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Major Arcana
Minor Arcana


Symbol systems are to be found in religious contexts throughout theology. In the far east, Lamas believe in an international code reliant on symbolism. The same system applies to ancient Egyptians and Mexicans with their vast array of symbols commonly known as hieroglyphics. Even Druids and other alternative sects conveyed their message through the covert concept of symbols. Tarot cards are no exception.

It is understood that gypsies in their flight from persecution embraced the method of coding as richly as had been done centuries before by other minority groups. This secret vehicle was pressured into existence during medieval Europe where tolerance was at a new low for alternative beliefs and teachings. Conveying coded meanings became imperative as a sense of identity was being eroded. The use of the tarot deck to maintain a sense of self was and still is being utilised to this day albeit the covert nature of their meaning has moved into the open. The coded images on a tarot deck gradually shifted in time and place as the meanings became more fluid as the deck was passed from one generation to the next. Interpretations were twisted and in some cases removed to suit a specific need and requirement. It is essential in understanding the tarot that these shifts in meaning all form the esoteric nature of the cards, for there is no true and finite meaning to any card. The basis has been created from which to interpret but essentially the individual is allowed to ascertain his or her own meaning from the symbols.

Links have even been made to the psychologist Jung who saw the mind being formed out of four elements – intellect, intuition, feeling and sensation. This fourfold composition reflects the four suits of the Lower Arcana pack which have been associated with the four natural elements of earth, air, fire and water. Understanding and healing through the cards takes place through this four fold structure as does Jungs theory of healing through contemplation. The interlocking of the four suits across the 22 Major Arcana cards in itself creates a symbolic language that communicates on an alternative plane. Detached from the five physical senses the tarot helps to nurture and cultivate the sixth sense of intuition.

Symbol systems have surfaced throughout time and some owe more to the tarot deck than is commonly known. For example German horoscopes in the sixteenth century were created with visual depictions lifted directly from images in the Major Arcana pack. During the Middle Ages religious instruction was taken from visual representations. Gothic cathedrals all contain such imagery in their structure, depicting heaven and hell, gargoyles, saints and sinners. In an identical manner pictures convey these messages and images on the tarot cards.

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