Tarot cards are generally accepted to have originated in the 15th Century in Italy. Originally designed as playing cards, they have evolved into a tool for divination.
The cards are full of imagery and magic. Throughout the deck you will find symbols of astrology, religion Jewish mysticism and the occult (including many references to the Kaballah).
The suits relate to the elemental energies - Wands = fire, Cups = water, Swords = air and Pentacles = earth. These elemental energies are evident not only in tarot but in astrology, palmistry and many other disciplines of the wicca.
Tarot cards come in two main sections, the major arcana and minor arcana.
Major Arcana These cards each signify an important aspect of human experience. In order, they tell a story of a journey of inner growth from a young, naïve and pure person (The Fool) through developing both the outer and inner self to reach a high state of awareness (The World). This is not an easy journey, but is ultimately rewarding.
In a reading, these cards carry extra weight. They draw out deep and complex reactions and messages. When they appear you know the issues at stake are important.
Minor Arcana While the major arcana deal with major themes, the minor arcana bring them into practical reality. These cards deal with the everyday aspects of human life and human nature. The minor arcana are divided into four suits:
Wands: the suit of creativity, action and movement. These correspond with the element of fire (and also relate to the fire signs in astrology Aries, Leo and Sagitarius).
Cups: the suit of emotions and spiritual experience. These correspond with the element of water (and also relate to the water signs in astrology Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio).
Swords: the suit of intellect, thought and reason. These correspond with the element of fire (and also relate to the fire signs in astrology Aquarius, Gemini and Libra).
Pentacles: the suit of practicality, security and material concerns. These correspond with the element of earth (and also relate to the earth signs in astrology Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn).