Believe it or not, almost all the knowledge about every aspect was always prevailing in India itself! The biggest wisdom in areas from A to Z was known to the Indians. And it is not a surprise that the Tarot also has its roots in India.

Earlier 22 cards of tarot were used to send encoded messages. But this knowledge and the decoding as well as encoding of these cards was only known by the kings and the people in power, like advisories, incumbents etc. The sketches and symbols on the cards had specific meanings and permutations, combinations related to the topic of the message. For eg. If king A wanted to attack king B and he expected the help of his friend king C, then king A would send a card to king C, having all the details of the strategy of attack, time, the amount of ammunitions needed, amount of soldiers needed and much more. King C had to intellegently decode the message and do the needful to his friend. Such was the cognizance of these message cards.

Many books were written about this knowledge and kept in the libraries then. Further, India was invaded by the portuguese, mughals, britishers etc. In these invasions and wars many libraries were destroyed and the knowledge was lost. The remains of the books from the libraries fell in the hands of nomads and hippies and in a due course these remains of the books reached Italy. No one knew the real value of the content then, till they accidently fell in the hands of Raider Waite.

Raider Waite now introduced more 56 cards in addition to the original 22 cards and made the first ever Tarot deck of 78 cards, which is still used by us. This is the most simple and the original tarot deck. If you know the logics of the cards in this deck then you can easily understand other decks.

Till now Raider Waite had only conceptualised the cards but had not practically designed or sketched it. It was only when he met Pamela colman smith at a conference that his dream came to fruitition. It is said that the design of these cards used to occur in Pamela’s dreams and she was surprised to hear the exact concept described by Raider Waite. She very efficiently designed the Tarot cards for Raider Waite and died at an early age.

Raider Waite kept the 22 original cards in the deck and named them the major arcanas. They are very important in a reading. He further combined the four elements of nature to make four suites of 14 cards each in his deck. the elements of fire, air, earth and water were introduced by him. These are the minor arcanas.

Element of nature    Represented by
Fire    Wand
Air    Swords
Earth    Coins / Pentacles
Water    Cups
Every suite has 14 cards representing the specified element of nature.

So, in totality there are 56 cards which are known as the minor arcanas

22 major arcanas + 56 minor arcanas = 78 total tarot cards.

There are many who have conceived there own decks, but the Raider Waite Tarot remains the original till date.

Dr. Avanii Rajadhyaksha

Phd. Hon. (A.M.)