords, and wands (rods or staves). Each suit has 14 cards, numbered Ace through ten, and include a Page, Knight, Queen and King.
Modern Tarot readers practice and study for years to refine their skills. Each card has several meanings, and those meanings are affected by the other cards that are drawn from the deck. The interpretation of a group of cards, or a "spread" can be quite complex, but psychics have a distinct advantage of using their powers to determine exactly what the cards are trying to tell you.